"Young people want to make positive changes."
Joanne Jones, 42, is a teacher who founded a nonprofit to help at-risk youth in Philadelphia build their self-esteem so they can make positive choices in life.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Joanne: I work with youth-at-risk by providing self esteem/self awareness workshops on the weekends.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Joanne: Self Esteem Enhancement Core, Inc., Philadelphia, PA 19145 (Additional information on this organization can be found at www.volunteersolutions.org.)
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Joanne: We provide a four-part self esteem workshop that concentrates on self image, self esteem, conflict resolution, building/maintaining positive friendships, and literacy enhancement.
What inspired you to get involved?
Joanne: Watching children on the subway while I was coming home from Temple University in Philadelphia, I realized how much the children needed someone to spend some quality time with them and to speak about life to them instead of the negativity.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Joanne: I contacted Veronica Manley, a friend and former employer who was also interested in helping children, and told her what I had witnessed on the subway. I informed her of my desire to start a nonprofit organization to address the concerns of youth-at-risk, and she immediately signed on. Together, we have been working with youth for the past seven years.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Joanne: The best experience for me was the feeling I received when a young man told me that instead of cutting school and going to the Gallery Shopping Mall located in downtown Philadelphia, he decided to do the right thing – go home. He followed his mother's rule instead of allowing himself to be goaded into doing something he didn't want to do. That's when I knew that helping children was worth it. To help be responsible for the positive change in a young man, who prior to SEEC's workshops would have been more likely to break the rules, was rewarding.
What is/was the hardest part?
Joanne: Accepting that every child can't be saved. Watching children make decisions that you know will have an adverse effect on their lives. Feeling the frustration of not knowing what it will take to save a child from himself.
What was the biggest surprise?
Joanne: How much the young people want to make positive changes. How well they respond to the truth when it's self-discovered and not forced down their throats.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Joanne: I've learned to be patient with my children. Before, my children used to say that I was too critical. They were right. I understand now that they are all individuals and have their own opinions about life. I learned that we can guide them, but we cannot force them. Ultimately, it's their decision. We can only model behaviors for them and pray that they take our lead.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Joanne: Do it if you are serious. Children need someone in their life they can count on. Too many of them have been let down.
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