Tag Archives: Youth leadership

ACJU launches new faith community for youth

Exciting things were happening in the ACJU Deportivo project last month! The project has impacted these youth to such a degree that several responded to an invitation to create their own small faith community in collaboration with the Comunidad Mosaico project. Staff expected to launch the group with 5 to 6 key youth leaders, but 11 ACJU participants showed up to the first meeting. In addition to creating a space where youth can re-think and rebuild their relationship with the Lord, ACJU staff will also use this time to work on developing them as leaders who will have a positive impact on other youth, their families, and the community at large.

This fledgling faith community met for the first time on October 25, and will continue to meet every other Saturday for the time being. The 11 youth who attended all committed to continue their attendance, and the idea is that over time more ACJU Deportivo participants will join in.

One of the primary topics of discussion was the importance of youth leadership. The youth talked about how important it is to change your way of thinking and not give in to peer pressure. They also discussed how important it is to follow your dreams, even if people put you down or criticize you, so that you can have a fuller, more dignified life. Some of the youth shared their dreams, along with some of the obstacles they are facing.

bible study 2One gratifying moment occurred when some of the youth expressed their desire to reproduce some of what ACJU Deportivo is doing with the project, working with youth and forming soccer schools, so that other youth from slum communities don’t fall into using drugs, alcohol and violence and are motivated to continue their education. One young man of 18 said, “I dream about being a professional soccer player. However, if that doesn’t happen for one reason or another, my other dream is to work with youth and create a soccer school like what you are doing. I want to help so that less youth get caught up in drugs.”

Another youth, 20 years old, said “I really like soccer, and I don’t know because of my age if I could think about playing professionally, but I know I want to coach youth, help them and create a project like the one you are doing here.”

At ConeXión Mosaico, we look at the lives of our participants from a holistic perspective. We do not just seek to share the Good News of spiritual liberation, while neglecting the very real issues impacting urban slum dweller’s lives. By creating youth leaders who are motivated to serve others and make positive changes in their community, we believe that people can live more dignified, abundant lives on earth here and now.


ACJU Deportivo youth make new choices on and off the field

ACJU Deportivo has been working with youth in Chimalhuacán as they attend practices at our soccer school and play against other teams. Not only have their technical skills improved, but they have gained more confidence and tactical abilities as a team. Even more importantly, these youth have shown an increased attitude of respect and teamwork towards each other. They have begun to watch their language and control their impulses more during the games. The one-on-one mentoring process has given the youth greater confidence in the team and in their own abilities, which has allowed them to compete against stronger teams more enthusiastically and without feeling so intimidated.

One of the youth who has been receiving one-on-one mentoring is Rolando, a young leader who has shown a desire to serve others. Thanks to his participation on the team, the friendships he has developed and the introspection he has gained through mentoring, Roland has become excited about the idea of going back to high school. He dropped out of school partially due to economic concerns, but also in large part because he had become involved in circles where there was a lot of drugs and alcohol. Now Rolando wants to work for a few months over the summer in order to save up enough money to be able to go back to school in the fall.

New ACJU participants show dramatic growth in teamwork and problem-solving skills

In San José Palmas ACJU continues to work with all 60 students at the distance-learning middle school. Where the final year students are primarily concerned about preparing for their upcoming high school admission exams, the project has been able to focus on life skills, values and servant leadership with the first and second year classes. The fruits of this work have been most evident in the first year class. This group was very problematic in the beginning, being primarily characterized by rivalries, conflicts and aggressive personalities. At first, almost every attempt at trying to get them to work together ended in yelling, confrontations and fistfights.

However, after only 6 months, there has been a drastic change in the first year group dynamic. They are now able to work together without fighting and have even learned to listen to each other and resolve their disagreements among themselves. Thanks to this new spirit of cooperation, the first year students have now become engaged and active participants of ACJU’s leadership development process.

