On any afternoon, when first coming to The House, students enter a game room where they are free to “hang,” interacting in an unstructured way with staff and other students, creating healthy relationships as part of a natural give and take. Dinner and an after school snack are served each day to sixty or more students. The meal program is not only about eating a good home-cooked meal; it's about creating a family environment during dinnertime where grace is said together. It's also about encouragement and support for the youth that walk through our doors. Due to their circumstances, the youth start to believe that poverty and hopelessness is their future reality until we start to show them all the possibilities they have before them. By meeting their physical needs, they are more receptive to hearing how Jesus can help them overcome by giving them hope and a future.
On a voluntary basis, students participate in the Life Sessions discussions that are offered each week. These discussions use the Bible as the foundation for addressing life issues that students may face. House staff use stories and illustrations that apply to everyday life and utilize these sessions as a means to spark an introduction to Christ and cater the topics to be as relevant as possible in order to reach the students exactly where they are. Many students have come to Christ as the result of participating. Developing a deeper relationship with our students one Life Session at a time allows us to enter their world and speak truth into their lives. Our faith in Christ is the foundation of our work as we affirm that faith provides the ultimate, true solution for our students.
The mission of the Life Skills Education Center is to affirm the self-worth of young adults ages 17-30 by springboarding them into their identified careers and preparing them to become responsible adults who establish strong family structures and make positive contributions to society. We teach Life Skills — such as employment search skills - to help our students succeed in the work place after high school. As some students are not college bound, we use this program as another option to steer them towards the path of success and away from the pull of the streets. Life Skills include resume writing, completing employment applications, job interviewing skills — including important dress and presentation — professionalism and work ethics. This program serves as a means to assess where these individuals are and offer mentoring and training to give them access to opportunities by developing a plan and direction for their future.
Girls Gone PIN+K (Purposely Invested iN the King) is an all girls mentoring program that consists of students who have graduated from the high school program who come back to lend a hand to their younger peers by being a listening ear and building long-lasting relationships. The younger students, at times, are more receptive when seeking advice from someone who has been through their same circumstances, which as a result, has allowed the mentoring program to cultivate into more of a sisterhood. Girls Gone PIN+K has participated in several community service projects where they discuss the importance of creating a cycle of love and giving back. The mentoring program has also brought light to topics ranging from breast cancer awareness to anti-bullying and teen pregnancy.
Twice a year, in the fall and spring, students participate in a weekend retreat outside the city and away from the pressures of the city and daily life. The retreats are a time of renewal, with fun and challenging activities and opportunities for sharing in a more relaxed setting. During our retreats, many students experience their faith in a new and deeply compelling way. Similar to the Life Sessions, each retreat consists of a theme that is both current and relatable to the students. Past themes have included “Live Out Loud” — living a Christ-like life; “Spring Fling” — not just having a part-time relationship with God; “Transformers” — not conforming to the ways of the world; and “Takers” — not giving into society or negativity.
Another special activity is our year-end trip in June where the nine top student leaders are awarded a special all expense paid trip for four or five days. The students have previously traveled to New York, Florida, California, and Virginia Beach. Additional day trips and outings are provided for students each month in a smaller group setting which allows the opportunity for continued one-on-one dialogue and understanding the true needs of our youth. These are educational activities, or sometimes just for fun. All outings and trips are offered as incentives to encourage academic performance and participation in House programs.
Points are earned for improvement in school, completing homework assignments, conducting household chores at the outreach center, and being involved with programs. Students redeem these points that are called “Props” for prizes and trips. The Props program is a simple, yet highly effective motivational tool to encourage students.
Academic mentoring is part of our programs. Our onsite computer lab is available for students to work on homework, reports, and special projects. Our academic program includes tutoring, a typing course, homework assistance, high school mentoring, and college guidance. Since 2003 we have partnered with Anacostia Senior High School and have a strong presence and relationship with the school. The graduation rate for high school seniors participating in our programs is close to 100%.
There are many needs among our students, and we help them in a variety of ways. We offer counseling, mentoring and emergency assistance as needed, for students and often their families. We are often able to be the first to intervene when students are experiencing difficulties. Our proactive response has helped many of our vulnerable young people to turn their lives around.