Design Your Future (DYF)
Community of Unity’s Design Your Future program provides both social emotional learning (SEL) and college & career guidance concurrently through an eight-year commitment to our program participants.
Commencing during their freshman year of high school and continuing for four additional years post-high school graduation, Community of Unity stands beside our youth through the many transitions and pivot points in their lives, supporting and empowering them at multiple levels on the journey to designing a future that reflects their unique needs, challenges, strengths and passions.
We realize that this will mean vastly different things to different participants. Because of our position as long-term partners, and the authenticity and depth of the relationships that develop within each group, we are in a unique position to advocate, champion, encourage and mentor in a manner rarely, if ever, possible through conventional mentorship/support programs.
In practice, our SEL and college and career guidance programming will be delivered through two separate components, both of which fall under the umbrella of the Design Your Future program.
The two components are: our Facilitation/Advocacy/Mentorship (FAM) groups and our College & Career Vision Development program.
Component 1: Facilitation, Advocacy and Mentorship (FAM)
At the core of our Design Your Future program are our Facilitation/Advocacy/Mentorship groups, which we call the FAM. Each FAM group is gender-specific and is made up of ten students and one facilitator who meet bi-weekly during through high school and a minimum of quarterly in the four years post-high school graduation. It is within these safe spaces and within the context of the SONG curriculum that program participants learn the life skills and experience the identity formation that leads to the ultimate discovery of their unique and personal “SONG.”
We have an established track record of success. Historically, FAM students tend to be particularly at risk, yet have a 98.7% graduation rate, compared to 64.7% for students in NYC public schools citywide. Twice-weekly meetings, overnight retreats, peer-group and one-on-one support, and hundreds of individual touch points between each FAM student and their facilitator throughout the year greatly increases the chance that these students will successfully finish high school.
Each FAM facilitator takes an active role in individually empowering, guiding and advocating for their mentees. Community of Unity has built bridges, mentored and advocated for hundreds of young people in a variety of domains; from medical care, to grief counseling, housing support services, tutoring and academic support, legal advocacy, and advocacy within the foster care system.
Component 2: College and Career Vision Development
Once trust has been established within the FAM groups, participants are introduced to the second component, which is equally essential to the success of the Design Your Future pilot program.
It is within the College & Career Vision Development component that students expand their understanding of their future potential and receive intensive and holistic support around meeting the various criteria and expectations which stand between them and their ability to progress on the path to a rewarding and fulfilling career.
We do this through exposure and access to Opportunities—including internships, college visits, workshops, professional mentorships and extracurricular activities—and then through the enduring support, modeled tenacity and extensive knowledge of our staff, who act as a beacon of light among the many unfamiliar realities of preparing for and transitioning to college and career with limited exposure and inadequate familial and neighborhood role modeling.
Participants have access to individualized plans, college visits and tours, college readiness and preparatory support, one-on-one assistance with college applications and financial aid, scholarships, workshops and seminars, professional mentorships, extra-curricular activities, summer internships, and most importantly, a committed adult who cares deeply about them. Through the persistent support of our College & Career Vision Development staff, DYF participants are empowered to make the choices that lead to success in school and beyond.