Heights Youth Club: CH-UH alumna back to encourage youth
When I was a teenager, my most anticipated moment was entering Heights High. I was active in the school’s a cappella choir, volleyball team and National Honors Society.
In 2004 I graduated from Heights and left home to attend Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. After graduating in 2007, I returned home to begin graduate studies in social work at Cleveland State University. For my internship I chose the Heights Youth Club.
As I began my internship, I knew that the kids would be curious about a new staff member. I eased my way into their environment by first observing and then introducing myself. Each day I came a step closer to being accepted.
I focused on learning the children’s names, ages and interests to gain their trust. To accomplish the goals of my learning contract, I engaged the children through the Youth for Unity program, which teaches children about diversity through a variety of learning experiences.
Every Monday evening, I met with club members to discuss the topic of the day. Participants acquired a new vocabulary: discrimination, nationality, gender, ageism, sexism and others. We discussed the meaning of these words and their impact on various groups of people. Gradually, the children gained an understanding of issues of inequality that many people face. This knowledge resulted in better social interactions and strengthened relationships among HYC members, which in turn led to a series of activities to benefit the victims of the Haitian earthquake.
Club members learned about Haiti and the devastation caused by Mother Nature. They organized bake sales, an art sale and sponsored a three-day clothing drive to collect garments for the victims. Excited by their progress, they became involved in other club programs. The children came to understand that working toward a goal greater than themselves has its own rewards.
At HYC, I had the opportunity to apply what I learned in the classroom to solving problems at the club. I experienced both the positive and the challenging aspects of being part of a nonprofit organization. Working with my supervisor, the staff and the board of advisors provided me with a good balance of authority, professionalism and friendship.
We didn’t have a youth club when I was a Heights student. For children today who feel lost, need academic support, or just love being with their friends, the club is exactly where they need to be. It helped me finish my career as a student, and I know it will help others.
Eboni Daniels received her Master’s degree in social work from Cleveland State University on May 15, 2010.