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The Journey to Becoming a Leader in the Community

By Southwest Key on 08/12/2013 @ 07:54 AM

Tags: Community Empowerment, Education, Juvenile Justice

15 Year Old Southwest Key Community Connections Program Member in Buffalo, Mekhai.

Mekhai, 15 years old, is now a leader in his community, working as a mentor and basketball coach at a local community center in Buffalo, NY. Just a few months ago, Mekhai was not the same person.

Mekhai arrived at Southwest Key Community Connections Program in Buffalo during February for stealing food and money from family members, truancy and non-compliance to his ADHD medicine.

Youths are referred to the Community Connections Program from the Family Services Team (youths with problematic behaviors at home, school and/or in the community), Juvenile Delinquency Services Team (youths that have committed a crime and are at low to moderate risk for reoffending) and Probation (youths who have committed a crime and are at higher risk for reoffending). The program benefits families and communities by providing the tools and opportunities that allow young adults to make better choices and lead a more positive life. “Staff are often role models to the clients and their family,” says Brittany Burton, case manager at SWKey Community Connections Program. From day one, Mekhai’s mood was sensitive. He had a difficult time expressing himself without turning everything into a joke. At other times, he was silent and non-responsive.

After several meetings with Burton and the rest of his family, he decided to start making better decisions in life. Mekhai also realized that taking his medication would improve his behavior at school and home.

Mekhai began participating in a basketball league that was organized by SWKey Case Manager, Gerard Briggs. This element was an important addition to Mekhai’s growth. “Not only was he able to recognize how his prior behaviors were hindering him in school and other mandatory activities but he was also able to translate that into it hindering his ability to have fun,” says Teresa Weston Scherer, Clinician at SWKey Community Connections Program.

Mekhai attended the weekly groups without fail and soon became a clear leader and positive role model for new and younger group members. Mekhai was recently discharged from the center and took it upon himself to ride his bike to the office for the weekly group meeting. Many clients comes back to visit from time to time. “Sometimes they just come to chat and let us know how they’re doing. Sometimes they come to us seeking assistance with a conflict at home or in school,” says Scherer.

“I love coming to the group and being with everyone here, it’s like a family and I want to keep coming,” fondly says Mekhai.

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