fbpx Fostering Community Partnerships
Authored by Nexus Family Healing on October 26, 2023

Healing from trauma takes time - it is not linear and there isn’t a one-size-fits all solution. For youth at Nexus-Woodbourne Family Healing’s Residential Treatment Center, healing can start to feel overwhelming and repetitive with day-to-day therapy, classes, and other group activities. Nexus-Woodbourne employees are constantly looking for ways to enrich and enhance the youths’ healing process and lives.  

One way they do so is by seeking opportunities within their community. Faith Presbyterian Church is a long-time neighbor of Nexus-Woodbourne. For the past few years, Nexus-Woodbourne youth have helped the church with community projects.
“I first met with the Pastor and we started bouncing ideas off of each other,” said Stefan Leslie, Vocational Program Outreach Coordinator at Nexus-Woodbourne, “The first project we actually did for them was a community bulletin board, a place where they can post jobs and other information relevant to the community…our relationship has evolved to now, where we work together on different community related projects.”
For the youths, Stefan said it’s been a “great dynamic” – the youth enjoy getting to spend time with the church community and getting to know different people. “The church folks will talk about how they appreciate the work the kids are doing…it’s a beautiful thing.” 

To provide additional activities for the youth, Faith Presbyterian Church applied for and was awarded the “B’more Say YES! (Youth Environmental Stewards) program grant. The grant allowed Faith Presbyterian Church and Nexus-Woodbourne to hire five youth from the Residential Treatment Program to work on various outdoor projects over the summer. Collaborating with Stefan Leslie and Mr. Carl O’Brien, Recreation Coordinator, they were able to approve the program and start to interview youth.

Real Life Experience

“They went through an interview process, just like any job,” said Stefan, “They dressed up for the interview, had to have a second interview…just like in real life.”  

After their interview process, the youth were given uniforms and paid an hourly rate. They completed several weeks of community projects, including landscaping, tiling, carpentry, gardening, community clean up, and composting. During their work they learned practical skills and also had occasional lessons from different community members. They also learned skills on how to get and keep a job – interview skills, punctuality, and working in a team. The youth were supervised by community leaders who help foster the youths’ relationships within their community. 

“It’s like real life in that they learn what you have to do to keep a job,” said Stefan “…it was definitely an incentive for them.” 

While receiving invaluable job experience, the youth also get to enjoy spending time outside of their day-to-day routines at Nexus-Woodbourne, meeting and working with community members and fostering relationships. After a day of hard work, the youth enjoyed a fun lunch together, enjoying good food while going over the highs and lows of the day, what they learned, and how things went.  

“It gave them an opportunity to talk in a less formal setting, get some stuff off their chests,” said Stefan. 

It also helped with behavior as well – the youths knew that they had to attend school, therapy, and other group activities, and work together as a team. 

“Having these work program opportunities gives the youths a sense of pride and purpose – they get to look and say ’I did this!’ It gives them a good feeling and good sense of community,” says Stefan. “They learned different skills,” said Stefan, “and on top of that, they got to feel good about it…they get to see the aftereffect of their work, like we’ll ride by a project site and go ‘oh there’s the bulletin board I helped make’ or ‘oh there’s the flowers I helped plant.’”

The work program also fosters community between the youths and the neighborhood – the youth know there are other people out there that know them and care about them. Nexus-Woodbourne is hoping to make this an annual program and looks forward to building additional community partnerships to create more opportunity for their youth.  

“The church folks will talk about how they appreciate the work the kids are doing…it’s a beautiful thing.”  

- Stefan Leslie, Vocational Program Outreach Coordinator at Nexus-Woodbourne