Kepler Jeudy, Program Director at Next Step, explains why Community is the Key for chronically ill young people. Read his story below and donate to Next Step today.
When I talk to a group of young people I always tell them I want to introduce them to thirty-nine of my closest friends. Why? Because for a young person living with a chronic life-threatening illness this is often the moment where for the first time they see that they are not the only person living with their unrelenting diagnosis. In the Next Step community, a young person begins to move away from being alone and worrying “am I crazy?” to feeling “finally someone else sees what I see and is experiencing what I experience.” Validation.
THE NEXT STEP COMMUNITY ENABLES THEM TO SEE WHO THEY ARE AS A YOUNG PERSON LIVING WITH A CHRONIC ILLNESS AND WHO THEY ARE OUTSIDE OF THEIR MEDICAL CONDITION. BEING ABLE TO SPEND TIME WITH A COMMUNITY WHERE YOU CAN NAVIGATE THAT IDENTITY IN A SAFE WAY IS SO IMPORTANT FOR A YOUNG PERSON AND THEIR GROWTH. IT IS TRULY VALIDATING.
It is my job to create a safe place for our young participants to vent their frustrations and ask questions in a purposeful and structured way. At Next Step they confront and wrestle with serious issues like dating, disclosure, taking meds, their career, and stigma to name only a few. Only after identifying these issues and feelings can they start to build solutions together in a meaningful way. Here they can work through their story, however they need to, from the second they enter this amazing community.
WE BRING TEENS AND YOUNG ADULTS TOGETHER NOT SO MUCH TO EDUCATE THEM BUT RATHER TO HAVE THEM EDUCATE EACH OTHER. MOST IF NOT ALL OF THE CONTENT WE DISCUSS IN OUR PROGRAMS COMES FROM THEM. THAT’S NOT AN EXPERIENCE THAT OFTEN HAPPENS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE LIVING WITH CANCER, HIV OR A RARE GENETIC DISORDER AND RARELY EXISTS IN OTHER ORGANIZATIONS.
A Next Step participant knows that if they take a risk in this community and it does not go well they will be supported. We help them understand that taking the chance was hard in itself and provide them with tools, resources and knowledge to get back up and take the risk again. It is only with a supportive community that a young person living with a chronic life-threatening illness can move from “Why me?” to “What’s next?” Community is the Key.
We cannot do this critical work alone so we are relying on you, our community. Please donate today to the 2017 Next Step Annual Appeal, Community is the Key and unlock potential of some amazing young people that are working really hard to take their next steps into adulthood. Help us reach our goal this holiday season of $45,000! Every dollar counts!
Happy Holidays and thank you friends!
With warm regards,