Counseling and Leadership Development

Returning to school, learning new skills, meeting new friends, working towards big goals… doing any one of these things can be a challenge to many young people. Yet here at PYB we’re asking our students to do ALL of that at once! Fortunately, we’re able to make sure that our students have a supportive team of staff and peers to help them every step of the way.

The Challenge

The young people that we serve at Portland YouthBuilders are deeply motivated to make a positive change in their lives. But sometimes there are serious things going on in their personal lives that make it hard for them to focus on the path ahead. Many of our students face issues such as poverty, unstable housing, mental health needs, loss of a loved one, abuse, and more. Others are facing the constant stress of trying to succeed within a culture that doesn’t reflect what they look like, or they’re feeling a sense of failure for leaving school. Without a strong network of resources and support, those feelings and needs can easily become overwhelming.

Our Response

We want each one of our students to be safe, to feel seen, and to know that their voice matters. With our low student/staff ratio and a laser focus on building relationships, we can respond to students’ needs in real time. We feed students when they are hungry. We provide bus tickets when they need a ride. And we’re there to listen and help, anytime, when problems become insurmountable.

Strong and caring relationships between students and staff are at the core of our work. At PYB we know that our students have what it takes to succeed at their educational and career goals and we are committed to providing them with the support they need to make their goals a reality.

Support for our students takes a variety of forms. Sometimes students need someone to lend a supportive ear or crack jokes to lighten the mood; sometimes our students need clinical counseling or someone to connect them to critically needed resources. Sometimes it’s an impromptu pizza party or just a quiet place to sit and rest during the day. We’re here to help them get what they need in the moment and for the long term.

Meeting our students’ emotional needs is just as important as meeting their needs for things like stable housing, medical coverage, or reliable childcare. Our counselors are on hand for students who want and need support around issues of equity, race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. We also offer a youth leadership program that is embedded throughout PYB in order to promote each student’s feelings of confidence and self-worth. Small victories add up, so we offer plenty of opportunities for all students to speak up in class, apply for leadership positions, serve as peer mentors in the classroom, or step up in roles that take place behind the scenes. In addition, all of our YouthBuild students are AmeriCorps members and demonstrate leadership as they give back to their community through service.

By helping young people handle their challenges, we can help them focus on their education and their future.

Our Method

Our youth development program helps students address and overcome personal barriers to achieve stability in their personal lives. Licensed counselors work with students individually and in small peer groups using a combination of case management, individual counseling, and referral to community resources.

Helping our students starts even before their first day at PYB. Prior to enrollment, each applicant gets the basics covered so that they’re ready to succeed at PYB – things like transportation, housing, technology, food, and more. Once enrolled, students begin weekly individual meetings with their assigned counselor for stabilization support, to address ongoing barriers, and to access community resources. Weekly two-hour group meetings provide important peer support.

Our overall approach is strengths-based, starting from where students’ strengths are. One of the fundamental components of this approach is our case management system: a holistic, student-centric relationship-based model in which each student is assigned to a four-member case management team comprised of their counselor, career coach, a teacher, and a vocational trainer. Every week the case management team works with the student to assess their performance, individualize programming, and develop long term plans for transitioning out of PYB and into a job or college.

Youth voice is an essential component of our model. At weekly community meetings, students meet with staff to create solutions to schoolwide challenges, plan activities and events, and voice their opinions about social issues impacting their lives. With support from our staff of experienced counselors and teachers, students discuss issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, local and national elections, and other vital topics; these weekly conversations provide a much-needed outlet to discuss issues that deeply impact students’ lives, while also creating an opportunity to practice deep listening, civility, and empathy.

Student Success

We know that the youth development program and life skills offered at PYB make a difference for the students that we serve. We have a long track record of helping young people overcome adversity with the use of our counseling staff, case management teams, and broad network of community partnerships. With their own hard work and PYB’s support, we have helped thousands of young people overcome adversity and change their lives for the better.

Become a Student

You don’t have to let your challenges keep you down. Reach out and let us know that you’re interested in taking the next steps for your education and your career.