Restoring Lives by Tackling Systemic Barriers for People of Color

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As the community becomes increasingly aware of negative childhood experiences and its connection to mental and medical health, Shenita Jones, CEO and founder of Restoring Lives, said the barriers and disparities facing people in color face is the most important thing to overcome in order to effectively serve people. colored.

According to Center for American Progress, about 16% of Hispanics were uninsured compared to 5% of non-Hispanic whites. 8% of black adults received mental health services in 2018, compared to 18% of non-Hispanic white adults. In 2017, suicide was the second death among Asian Americans aged 15 to 24 and Native Americans and Alaska Natives aged 10 to 34.

“An alcoholic dad may look different in my household than an alcoholic dad in a white household, but it’s the same effect,” Jones said. “The problem is more with the barriers that a lot of people of color have compared to barriers that are not seen elsewhere. ”

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Jones said some of the disparities people of color face include lack of security, missed opportunities to prepare for careers and college, income inequality, lack of insurance, lack of transportation and more. These barriers can often lead to problems such as crime, teenage pregnancy and low self-esteem.

One of the solutions that Jones says can help alleviate some of the problems that arise due to systematic barriers are mentoring programs. Pairing children with mentors helps them build their confidence and gives them a reliable role model, Jones said.

“The more confidence you have in yourself, the more capable you are of getting things done,” Jones said. “But then you also get all the critical thinking skills as well as verbal communication that you can talk about if you have academic challenges. So when you have [academic issues], you can talk to your teacher or ask someone for help.

Restoring Lives currently offers an educational and mentoring program for girls ages 9 to 12 called Be Blue Girls. The group meets weekly and discusses a variety of topics including confidence, control, coping and character.

The organization plans to launch a mentoring program called Be Blue Boys for boys ages 9 to 12. Jones said Restoring Lives has men interested in volunteering as mentors as well as the program and is focused on finding boys to join the group.

“The reason 9 to 12 was chosen is because those pre-teen years and really the later years where you can really talk to them effectively and easily,” Jones said. “These are also the most difficult years. “

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In addition to mentoring, it is also important to take care of the needs of the family. Mentoring is not as effective if basic family needs are not met, because ultimately some mentees still return to unstable homes, Jones said.

For this reason, Restoring Lives has implemented resources such as back-to-school awareness and help with rentals and utilities.

“That’s why you see our family resources and why we try to provide a resource, because one of the things that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs talks about is if you don’t take care of people’s basic needs for autonomy, safety and security, so they are not able to climb different ladders, ”Jones said. “If you don’t take care of the foundation, you can’t take care of the rest. ”

Jones is a licensed counselor and started restoring lives because she felt people weren’t being helped holistically. Around this time, Jones said that Ardmore didn’t do a good job of letting people know where the resources were, so she wanted to create an organization where people were comfortable enough to ask for help.

“We do our best to be aware of what’s going on and then we can connect you to other places so that we can receive help even if we are not providing the help,” Jones said.

In addition to their mentoring program and rental and utility assistance, Restoring Lives also aims to provide programs and services focused on mental health wellness and personal success.

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Jones said the agency offers life skills psycho-education groups and social and emotional psycho-education groups. Life skills groups are designed to introduce children, youth and young adults to the topics of leadership, personal identity, financial literacy and coping skills, and social and emotional groups typically focus on emotional literacy, social awareness, emotional regulation and social interaction.

Currently, Jones said the organization was running three life skills groups with an intern from Langston University for children in grades one to five and had two groups at the Will Rogers Hugs children’s center and one at the child care center. of children Gloria Ainsworth.

Jones said that in the future, she wanted to offer more programs focused on personal success and help children discover their interest and passion, prepare for high school, vocational school or the job market. work and succeed. Because there is a lot of information to cover, Jones said she wanted to offer the program to students in grades 6 to 12. The agency is currently offering a NEXT summer boot camp to help high school students prepare for life after high school, but Jones is hopeful that they can host professional and college fairs and tours in the future.

“A lot of times people don’t understand that college preparation helps kids drop out, kill themselves and change youthful behavior,” Jones said. “All of these things have to do with negative statistics, and we try to be proactive in addressing thoughts and behaviors so that these things can be changed from a more positive perspective and to decrease those negative statistics.”

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