At Community of Unity we realize that life is a series of choices, and that the path we are on is determined always by the decisions we make each day. Our motto, tellingly, is Make Good Choices, and our Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs are anchored by a distinctive approach to youth development that empowers young people to awaken their unique purpose and potential, which we call the “SONG.”
Our SONG approach is built around the exploration and development of seven essential life skills, or “INSTRUMENTS”: Self-Awareness, Self-Esteem, Responsibility, Integrity, Sense of Humor, Empathy and Focus. This model informs every aspect of Community of Unity’s work: from peer group meetings and one-on-one mentoring to individual advocacy, college guidance, and our organizational and school support programming; trusting relationships and non-denominational spiritual tools support students as they seek and discover their own personal path to success.
Since 2001, Community of Unity has directly impacted over 1,200 of NYC’s most underserved urban youth each day through our holistic, uniquely “high-touch,” long term, peer- and relationship-driven, social-emotional learning programs, and indirectly with professional development programs for educators, counselors, social workers, families, school administrators and school networks.
“Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)”
Social and emotional development is integral to a young person’s education and future. We use a student self report survey to measure growth in six SEL competencies highly linked to academic success: growth mindset, problem solving, interpersonal skills, academic behaviors, academic self-efficacy,
“Underserved Urban Youth”
We attend to the most underserved population of New York City students, disproportionately of minority status, whose lives have been dominated by such contextual adversities as exposure to high poverty, family disorganization, single-parenting, neighborhood violence, homelessness, the foster-care system, incarceration, under-resourced schools, environmental toxins, poor nutrition, and unavailability of non-familial role-models.
We empower students by awakening their sense of unique purpose and potential, by targeting multiple levels of their ecologies, including in-school, after-school, mentoring and peer relationships via social-emotional learning and cognitive enrichment programs.
Unlike many extant mentoring programs whose obligatory contact with youth can be protracted and short-term, we understand that positive outcomes in youth can only develop with significant, long-term investments in time, effort and trust formation. We work with youth from middle school and onward at various stages in their development. This relationship often extends to college and beyond.
Our programs are driven by the tenet that empowerment occurs in the context of meaningful relationships, that these relationships are sacred, and are therefore never treated as transient. Every program participant is supported by a unique relationship with a staff member who maintains contact consistency and accessibility. This ensures that high-risk students do not “fall through the cracks.”
Community of Unity programs include:
Youth Empowerment Leadership Community (YELC)
The Youth Empowerment Leadership Community is an in-school and after-school mentorship program in which at-risk NYC public school students discover their unique and personal “SONG.”
YELC students tend to the particularly at risk, yet have a 90% graduation rate, compared to 64.7% for students in NYC public schools citywide. Twice-weekly meetings, overnight retreats, peer-group and one-on-one support, and hundreds of individual touch points between each YELC student and their facilitator throughout the year greatly increases the chance that these students will successfully finish high school.
By learning to play the seven “INSTRUMENTS”: Self-Awareness, Self-Esteem, Responsibility, Integrity, Sense of Humor, Empathy and Focus, students are empowered to become their most authentic selves. They learn that they are one of a kind and that the truest happiness is attained through finding their purpose and sharing it with the world.
Design Your Future (DYF)
Mentorship & Advocacy
Community of Unity is deeply committed to supporting young people whenever and however they need it. In honoring that commitment, we take an active role in individually empowering, guiding and advocating for our youth, whether they are facing a housing crisis, overcoming drug addiction, seeking employment, or are in need of counseling.
In this role Community of Unity has individually built bridges, mentored and advocated for hundreds of young people in a variety of domains; from medical care and drug addiction services, to grief counseling, housing support services, tutoring and academic support, legal advocacy, and advocacy within the foster care system.
In-School College & Post-High School Guidance
Our college and post-high school guidance program works with all grade levels, but particularly juniors and seniors, to ensure that every student has access to a rewarding future, regardless of their financial status.
Our DYF counselors provide students with the tools they need to design their futures, whether or not they choose to go to college. Students have access to individualized plans, college visits and tours, college readiness and preparatory support, one-on-one assistance with college applications and financial aid, scholarships, workshops and seminars, and most importantly, a committed adult who cares deeply about them. Through the enduring support of our DYF counselors, students are empowered to make the choices that lead to success in school and beyond.
For some of our students, going to college is not a feasible option. Our DYF counselors help these students devise a strategic plan, continuing the focus on the setting and achievement of goals, and supporting students as they create effective designs for their future.
School and Organization Support
At Community of Unity we believe that positive relationships and a safe, nurturing environment are essential for students to attain success and fulfillment—that guiding a student’s social and emotional growth is as important as encouraging academic achievement.
In that regard, Community of Unity works intimately with public schools, charter schools and other non-profits throughout the United States to cultivate the types of spaces that can most effectively support students, both academically and otherwise. Through professional development seminars, one-on-one and group staff development, advisory program creation and relationship building and management, Community of Unity expands on our mission to empower young people by empowering the organizations that serve them.
• Significant improvements in attendance and school engagement between 9th and 12th grade.
• 95% on time high school graduation rate for YELC participants compared to a citywide average of 64%.
• 85% of YELC high school program graduates participate in the YELC Masters program and credit it as a primary reason for staying in or re-entering college (40% of all CUNY students drop out of a college program and never re-enter.)