When kids live in violence-prone neighborhoods, the environment can enable trauma in their lives. The RYSE Center in Richmond, California, is seeking to change the community’s culture by providing something to young people that’s sometimes missing in their schools and home lives: love and support.
The youth center is intentional about listening to the young people it serves, which means providing services far beyond typical after-school activities. In addition to offering classes, computer labs, recording studios, community garden, free food and a place to hang out until it closes at 8pm, RYSE spreads a culture of caring by showing youths what it means to care.
"When we ask, 'How are you doing?' we really want to know," said Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, RYSE’s associate director. "We are a witness and we are validating and we also, when it makes sense, want to push and challenge you with love to think about what could be different and what agency might you have even in a world where everything is sort of forced and you don't have much control."
Gemikia Henderson and Dalia Ramos came to RYSE as teenagers about seven years ago. Gemikia came reluctantly for an internship and Dalia was looking for a place to be during the long hours after school. They were assigned to be "balance buddies" who check in on one another on a regular basis. Their experiences with mentors and peers at RYSE helped open them up to the possibilities in their world.
Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts to hear how the RYSE Center is teaching a generation of young people -- and adults -- what it means to have a path for improvement for themselves and their community.
"At RYSE we want to build that with each person but also collectively and in our community so we're building loving power in a way that really shift the conditions that brought about RYSE," said Dhaliwal.