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Nobody should have to live in an environment where food, shelter, health and safety can be daily concerns, but many do. Urban Future Leaders of the World (uFLOW) looks for the adolescents who, in the face of these conditions, retain a hope, drive and vision for change in their neighborhood. uFLOW is a fresh approach to improving the conditions of underserved neighborhoods across the nation by harnessing the energy, creativity and passion of youth towards positive community change. What makes us different: the uFLOW program mentors at-risk high school youth to solve the problems THEY see in their community through student-driven service projects. uFLOW provides mentors, incentives, resources, training, funding and FUN to help youth be their own change and inspire them to become community leaders.
As a group of young professionals ranging from medical residency to business school, our volunteer team believes we offer our own zealous determination, combined with a healthy pinch of useful professional experience, to connect with young students and empower them to DO SOMETHING about the problems they see. As one ninth grade student said upon completion of our pilot program, 'I would have been another girl and just did what everyone else did. I never really thought about making a change, but when uFLOW came around and made a presentation it changed everything. Now I want to grow my organization.'
How it works: uFLOW selects a high school in an underserved neighborhood, partners with the school, and makes a rousing pitch to students explaining the program and inviting them to apply. We select the students that seem to have the right spark of community insight and enthusiasm for their idea. They spend the first half of the year in a service project 'boot camp' learning how to work in teams on predetermined, guaranteed slam dunk service projects. The second half of the school year allows them to follow their muse and design, develop and implement their own idea for community betterment.
For us, it brings undescribable gratification to help these students see their own capabilities and really believe in their ability to bring rich, positive, inspired experiences to their community. We're determined to spread this feeling to as many youth as possible.
Mentors are the heart and soul of our program. Each mentor matched with 3 students and collaborate on a fantastic, inspirational service project together. We can't tell you yet what their brains will concoct, but we can give you examples of past projects that blew us away: a 'one more jump shot, one less gunshot' weekend basketball tournament, a murals for peace art project, and an aspiring chef who decided to collect and cook food for the homeless. We can't wait to hear this year's ideas!
uFLOW, from its inception in Chicago in 2008, is now expanding to San Francisco and Cleveland in 2010. We are always looking for passionate people in these 3 cities who are willing to volunteer their time and contribute to this cause. If you are interested in bringing uFLOW we would love to hear from you as well.
- Vipan Nikore
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