The Y-Serve group Brighter Horizons has dedicated itself to helping teenagers in state care find a more enjoyable and enriching service experience.
The Brighter Horizons organization works to provide mentors to young men who are in foster care, state facilities and correctional institutions. The program provides a wide array of service opportunities to these teenagers, who already are under a mandated amount of service. Brighter Horizons has taken it upon itself to help these teenagers find a joyful experience during their service, rather than having to do it begrudgingly.
According to Bryce Wong, a program director for Brighter Horizons, a lot of these young boys are in foster care and come from troubled backgrounds and abusive home lives. Living in foster care can be difficult; these service activities are one of their opportunities to feel in control and empowered.
“It gives these kids a challenge to go out there and do some service,” Wong said. “It’s a very enriching experience overall.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data shows that 49 percent of children in foster care never leave. Many children stay in the system until they are 18 and then have difficulty maintaining personal responsibility after leaving. Brighter Horizons works to instill concepts of hard work, service and being a responsible citizen.
Jeff Falco, a program director for Brighter Horizons, explained that they have a variety of service projects and that they are doing something different every week.
Wong, who began volunteering last summer, said some people have felt hesitance in the past due to preconceived notions about foster children and teens in correctional care.
“If you come and do a service project, you realize that these boys are very normal people just like you and I,” Wong said.
The Brighter Horizons group meets every Saturday morning at nine o’clock near the Jamba Juice in the Wilkinson Center to carpool to its service site. To get involved, students must first complete a background check through the Y-Serve office; once the check is complete, they can begin. More information about Brighter Horizons can be found on the Y-Serve webpage.