Wednesday, April 26, 2006
"How BCS Helped Me"
Wilkins B, is not a seasoned criminal by anyone’s standard, but he was well on his way to becoming just another statistic – young black male, high school drop-out and unemployed.
When he was arrested five months ago for drug possession, he was worried about being sent to jail. “The judge said this was my last chance, if I didn’t do the 15 days with Bronx Community Solutions I would be going to jail for 6 months” he recalls.
An intelligent, charismatic young father of two, Wilkins had reached a dead end in his life. Frustrated and angry with himself, he wasn’t ready at first to listen to the Bronx Community Solutions group facilitator, Saudi Encarnacion, when she proposed that he enroll in a job training program. “I told Saudi, ‘I’m not going to talk to anyone in the program, just like I’m not I’m not talking to anyone in here.”
As a social worker I see many clients who present with defensive attitudes like the one Wilkins displayed. I’ve learned that it is a coping mechanism used to protect oneself from a system that has not yet earned their trust. Wilkins needed to feel like he could trust us and we needed to be trustworthy.
Wilkins was sent to F.E.G.S Career Development Institute (CDI) for the remainder of his mandate. CDI is one of BCS’s social service partners which provide a variety of job- training and employment skills to young adults ages 19 to 21. CDI empowers young adults like Wilkins to learn new skills, earn valuable educational and professional credentials and land a job in a career of their choice.
“I spent the first two days observing,” Wilkins recalls. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but then I saw that these people were really trying to help me. They just kept killing me with kindness. Before I knew it, my mandate was over.”
Wilkins decided to stay at F.E.G.S/CDI, soon after he was placed in the horticulture program they provide, a paid internship that last a couple of months. Wilkins loves it, “I’m so happy to be doing something different, now when I’m on my block, talking to my friends, I talk about something positive. While they’re talking about the new 2005 Lexus, I’m talking about London plains and oak trees.” He says that it’s like giving a little help back to nature, since she gives so much to us in return.
“I was a little resistant at first; I wanted to make sure BCS was serious about helping me. If I’m going to give my time, I want to see your dedication. And I’ve seen more dedication than I could expect – it’s still going on and my case was over months ago”.
Wilkins journey has just begun and with help he will continue to improve his situation. He’s glad that he’s no longer on the same destructive path, and he wants to make sure he doesn’t go back. “On my bedroom mirror I have the court papers to remind me, ‘Dude – Don’t do it!’ I want to be an example for others about turning a positive into a negative.”
It is unrealistic to assume that everyone who comes through BCS will have the same results as Wilkins, but it is important to give everyone who is sent to us that opportunity. For me, this is how success is measured, with the small steps individuals make towards positive change.