MAPS has helped many students become comfortable with breaking down the barriers they have set up to accept being average or failing. Our youth development programs have given students the confidence they need in order to succeed. We found our youth development program works by using mentor or mentors (people are allowed more than one mentor) to help our students succeed. Sometimes just being a set of ears for our youth is all they need to be confident. One of our students, Vanessa Lam, had glowing comments about the benefits of MAPS and Sarai.
Before MAPS, Vanessa never had any real connections with other students, nor did she feel like she could express her emptiness:
“At the beginning of high school, I usually spent lunch and brunch by myself because I was so different from my classmates. So, I just kept to myself and masked my true feelings, filling the void of empty relationships with busy work. I avoided forming friendships and intimate relationships with others because it did not work out the first time.”
Without MAPS who knows where Vanessa would have been. Fortunately for her, she found MAPS, Sarai, and our youth development program. She told me MAPS had established an environment where she could thrive and freely express her dreams of attending college. Vanessa had this to say about Sarai and her system, “With her advice and support, I began to take leadership over my own life rather than letting society; because of her, I decided to challenge myself and attend Seattle University (the most awesome university ever). She provided small yet impactful opportunities for me to gain self-confidence and reach my potential. She had created MAPS4College.”
Previous stories have been written about our familial environment at MAPS and how we believe that is what the youth need to feel comfortable. We were right; “It became my safe haven, where I vulnerably expressed my frustration about society, deepest feelings about my past, and my journey to independence. I became more involved with my city, courageously trying new things with my MAPS community. I gained more than friends in MAPS; I gained another family.” Vanessa has said it all. Our youth development program creates a safe space for students to learn how to be confident, courageous, and safe.