Where did 2014 go? It seems like just yesterday we were in the midst of continuing to build our Community Broker process for youth and planning the fifth annual Building a Community of Belonging Forum. As a staff, we had a retreat to continue to refine how we work with people to increase their community connections in the areas of meaningful activity, employment and living arrangements. In the Community Brokering Process, Deborah and Jennifer have supported people to increase their involvement in community activities such as art lessons, volunteering on a regular basis, working toward employment. In the process they have increase linkages for individuals as well as among the community organizations that have welcomed, supported and involved people with disabilities.
As I reflect over 2014, it was also a year of learning about working with youth. Often the youth we are meeting are struggling with school. When we can connect them to community activities that are meaningful to them, we find that they become more motivated to complete school and stay on a more positive pathway toward the future. While this does not always make school easier, it gives them encouragement and hope that they matter. They add value to the community and see a future for themselves that perhaps they could not imagine before.
So, as we move toward 2015, I do not see December 31, 2014 as the end of the year – I see January 1, 2015 as the beginning of new growth and learning for not only the Arcadia Institute staff and the individuals we work with, but also, a year of continuing to improve the Kalamazoo Community as a whole. Happy New Year!!!