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posted by Courtney Melendez Oct 21,2014 @ 04:19AM

Columbia Urban League: Creating a culture of high expectations

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 400,000 children are currently in foster care. While foster homes can and do provide a safe haven for many children who cannot remain with their birth parents, it’s no surprise that today’s youth in foster care can face numerous challenges.

Columbia Urban League has been doing its part to provide a constant and stable environment for youth in foster care through their Youth Leadership Development Institute (YLDI) for more than 10 years. Focusing on students in foster care aged 14-19, YLDI helps these teens transition to self-reliant adults and productive members of society. The nurturing and robust curriculum provides:

  • Individualized counseling
  • Career development
  • Summer work program
  • Independent living skills
  • College preparation
  • Job readiness training
  • Career 101 (Work Keys Certification Prep)
  • Empowerment workshops
  • Cultural activities

Job readiness training helps youth prepare for both employment and the work experience. Job readiness training helps youth prepare for both employment and the work experience.

When we met with President and CEO James T. MacLawhorn and his YLDI staff to prep for CreateAthon, one thing was crystal clear: this team cares deeply and passionately for this program and the youth who participate in it. When asked why they find their work so meaningful, we heard some inspiring answers:

“Helping kids see their potential. That there’s something bigger and better than the space they are living in.” - Program Director Juanita Dean-Bates

“My passion is to see their lives change and transform, watch them grow, and give them hope again.” - Case Management Specialist Regina LaBrew

“We work with young people so they see the value within themselves. When they do that, they’ll put forth the effort.” - President and CEO James T. MacLawhorn.

MacLawhorn also added that the primary focus of YLDI is to create a culture of high expectations. “From a programmatic perspective, we believe that when people have a vision of high expectations, they’ll prepare themselves.”

In just a few days, a CreateAthon team will have the privilege of helping to develop a marketing strategy and support collateral for YLDI, with the goal of boosting year-round and multi-year participation from students. We’re excited to play a role in lifting this worthy program and the youth it serves.

If you’re interested in learning more about YLDI, visit and be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter as we work CreateAthon magic for Columbia Urban League and seven other local nonprofits. CreateAthon kicks off at 8am Thursday, October 23 and can be found using the hashtags #RPCreateathon #CreateAthon and #PBW14.





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