Since 2001, Community of Unity has directly impacted NYC’s most underserved urban youth through our holistic, long term, peer- and relationship-driven, social-emotional learning (SEL) programs, and has indirectly impacted countless others via professional development programs for educators, counselors, social workers, families, school administrators and school networks.
“underserved urban youth”
We attend to the most underserved population of New York City students, disproportionately of minority status, whose lives have been dominated by such contextual adversities as exposure to high poverty, family disorganization, single-parenting, neighborhood violence, homelessness, the foster-care system, incarceration, under-resourced schools, environmental toxins, poor nutrition, and unavailability of non-familial role-models.
We empower students by awakening their sense of unique purpose and potential, through targeting multiple levels of their lives, including in-school, after-school, mentoring and peer relationships via social-emotional learning and cognitive enrichment programs.
Unlike many existing mentoring programs whose obligatory contact with youth can be protracted and short-term, we understand that positive outcomes can only develop with significant, long-term investments in time, effort and trust formation.
Our programs are driven by the tenet that empowerment occurs in the context of meaningful relationships, that these relationships are sacred and are therefore never treated as transient. Every program participant is supported by a unique relationship with a staff member who maintains contact consistency and accessibility, ensuring that high-risk students do not “fall through the cracks.”
One of the most important aspects of the Youth Empowerment Leadership Community (YELC) program is the development of authentic, trusting relationships—both between students and their YELC peers, and between each individual student and their facilitator, or “FAM.”
In fact, the key to the YELC delivery model is that it builds relationships with participants over time. Honesty, authenticity and trust are developed over the long term in relationship with a group of peers and a caring, committed adult, allowing young people and “FAM” to build on what is learned and offering immeasurable opportunities for growth in each participant’s understanding of who they are, what constitutes success and fulfillment for them personally, and how they can be effective in achieving their goals—whether academic, personal or spiritual.
Facilitator: Our “FAM” are trained to facilitate a healthy and safe group dynamic, to guide relationships both within the group and outside the group, both with peers and with teachers, school administrators, and other professionals. Our FAM are trained to seek out and recognize opportunities for growth and advancement specific to each individual Youth Empowerment Leadership Community (YELC) student, and to guide and encourage progress on personal, academic, and spiritual goals through a thorough understanding of each participant’s history and needs.
Advocate: Our FAM are trained, not only to advocate on the behalf of our YELC students, but to teach students to advocate for themselves. Whether with peers, teachers, or family, our “FAM” help youth to develop realistic perceptions of themselves in relationship to their personal definitions of success, while encouraging expansion in their sense of possibility and opportunity.
Mentor: A mentor is one who guides another by serving as an example of how to effectively handle challenges, attain goals, process stress and live their unique “SONG.” As a mentor, our “FAM” are trained in the effective and ethical ways of guiding students through personal challenges of all types, and are themselves models of responsibility, self-respect, and achievement.
Eric Komoroff, Founder & Executive Director
I love this work because it connects me to who I am, what my SONG is, and what is really important to me. A life of service can be a challenging one, but it sure is filled with meaning and happiness.
Susan Donovan, Design Your Future (DYF) Site Director
When we begin our work together, students often find the idea that they are going to “design their future” to be abstract and theoretical, but as we continue to engage and move through the college process, the abstract becomes personal and the theoretical becomes real until they realize that they do have a plan, that they know what comes next, that they have in fact designed their future.
James Giordano, Design Your Future (DYF) Site Director
I love having a direct impact on helping young men and women realize their potential and SONG. I get to see, in real time, how what I do helps others to come one step closer to becoming what they are meant to be.
Jean Artiles: Youth Empowerment Leadership Community (YELC) Director and Facilitator, Advocate, Mentor (F.A.M.)
As someone who has truly benefitted from the impact this work has in the lives of young people, I can say that without Community of Unity, my life would be dramatically different. Even with the resources necessary to navigate the ups and downs of adolescence, things can still be challenging. But for NYC youth who start the race with an array of disadvantages, any kind of support is crucial in the assurance of their success.
Dilyon Stanislaus: Facilitator, Advocate, Mentor (F.A.M.)
Not only is this work effective in helping young adults become successful in all aspects of their lives—it also helps me see a value in myself that I didn’t see before.
Diamond Johnson: Facilitator, Advocate, Mentor (F.A.M.)
During every interaction with a student there is potential for growth within them and me. It brings me much joy just being with my girls. I appreciate how trusting they can be after times of honesty and vulnerability. Getting to know them—learning and struggling with them—brings purpose to my life.
Audrey Jaynes: Director of Operations
It’s both humbling and empowering to work in an environment where youth and staff are called to live their unique SONG. I love knowing that, even if we come at this life from different perspectives, we’re all seeking to find answers to the same big questions.