Volunteers needed to get initiative off the ground

This fall, five young men from Chicago.s west side will take an important step forward as they move into apartments at the Breakthrough Ministry Center and begin an 18-month journey of personal development called LaunchPAD. The new program encourages 18-24 year olds to maintain and further develop a holistically healthy lifestyle . physically, mentally, spiritually, academically and emotionally . and challenges them to launch into adulthood successfully by becoming positive leaders in the community.

It is a crucial chance for young men like .Terrence., 22. Like many of his peers, Terrence is at a crossroad. He is at risk for becoming homeless, even though he shows a strong desire to make positive life choices. .Many of us would find it difficult to reach our full God-given potential when our basic survival needs are in question,. says Breakthrough Urban Ministries Chief Operating Officer, Bill Curry. .We developed this program to help address that issue with these young men..

Terrence.s story is filled with family tragedy. Many of his dreams have been squashed by a severe storm of circumstances. Like other candidates, has had first-hand exposure to the effects of addiction, poverty, and violence. Terrence is very interested in his spiritual development, but he often wonders where his next meal will come from, or if he will ever be hired for a legitimate job. Like many of the candidates for the program, Terrence has been associated with Breakthrough through its youth program. He says, .Breakthrough has always been the one place where I am accepted, and pushed to be my best at the same time. I know I really need to be in the LaunchPAD program..

In order to get into LaunchPAD, the young men who are nominated must be enrolled at least part- time in continuing education or work at least part-time in a job where they have opportunity for significant advancement. They must also demonstrate a willingness to invest in the community. The young men go through an interview process, much like they would encounter for a job interview.

Terrence and the other young men get their own room, complete with a bed, an armoire, a desk and chair, storage space and wall d├ęcor. They share a common bathroom, eat in the Center.s dining area, and are subject to rules, much like college students their age would have in a dorm setting.

Staff members are finalizing details, but most of the program has been developed. .We looked at existing residential programs for young men and we talked to Breakthrough case managers who had worked with younger homeless men in our program to build a program that best addresses the challenges they face,. says Bill. The program incorporates internships, the DeVos Urban Leadership curriculum, Meyers-Briggs and other self-assessments, plus weekly discussion and workshop sessions, and several planned group outings and meals. At the end of the program, each participant will present their Personal Breakthrough Plan to their peers and volunteers. The plan will guide the next 3-5 years of their development.

Breakthrough seeks 25 men and women to invest in these young leaders to help provide a well-rounded experience. There are opportunities for one-time, occasional and regular volunteers to become involved formally and informally. .We have the curriculum mapped out,. says Bill. .We need people to facilitate discussions surrounding topics such as leadership, how to be a good tenant or how to give a good job interview. We also want to have volunteers who speak about their careers so the program participants will be exposed to a wide variety of vocations. And we.d really like to have volunteers who build mentor-type relationships for personal, spiritual, career or leadership-oriented areas. .The goal of the relationships is that they outlive the program and continue to deepen for years to come,. says Bill.