Young people entering the workforce in 2023 face a unique set of challenges. To ensure they are fully supported during this crucial transition, Para Los Niños introduced a new role to the Youth Workforce Services team: YWS Therapist, helmed by Janette Lozada. All YWS-enrolled students between 16 and 25 years old pursuing a GED or High School Diploma qualify for therapy services. Lozada aims to address the social and emotional difficulties of youth in this age range.
“We noticed that a lot of the kids who were stuck at home during the pandemic got affected with learning how to be social, learning how to talk, learning how to ask questions, just being social in general. A lot of the kids we work with are very, very shy.”
High school students were among those most affected by the pandemic, both personally and professionally. Lozada cites a widespread lack of motivation and difficulties finding work. However, her approach to self-directed therapy can begin to address underlying issues.
“A lot of my [teenage clients] struggle with anxiety and depression. And, you know, trauma. Cultural and family trauma… There’s not a set ‘In one year you’re going to get better.’ It just really depends on the person. Therapy is a very slow process, we follow the client’s lead… I always tell my clients– and they always laugh at this– I tell them, ‘You’re the boss of the session, I’m just the therapist.’”
To help combat social anxiety, Lozada hosted a six-week therapy group called “The Circle.” Students engaged in activities designed to stimulate conversation and grew more comfortable socializing over time. Lozada hopes to host future workshops on related topics, like self-esteem. For her, it is vital to keep vulnerable youth engaged in their own mental well-being.
“The youth that we work with here, a lot of them are foster kids, and many are homeless or on the verge of homelessness. These youths are the ones that… we’re kind of like the last solution that they have. We’re the ones they trust. It’s a little more challenging because sometimes they go missing or we can’t get a hold of them because their phone doesn’t work anymore, so the difficult part is learning to be more patient with them.”
Lozada was drawn to PLN both for its opportunities to work with Latinos and for its unique reputation in the community. Now, she cherishes the support of the Mental Health team and feels equipped to handle the challenges ahead.
“[PLN is] really great about not burning you out. That’s one thing that has really stood out for me… Whereas, if you go to a different agency, they’re like, ‘Here you go, here you go, here you go.’ It’s heavy, it’s a lot, you’re like, ‘I can barely breathe.’ With us, we’re like, ‘I can handle this,’ or ‘This case is too much for me.’ I think the supervisors do a great job at selecting the cases that they feel are going to fit you.”