Just about any person who spends time with teenagers is likely to say their issues today are more intense, challenging, and even life-threatening than in earlier decades.
Dallas resident Lori Hoff is leading a multicultural, national crusade to equip young people to deal with conflicts, temptations and dilemmas that could derail them as they struggle to grow up whole and healthy.
Hoff wears many hats as both a professional and volunteer, including communications executive, faith minister and youth counselor. For a few years, she has been moving methodically toward launching her first national youth crusade, which is set for next month.
As founder and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Outreach Ministries Inc., she will spearhead the first National Youth Week, June 13-19, in various cities.
The week is designed to teach youths skills for coping with the modern pressures of their lives, including bullying, drugs, sex, gangs and peer pressure. The week also will involve the youths in positive outreach projects that help them see their value to society as they help others and make a difference in the world.
“There are so many negative comments and stories about our young people today,” Hoff said in an interview. “We want to take time out to celebrate their potential and promise. We want to give them tools and action steps in that week that they can continue throughout the year.”
Participants will go to workshops and embark on projects that include visiting the elderly, cleaning parks, and helping food banks feed the hungry. Counselors also will instruct youths on how to ferret out appropriate role models and mentors. And the youths will do activities designed to help them learn to talk to, share their feelings with, and support each other and their peers.
Hoff, who was born in Washington, N.J., says challenges she experienced growing up equipped her to identify with what society calls “at-risk” youths — those whose lives could easily be wrecked by struggles they face. The adults in her life were unstable, emotionally absent; and her one caretaker died. She ended up living alone as a teenager with no support system. But she encouraged herself, earned a master’s degree, and honed her professional and volunteer activities.
“I was in a very dark place,” Hoff said. “I never want anyone to experience what I went through. It made me an advocate for young people.”
Hoff wrote the book Teen Code: A Rock-Star’s Life as a resource book for teenagers and people who influence them, including faith leaders, schoolteachers, and family members. The book shows youths how to gain the satisfaction of living the idealized rock star’s life by using their natural abilities to serve others. The book also presents some biblical principles as basic guidelines for successful living.
The former Big Brothers Big Sisters board chair in Middlesex County, N.J., said the week also will feature the launch of a cellphone app that youths can download, then enter their ZIP code and gain around-the-clock access to area counselors to help them through dilemmas and stressful situations. Future goals include giving adults tools to be better parents, reducing violence toward and among teenagers, and empowering them to move upward “when no one is encouraging you,” Hoff said.
To learn more, visit nywusa.com, call 844-469-9872 (844-4NY-WUSA), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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