The “missing piece”

Rocio, one of our ACJU participants, explained how being a part of ACJU led to her becoming involved in our youth ministries: “In addition to developing my character, participating in ACJU made me question, ‘What am I missing?’ And I realized that missing piece was spiritual. When I became involved in ACJU 7 years ago, I was going through a very rough time in my life, to the point where I was thinking about suicide. When I became part of ACJU, I realized that things weren’t as bad as I thought they were; that they could be different. That motivated me to change my attitude towards life and how I could be a part of it.”

???????????????????????????????“As a youth, I found that path by getting involved in Comunidades de Shalom, where I was able to develop a relationship with God even though I am young. I met friends who are true friends, because they are brothers and sisters in Christ. And I feel like my youth can serve as an example for past and future generations, like it says in I Timothy 4:12, ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.’ And that has led me to develop the fullness of my character: I have become kinder, stronger, and more decisive, but always humble, not just looking out for myself but rather trying to see how I can benefit those around me.” Rocio, a successful graduate of our vocational training school, is now one of the principal leaders in our Comunidades de Shalom youth Bible study, “Jóvenes en Acción.”

Improvement begins with me! – Youth impacting their community

The ACJU Escolar initiative, working in 2 local high schools, impacted 1,594 students between the ages of 14 to 18 in 2013 via our “Youth Leadership Training” curriculum. Since one goal of ACJU is to develop youth interested in bettering their communities, we helped these students carry out six community improvement projects, such as tree-planting, two parasite treatment brigades, a cultural diversity event and two free haircutting events, which benefitted 1,083 people.

DSC01517In addition, ACJU formed a separate youth organization made up of a group of our youth leaders who designed a sixth community impact project dealing with sexual and reproductive health. The project was selected from over 700 grant proposals to receive funding through the National Youth Institute. The project was successfully implemented, overreaching its goal and benefitting 867 youth between the ages of 12 and 18 from various local schools in the municipality.

Finally, thanks to our advocacy in one of these schools, we were able to get one teacher fired when it came to light that he was sexually and psychologically abusing a group of students.


New educational and leadership opportunities for youth in San José Palmas

Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for youth who live in the San José Palmas area to engage in activities which promote healthy development. There is only one middle school, which is set up as a Television-based distance-learning center, rather than a traditional school, and there is no local high school. With so few resources available, the dropout rate among these youth is very high and they have few employment opportunities. Many end up simply stuck at home, with no clear idea of what they want to accomplish in life.

In September 2013, ACJU Escolar signed a memorandum of understanding with the distance-learning middle school to implement our youth leadership training program at their facility. We are currently working with the entire student population at this site, so 67 youth are being developed into leaders receiving weekly training, mentoring and coaching from our project staff. Although we only worked in this school during the last four months of the year, the youth have already shared stories with us about the changes that are beginning to happen for the better as a result of their participation.

In alliance with the National Institute for Adult Education, ACJU Callejero also opened Adult Basic Education classes in San José Palmas. Participating in this initiative has allowed 30 participants over the age of 15 to work on completing their elementary or middle school educations at their own pace. By doing so, they not only improve their employment opportunities but also their emotional health and self-esteem.

Participant youth show marked improvements in goal-setting and community involvement

The ACJU Project, “Youth as Agents of Change,” was developed to address the multiple challenges facing youth growing up in urban slums. After working with project Facilitators and receiving mentoring, leadership and life-skills training, spiritual formation and values education, 55% of the youth we worked with in 2013 developed concrete life goals, as opposed to only 20% of community youth in general.  ACJU also works with youth to envision improved community conditions and then helps them to make those conditions a reality by putting community improvement projects into action.  At the end of 2013, 20% of project participants reported being involved in their community, up from 0% at the beginning of the year.

The ACJU project reaches out to youth in a variety of contexts in order to reach the widest possible number of youth. For example, using sports as a strategy to spur the healthy development of youth, ACJU Deportivo, our recreation and sports initiative, directly impacted a total of 626 youth in 2013. We achieved this though our own soccer school, a summer sports camp, and our partnership with the Lagunilla Sports League.