Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run of Greater New Haven
When Naugatuck Youth Services (NYS) became an independent nonprofit in 2014, it turned to the real experts — youth — to lay the groundwork.
With the Naugatuck school system and the Search Institute, NYS surveyed 1,600 Naugatuck teens to determine their top concerns. Safety, self-esteem, and resisting substance use topped their lists. NYS Executive Director Kristin Mabrouk recognized that meeting these needs required a deeper understanding of the diversity of Naugatuck residents and open, reflective leadership. She reached out to Connecticut Community Foundation for help.
“The Foundation’s John Long and Roy Balkus worked with us to develop bylaws and a strategic plan, analyze our strengths and challenges, and offer direction on board roles,” reflected Mabrouk. “Without their program, I’m not sure where we would be.” The Foundation is underwriting consultant services for NYS through 2016.
NYS continues to evolve.
Said Mabrouk, “We focus on youth leadership development, volunteerism, and promoting positive alternatives to alcohol and drug use and other risky behaviors. Our Juvenile Review Board has helped first-time offenders avoid court system involvement and our Girls on the Run program has helped build girls’ self-esteem.”
“The Foundation supported Naugatuck Youth Services, and they, in turn, organized support from young people, schools, and the police department,” said John Long, Nonprofit Assistance Initiative Program Officer at the Foundation. “They’ve become a vibrant organization serving youth in innovative ways.”
Mabrouk has also benefitted from the Foundation-supported Leadership Development Roundtable and peer group of new executive directors. Through these networks, a unique partnership between NYS and Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center was born, where teens learn communication, trust building, self-awareness, and empathy.
What does the future hold? Mabrouk dreams big: a drug-free community, a mentor for every youth, a teen center run by and for teens. “Next steps will be up to the community,” she said. “There are lots of good players advocating for youth in Naugatuck, and when we all play together, everyone wins.”