Name: Coley Washington, Young Leadership Advocate
Work: The Resiliency Advocacy Project; Young Fatherhood Initiative
How long have you worked there? I joined the Resiliency Advocacy Project (RAP) as a Peer Advocate two years ago, shortly after the launch of their Young Fatherhood Initiative (YFI). In October I was brought on as staff in my current role as a Young Leadership Advocate.
What does your organization do? For the past 10 years, RAP has been working with youth throughout NYC to help them build the skills necessary to become advocates in their communities. In 2016 RAP launched its Young Fatherhood Initiative as a leadership and advocacy program to train young fathers between the ages of 16 to 24. As advocates, we educate our clients on the child support process, teach them co-parenting skills and provide access to healthcare resources. We also give presentations on the services we provide and set up informational help desks in communities and organizations throughout the city. Through our partnering organizations we are also able to provide internship and job opportunities, college and career readiness programs and access to additional services that directly impact the youth.
In what ways does the work you do help advance community health? A lot of the work we do with YFI prepares young men to become fathers and teaches skills on how to better themselves. We are also able to speak to youth who are not yet fathers, and the message we provide deters them from wanting to become a parent at such a young age. The great thing about this program is that you can benefit from it whether or not you are a parent because it teaches skills that can be used in all aspects of life. Participants gain knowledge on how to go about things in life when faced with a challenge. This has a ripple effect through their home and community life that helps to advance the overall health of their communities.
Programs you are most proud of: Our program on child support is really good because it explains the process in detail and clarifies why a person can receive an order. A lot of young fathers assume that their significant other went to court without speaking to them first and had this order placed on them. This misunderstanding can cause tension and bitterness between the parents. Once you are made aware of how the process works it avoids conflict. Our co-parenting program is also very helpful because we are taught skills that help us to work together and raise our children in a way that benefits us all.
How the program improves lives: I can share a story about myself actually. I became a father at the age of 18 and shortly after that I was served with child support papers. At the time, I couldn’t understand why the mother of my child wouldn’t just come and talk to me about it first. Since I didn’t know how the process worked it caused some tension between us and a breakdown in communication. What most young fathers don’t realize is that when a mother goes to receive services like cash assistance, it automatically starts a process that places fathers on child support. The mother in a lot of cases isn’t even aware that the father will receive an order. In my situation I am thankful because I was able to be a part of a program that helped to explain everything that was going on. I now get along with the mother of my child and we are co-parenting.
Through RAP’s partnerships with other agencies, I have also been able to better myself in other ways. I have received internships, multiple job opportunities, earned my GED and am now preparing to go to college.
How can someone get in touch with the organization? Anyone interested in having us come out to meet with them or to obtain general information can contact me using the information below.
Email: [email protected]