It is Great to be Here!
Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!
Today marks the first of many blogs to come for You(th) Are Not Alone or as I like to affectionately say, YANA. I have created this blog to share with you what YANA represents and why we exist. Here you will receive a monthly blog that will provide you with a wealth of knowledge regarding children and parental incarceration. You should expect to see guest posts, interviews from various community organizations, and answers to many of your questions. We also encourage your suggestions and feedback.
YANA was actually birthed in my spirit almost 10 years ago as a result of being the commencement speaker at a graduation ceremony for GED recipients. That opportunity provided me with the chance to tell my story to an audience of teens from under-served communities who were seeking to turn their lives around. Little did they know, this was my first time revealing myself and my past to others on such a large scale. So; in front of an audience of teens, young adults, their relatives and educators I revealed that I was a child of incarcerated parents and that I experienced emotional turmoil, embarrassment, and carrying a secret that many didn’t know about. I also revealed that despite being a child of incarcerated parents I went on to graduate high school with honors and be the first in my family to obtain both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. And despite my circumstances I was able to gain experience and a wealth of knowledge working in various career fields for various industries such as the mental health field, nonprofits, workforce development and the oil and gas industry. After I was done with my story there was a line of students, parents, and many others waiting to speak with me. Some were crying, some wanted to let me know that they too had parents that were incarcerated, some wanted to share their story with me, and some just wanted to hug me. It was the first time that I experienced being able to provide hope and inspire others based on my past. I realized then that this is something that I must do in order to encourage and help others that are in the same/similar situation as I was in. This experience caused me to go back to when I was a little girl, a teen, and young adult and remembering how it felt to live in my world – the loneliness in feeling that no one could relate, no one to talk to about my challenges, and the idea that I had to put a smile on my face everyday to face the world and pretend as if I wasn’t hurting. I knew that in some way, I wanted to help other children from similar situations not experience what it was like living in my world as a child of incarcerated parents.
10 Years in the Making
So immediately after discovering that I was meant to share my story and help others in a similar or same situation that I faced, what did I do? I went back to my corporate job making six-figures a year because that was comfortable and secure for me. While it was a dream of mine to help others, I didn’t think that I could do it. It wasn’t until I relocated to the Houston area and started a new career that I realized that my 9-5 job in corporate America wasn’t fulfilling. I had to be put in a position where I was so unhappy in my job that I had no choice but to move on from that season in my life. I knew that I had to do something else but at the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I applied for various positions and thought of various ways to start my own business to generate income but none of the options that I was seeking excited me. It wasn’t until September 2018 that I was reminded of my passion to help other children. It was then that I remembered the fullness and warmth that I felt when I told my story, when I inspired someone else.
You(th) Are Not Alone, LLC
September 11, 2018 is the exact date that I birthed You(th) Are Not Alone. The name was something that just formed in my spirit; I kept hearing the name over and over within, so I figured that this must be it! This name also is a direct reflection of how I want children of parental incarceration to feel – that they are not alone.
When starting the process for determining how I was going to help children of parental incarceration, I had two goals in mind:
- To create a safe and nurturing place where youth will experience freedom from the stigma, embarrassment, shame associated with parental incarceration.
- To provide youth with the tools needed to navigate the traumatic experience of parental incarceration.
As a result of those goals I created a fun and interactive curriculum-based program to help lessen the traumatic effects of parental incarceration by providing youth with the tools needed to succeed despite their circumstance. We do this in the form of after school programs, summer camps (coming 2019), workshops, speaking engagements and Saturday programs. The role of YANA is to attend to the needs of this often-overlooked population of youth through our programs and community support. While I was fortunate to have a wonderful caregiver in my maternal grandmother, I would have appreciated a program or community organization that addressed my specific situation.
I look forward to this journey of YANA building and supporting children of incarcerated parents and having the opportunity to experience this process with you, our readers and subscribers. If you have any questions about You(th) Are Not Alone or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also feel free to leave any comments below.
CEO, You(th) Are Not Alone, LLC