09/19/2013 11:50 am ET Updated Nov 19, 2013

PUSH Youth Project

Our program (PUSH Youth Project) is a collective idea that has grown over the years through the conversations and experiences of project co-founders Diaz and Fernandez. The project is designed to provide a collaborative support and developmental service/network for young people who either lack appropriate support, or are just not getting enough of what is essential to their future success and life goals.

Our program builds from our founders' ten years of practical and personal experiences. They have worked in NYC community-based service programs that claim to be "advocating for the success and future of our young people," but tend to exclude the voice and thoughts of young people, and instead focus strictly on data (case notes and reports, as well as reports to NYC courts).

Our response to these issues is to ask, "What about our young people?" The answer is the Placing Undiscovered Skills Higher (PUSH) Youth Project. It responds to a general yearning, not just for advocacy, but also for genuine care and credible messengers that can relate to young people from past personal and practical mentorship experiences, and beyond this, can relate as human beings who offer heartfelt support and advice about how to reach goals.

While many young people in NYC lack genuine support and care from strength-based and hands-on support systems, we are there to provide support with open arms for young people. Our program will offer a peer-to-peer/community-oriented support group service for young people who are involved and willing to engage.

The project's goal is to provide young people with a sense of belonging and a space where they are just supported by "staff," but also engage with their peers to build strong relationships and a stronger support system. PUSH Youth Project will provide workshops during the school calendar year on topics such as socialization/interpersonal skills, self esteem, communication, health, job readiness/retention and responsibility/accountability, cultural awareness, money management, and much more!

This project will allow young people to experience working alongside like-minded individuals who are passionate about enriching the lives of others. The founders believe that if there were actual organizations that offered themselves, and more important the "staff," as an inspiration to others-what more can humanity ask?

We believe that limiting young people through the isolation of pushing them towards independence without support or guidance is not the answer! What people generally need are spaces like CASES, WAY ARCHES Transformative Mentoring Program, and the Choices ATD Program where young people aren't taken away from their organic way of life.

Instead, they're given the chance to experience, and be provided with, support from people who empathize with their situation, and see to it that young people are given the appropriate amount of attention they need. For example, in order to find themselves and fully participate as members of their NYC community, young people generally need more services such as art therapy with digital media tools, writing/dialogue workshops, career exploration/mock Interview sessions, community meetings to practice interpersonal skills, traveling through NYC without a mobile device.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, Ashoka Changemakers, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Young Men's Initiative in recognition of the "My Voice, Our City" competition, which aims to empower black and Latino young men ages 16-24. To see all the other posts in the series, click here. For more information about "My Voice, Our City", click here; about Ashoka Changemakers, click here; and about the Young Men's Initiative, click here.