Latin American Youth Center (LAYC)

Latin American Youth Center (LAYC)


* Seeks to to “empower a diverse population of underserved [mostly black and Latino] youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood”

Incorporated in 1974,[1] the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) describes itself as a “multicultural youth and family development” facility whose mission is to “empower a diverse population of underserved youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood, through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youth’s social, academic, and career needs.” Each year, the Center serves more than 4,000 low-income young people—virtually all of whom are Latino and African American—at its three locations in the District of Columbia and Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. Many of them are teen parents, foster children, juvenile criminal offenders, or substance abusers.

LAYC’s Washington, DC programs, which were first established in the mid-1970s, currently include the following:

* The Advocacy program works to “influence public policy and practices and social systems” that affect low-income immigrant and minority youth. Toward that end, youth and staff together engage in such activities as testifying at public hearings, building coalitions, lobbying, and community organizing. Their focus areas include, but are not limited to, “increasing linguistically and culturally competent mental health services for youth,” “increasing the quantity and quality of youth employment opportunities,” “reducing youth violence,” and promoting “just and fair immigration reform.”

* The Art & Media program provides hands-on training in media (photography, radio, video, and music production) and fine arts (drawing, painting, mixed media and murals) for youngsters aged 12-18, to help them “discover the power of their art as a means of self-expression and as a tool for exploring community issues.”

* The Community Wellness program seeks to “promote health and wellness, build a culture of peace, and address issues of homelessness.”[

](* LAYC’s Educational programs feature activities designed “to critically enhance the participants’ learning and leadership skills.” One program in particular recruits, trains, and places AmeriCorps members within the District of Columbia’s public elementary and middle schools.

* The Promotor Pathway program, launched in 2008, is intended to help “disconnected youth” whose lives are plagued by “obstacles such as lack of education, homelessness, trauma, substance abuse, and court involvement.” These “high-risk” youngsters are mentored on a one-to-one basis by “promotores”—LAYC staff acting as role models, case managers, community health workers, and advocates who “connect them to other needed resources within the community.” Each promotore generally works with a particular young person for a four-to-six-year period.

* The Social Services program was established in 1979 to help meet the needs of young people in DC’s Hispanic community. Today the program serves approximately 200 to 250 youth each month, providing psychological counseling in individual, family, and group settings; drug testing and referrals aimed at helping young people overcome their addictions to illegal drugs; placement services for victims of child abuse and neglect; and emergency shelter and transitional living arrangements for homeless and runaway youth.

* The Workforce Investment program offers services and training—in such areas as job readiness, career exploration, job placement, GED preparation, and retail certification—for young people aged 16-24 who are not attending school.

LAYC’s two Maryland locations, known as the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers, first opened their doors in 2005. They offer a number of programs similar to those in DC. For example:

* The Education Enhancement program features participation by AmeriCorps workers who provide youngsters with in-school, classroom support as well as after-school tutoring and homework assistance.

* The Case Management & Counseling program helps students with a wide variety of matters such as housing, transportation, and childcare referrals. It also provides group, family, and individual counseling services.

* “Leaders Like Me” is a “gang-prevention program” for “at-risk” middle- and high-school students in Prince George’s County. It offers such services as in-school classroom instruction, after-school tutoring, and after-school recreational activities.

* “Puentes! Bridging Youth to Healthy Behaviors!” is an initiative that “strives to increase public understanding of, and public support for, mental health services to youth and their families, particularly for the Spanish-speaking immigrant community.”

On February 27, 2013, LAYC representatives attended an annual event called “National Latino Advocacy Days” (NLAD), sponsored by the National Council of La Raza. Typically, NLAD serves as a forum where Latino leaders can participate in training sessions on policy and legislative advocacy, learn about federal policy issues that affect the Latino community, and build relationships with members of Congress through legislative visits to Capitol Hill. The 2013 gathering focused on promoting “immediate action” on immigration reform, urging lawmakers to “pass legislation that provides a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans [i.e., illegal immigrants] who are a part of our community.”

[1] Prior to 1974, LAYC had been providing educational and vocational summer- and after-school activities which were housed in several locations in the Washington, DC community.

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