Developing New Voices - Little Tokyo Service Center

Developing New Voices

Developing New Voices

Four people on the street holding mochi

From left to right: Amy, Jackie (LTSC Youth Services Coordinator), Luis, and Karen.

Developing New Voices

The Youth Leaders Internship is an opportunity to empower high school-aged youth to become strong, vocal, and active members of their community. We support our youth interns in becoming compassionate leaders through positive engagement that leads to increased self-efficacy and the development of skills needed to succeed in adulthood.

Our free Mi CASA after school program presents the perfect opportunity for interns, who themselves are LTSC affordable housing residents, to develop leadership skills and mentor neighborhood kids. A monthly stipend and regular training sessions are provided over the course of the 10-month program as the interns learn how to engage in public service.

Two months into the internship, we had a chat with Karen, Amy, and Luis about what they’ve learned so far from working with Mi CASA.

Do you have any specific goals for the future that you can see this program help with?

KAREN: Definitely either teacher or counselor, I think those would be of my interest right now. I’ve also volunteered with kids in the past so I had a little bit of experience with them already coming into this. In the near future I’m hoping to get a job similar to this.

AMY: For me I think it’s the skill development of trying to be a leader. In the future, for the occupation I want to do, it might include me being in charge of a certain group, like any age level.

LUIS: I want to develop skills that will help me get into university. I got into this program because I want to get closer to people in my community, because we all live inside Casa Heiwa, and this program helps us connect with the adults.

Do you have any favorite activity you’ve done so far with the kids?

AMY: Mostly arts and crafts, I really like that.

KAREN: I agree, on Tuesdays when Matthew comes he brings arts and crafts for the kids to do, it’s enjoyable seeing everybody being able to engage in the activity.

LUIS: Yeah, mostly the arts and crafts because it’s something where everyone can engage. The kids are the ones with the most preferences so when we go out into the gym there’s more options that not everyone can agree on, but with indoor activities, it’s much easier.

What’s your experience been like working with LTSC staff members during this program?

LUIS: It’s been very easy to work with them, they’re also very helpful with their communication. They make it easier for us to communicate with them, they’re very flexible with their schedule. They tell you what needs to be done and they’re just very broad and nice about everything. They’re very understanding.

AMY: I agree, they’re very easy to work with. They let us know about different opportunities coming up, they help us with stuff, they’re understanding, and they’re very caring about how we’re treated and how we treat others.

KAREN: I agree with that, definitely with the opportunities they’re giving us, and how close we can be as a community. How we’re able to be comfortable with each other, it’s very comforting.

How would you convince someone who is on the fence about trying this out?

AMY: I’d say it’s worth trying out even if they’re extroverted or introverted, shy or energetic, this program is honestly fit for anyone. If you’re quiet, that’s no problem, you can work with other quiet kids or just help out, and just develop your voice. For energetic people, I’d say it’s good for them too because they can be really good to play with the kids because kids are very, very energetic. They can talk with the other interns and the other people working here.

LUIS: I’d say it’s easy to do what’s needed here. The workshops, they’re basically like an assignment, so I think that’s the only thing that would hold someone back. Other internships don’t give you many options, but here they give you a stipend.

KAREN: I would say that it’s worth the experience for sure, and it’s not boring, it’s very engaging, you’re actually doing things, you’re entertaining one another, you’re helping out, you feel very useful. I feel like with other internships you don’t feel very useful, but everybody is so nice and safe with each other it’s comforting, again. I think a lot of people would really like it or enjoy it if they gave it a try.

You’re playing a pretty important role in your community with this, why do you think this is important to people your age and the kids’ age?

LUIS: I’d say it’s important because you’re able to connect with children below your age and also adults who work in this program. You’re able to connect with all types of ages unlike in school, where you’re with people your own age and not really able to communicate with younger children unless you’re in a connected school. I’d say it’s very interesting and very fun.

AMY: I’d say it’s very important for the teens working here and the kids because it’s mostly creating memories and impacting their childhood. It helps every kid come out of their shell and have more trust in adults that they live with and that are around them, and that help them for whatever they need, that are in their community.

KAREN: Being able to build a relationship with kids so that they feel more comfortable with their community and people that they can also relate to, especially anybody from Casa Heiwa. We don’t know exactly what they’re going through, but we hope to be able to be some sort of support towards the kids.

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