Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lynn Echenberg

NYer Of The Week: Bronx Woman’s Center Supports Troubled Youth
Khan, Shazia. NY1, Sept. 22, 2008.

More than 700 young people depend on the Next Generation Center in Morrisania, Bronx as a place to turn to instead of the streets.

Director Lynne Echenberg said she knows firsthand what kind of support they need.

“I represented young people in foster care and became painfully aware of the lack of supportive services for young people involved in various systems like foster care and juvenile justice,” said Echenberg.

The center opened three years ago, offering tutoring, jobs, housing assistance and medical services free of charge to young people from 14 to 24.

Echenberg said this is the first time many of her clients have had this type of support.

“Because they have had these unstable childhoods, they haven't had the privilege and good fortune of having someone talk to them about how to develop marketable skills and make sure that they're staying in school,” said Echenberg.

Shawnee Washington said before she started coming to the center two years ago she used to get into trouble and wasn't going to school. Now she says she's changed for the better.

“Since I have been with them I have changed a lot. My grades in school went up,” said Washington.

Shawnee and the others who come to the center are called “members.” They don't just attend the classes and programs, but design them based on their own needs.

“This is not rocket science. These kids just need somewhere to go in order to keep them out of the court system, in order to keep them off the street,” said the center’s technical director Karon Porter. “In order to engage them in something positive so they can move on and lead a happy and healthy life.”

Echenberg said many come right out of foster care and jail and can get involved in drugs and violence. She hopes for a different outcome with the Next Generation Center.

“My hope is that young people can come here, take risks, learn new skills, have a great time, meet new friends and find caring, compassionate adults who will be there for them," said Echenberg.

Mark Grate, a member, says Echenberg would do anything for the center and its members.

“Her head could get chopped off and she wouldn't even care,” said Echenberg, “because it’s like, 'I am not going to put myself before you guys or before this center.'”

So for giving members a place to go where they can find the support they need, Lynne Echenberg is our New Yorker of the Week.

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