The greatest example of love as evidenced through the life of Jesus Christ is expending yourself in sacrifice and service for the sake of others. In part 2 of our series, we want to share the story of another leader whose love for New York City is bringing hope to a generation of youth.

We spoke to Carolyn Harris at Young Life Greater Bronx, a non-profit organization whose vision is that every adolescent will have the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ and follow Him.  Read our questions and her answers below:

1) What is the need you are addressing?

The mission of Young Life is to introduce disinterested adolescents to the gospel and to help them grow in their faith. Many of our adolescent friends are affected by family brokenness where one or both parents are not in the home, and live in some of the lowest economic quadrants in the city. One of our Young Life Greater Bronx locations (Fordham/Kingsbridge area) has long been one of the highest poverty sections in New York. This district has the most schools of any NYC school district. Yet, the schools in this district are extremely divided between the “Up the Hill” Riverdale public schools and the “Down the Hill” low performing community schools.  Children of savvy “in the know” parents often benefit more from the NYC School Choice process because of their parents’ active involvement. Students whose parents work nights or multiple jobs are disadvantaged when their parents can’t attend school open house tours and fairs where academic opportunities are shared and discussed.,

Young Life focuses on helping adolescents have access to opportunities that will lead towards them having full and satisfying lives in every area of life: social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual.

2) How are you making a unique difference?

Our most distinguishing feature is our ability to reach “the furthest out kid” with the irresistible gospel message of God’s love and acceptance of them.  We love without judgment, meet teens where they are, and keep showing up until we earn the right to be part of their lives in order to share friendship, information, and Jesus.

Young Life is also unique in the spans of age groups served:

  • Young Life – High School
  • Wyldlife –Middle School
  • Young LifeCollege -College students
  • Young Lives – Teen Moms
  • Capernaum – Adolescents with special needs

Young Life owns 22 resort-style camps where kids get the opportunity to spend a week every summer (and a weekend every winter) experiencing the love of God for themselves. Many organizations offer summer camps for teens, but what sets Young Life camping apart is our built-in follow up strategy.  When kids get back on the bus at the end of camp they return home with the leader that invited them. Leader’s follow-up with teens the very next week helping them to reflect on their camp experience and to make applications of what they learned, in real life, back in their homes/schools/communities.

3) What motivates you?

Each staff and volunteer serves for different reasons, but the primary motivating factor is a love and passion to see kids with no hope find true and eternal hope.  Each staff person and volunteer is motivated by love to provide friendship, life and leadership skills needed by adolescents to navigate current life challenges so they can experience a promising future. We want them to know God loves them and has good plans for their lives.

4) What’s the end goal?

We want teens to experience flourishing lives at home, school, and in community. This means providing emotional, spiritual, and leadership development that is transformational. We desire for teens to become community change agents as a result of having had their lives transformed by the love of God.

In the next 3 years we plan to increase our weekly outreach from 50-250 teens. We currently serve 50 teens in a weekly Club in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. We plan to expand Club locations to Grand Concourse, Co-op City, Parkchester, and Hunts Points in the next 3 years.

5) How can others help?

We need your prayers in the following areas:

  • We need 20 (10 men/10 women) new volunteer leaders who are faithful, available, and teachable; willing to be placed in Bronx neighborhoods where we currently serve — Grand Concourse, Highbridge, Co-op City, Hunts Point and Kingsbridge.
  • We need two bilingual volunteers to lead a Campaigner (bible study) at a residence for undocumented adolescents.
  • We also need to increase our board membership (community leaders, pastors, business owners, parents, retirees, school administrators, etc.), by 6-12 members by June 2016.
  • We need assistance expanding the Young Life brand all over NYC. Our NYC regional goal is to have a presence (Club, Campaigner, and Committee/Board members) in each of the 59 Community Districts. Our Bronx Metro goal would mean having a presence in each of the 12 Bronx Community Districts. To date we have a presence in 19 of the 59 in NYC and 3 of the 12 in the Bronx. Word of mouth helps and we have plenty of videos and print resources to share on social media.

Are you the answer to these prayers? E-mail Carolyn.