Today’s incredible medical advances mean that more and more young people are living longer with cancer, HIV and rare genetic disorders. While the transition to adulthood and independent living is always challenging, it is even more so for a young person managing a life-threatening diagnosis, intense medical treatment, and/or serious health issues. Organizations that focus on helping the young people on this journey are virtually nonexistent. The need for Next Step programming is profound.
In the words of Paul Newman,“Children with life-threatening illnesses have many homes. Teens and young adults have none. Next Step fills this vacuum by providing life changing opportunities to young people.”
There’s a reason why what we do works: we start with the unshakeable belief that a young person’s medical condition should not define them. We’ve built a program structure that brings this belief to life. And we never forget that everything we create has to resonate with and be relevant to young people, who have unique needs related to their age and experience.
The Next Step Change Process is a three-step cycle that helps to keep young people moving forward. We partner with them in this process as they develop the skills and mindset they need to take the next step towards becoming a productive and fulfilled adult.
Step 1: Engage
Build Community + Change Perspective
Change starts the minute we bring young people together in the safe zone of community, whether it’s at a Next Step Central gathering, Song Studio, or a Campference. We create an environment of safety, fun, acceptance and respect—and then we get out of the way! The young people themselves are the experts in walking this road; in the safe space of the Next Step community, they see that they can trust each other and, over time, believe that if one of their peers moves forward, they have a shot at it, too.
During this step, we see young people develop the willingness to participate in group discussions, access resources in the community, form relationships and set goals.
“The biggest thing I learned at Next Step is that I am not alone.”
Step 2: Educate
Learn Skills + Grow Confidence
At this step, we work with the young people to close the gap between what they know and what they need to learn to successfully reach their chosen goal. The driving question is, “So, how do I do this?” And the conversation proceeds along the lines of, “What if you tried this? How could we make this work?”
This step is about developing competence and confidence, and laying the groundwork for moving toward goals. Young people demonstrate increased self-awareness, a willingness to practice skills and seek out feedback, and a capacity to acknowledge and celebrate their own growth.
“Instead of falling off a cliff, now it feels like maybe, I can fly.”
Step 3: Empower
Build Resilience + Develop Leadership
This step is about action and accountability. In a nutshell, the spirit of this step is: “I’m gonna go for it, on my own terms.” Young people in this step are acting on their goals and are willing to be responsible for their actions. They can advocate for themselves and for others, and they are ready to share their knowledge and ideas.
Young people may experience some failures at this step but, if they do, the Next Step community is at the ready to help them pick themselves up and try again. This experience builds the resilience and persistence needed to keep them reaching for the future they’ve envisioned.
“Next Step has helped me see that I can achieve anything I set out to do in my life. “