Our Approach

Life is a series of choices. The path we are on is determined by the decisions we make each day. Our work with young people helps them to make healthy choices, and understand the idea that every choice has the power to dramatically alter the trajectory of their journey. Our approach provides the tools, instruction, practice, and experiences that lead to good decision making, enabling our young people to step into the driver’s seat and design their future. Our programs engage them in ways that strengthen their social-emotional skills so that they will become increasingly likely to make the good choices that lead to opportunities for change.

Skills related to social-emotional learning (SEL) involve both mindset and behaviors. Developing a growth vs fixed mindset enables our students to see that their abilities and circumstances are not static, but malleable through persistence, support, and inspiration. Being part of a close-knit peer group gives them a sense of belonging — that their presence is valued for exactly who they are and the uniqueness they bring to the group, and to the wider world. This mindset shift translates into increased personal agency, proactive thinking and problem solving, and other desirable academic and social behaviors.

When a trajectory-altering opportunity presents itself, our young people will be prepared and ready to seize it.

Engineering this sort of perspective shift is no small task — particularly in instances where a young person’s worldview has been shaped by chronic trauma early in life.

Each person develops understandings at his/her/their own pace, and we support them as they develop a pathway toward their unique purpose and potential. We call this their SONG – the thing they have that no one else has – the thing they need to share with the world.

Our SONG approach is built around the exploration and development of seven essential life skills, or “INSTRUMENTS”: Self-Awareness, Self-Esteem, Responsibility, Integrity, Sense of Humor, Empathy and Focus. This model informs every aspect of our work: peer group meetings, one-on-one mentoring, college and career guidance, restorative circles, outdoor education and community engagement.

See Our Programs

Students with strong social-emotional skills:


Community of Unity is a non-profit whose mission is to cultivate transformative relationships with young people living in adverse circumstances and provide the consistent social-emotional support they need in order to successfully transition from adolescence to early adulthood.

Through 1:1 mentoring, peer-group facilitation, opportunity engagement, college/career counseling, and outdoor education, our 8-year program strengthens their social-emotional skills, enabling them to face challenges and maintain the meaningful and supportive social relationships vital to aproductive adult life.

Participants design their future to include benchmark achievements: high school graduation, successful completion of college or other post-secondary training, employment stability, and meaningful social engagement with their community.


Since 2001, Community of Unity has directly impacted NYC’s most underserved urban youth through our holistic, uniquely “high-touch”, long term, peer- and relationship-driven, social-emotional learning programs, and has 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.

Through our association with over 200 schools in NYC and beyond, Community of Unityhas reached over 30,000 young people through our youth programs, professional development workshops and consulting materials.

Powerful Relationships Built on Trust

“I love helping students to realize that each choice, no matter how seemingly insignificant at the time, has the power to dramatically alter the trajectory of his/her journey. In this community, each student deserves and receives all of the resources necessary to achieve a productive, purposeful, and personally satisfying future.”

— Marisa Zullin, Executive Director

“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.”

— Audrey Jaynes, Director of Operations

“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.”

— Outdoor Education Coordinator, FAM Counselor

“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.”

Susan Donovan, College/Career Guidance Coordinator

“I love this work because it provides me an opportunity to engage with my passion which is to create a deep connection with youth and mobilize them to take control of their future and change their prescribed narrative. The process in and of itself is an opportunity for growth for not only the students but myself. This work keeps me grounded in what is truly important.”

— Tiana Morrison, FAM Counselor

“As an alumni, I know that Community of Unity has had an impact on my life. Many great relationships, as well as lessons, have been gained from my experience in the program. As the alumni coordinator, I want to provide an alumni voice and perspective on the staff, as well as creating an environment for other alum to engage.”

— Christian Fonseca, Alumni Coordinator

“As an Applied Developmental Psychologist with a deep passion for educational equity, social justice and child advocacy, I am inspired to be a part of a community that challenges the status quo by empowering its students to discover and reach their true potential and purpose. I am in awe of the C of U teams who work tirelessly to remove obstacles to student achievement, as well as the students whose daily experiences are filled with challenges and promise.”

— Sonia Roubeni, Ph.D., Director of Research

“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.”

— Eric Komoroff, Founder