May, 2019
Welcome to Cristina Connections

Honoring our Partners in the Cristina Network
Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
 Harriett Tubman
YAI has a dream for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The dream is for them to achieve the fullest life possible by creating new opportunities for living, loving, working, and learning. The belief that they deserve to fulfill their true potential is achieved through person-centered planning. That is to help people plan for and direct their own lives.

Founded in 1957, YAI is a network of 250 + agencies located throughout New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley region in New York State. Its programs empower and enhance the lives of thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities of all ages that receive YAI's support.
Help often begins through the YAI helpline through which calls come in from parents, sch ools, physicians, social workers, all kinds of sources seeking support for an individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities that they are concerned about.

To begin the conversation, a systematic assessment is conducted around how a person might be benefited. It must involve a multi dimensional approach that includes working with an individual to see what might enhance his or her life. It gives a voice for all towards developing effective solutions together. Reading YAI`s website provides a glimpse into what solutions might be implemented.

Support through the use of assistive technology often includes computer technology donated through the National Cristina Foundation . Dan Flanagan, Senior Manager Enterprise Innovation at YAI, emphasizes the fact that competencies are developed because these tools are put to effective use in a wide variety of settings for attaining a goal that was too difficult to accomplish without technology support. (e.g. reading, writing, communication, and much more).
George Contos, YAI’s Chief Executive Officer, reminds us of the importance of a person centered approach to care. “What you will not find at YAI is a ‘one size fits all’ approach. YAI is proud of the fact that despite our continual growth, we remain guided by a person centered philosophy of care that takes a person’s holistic well being into account. YAI is about positive, powerful, and productive empowerment for all. All the time.”

Is this not a dream for ALL of us no matter whom we are privileged to serve?
The Mission District is one of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhoods. A uniquely vibrant neighborhood, it is a cultural melting pot with people from many backgrounds. Even as this section of the city becomes more gentrified, the area is considered to be a Latino stronghold.  Mission Graduates was created in 1972 to assure that working class Latino families who live in the Mission District have access to the same educational resources as people in other parts of the city. It is currently serving about 3400 people a year.

Offering a wide range of K-12, after school, in school and summer programs , the goal is to prepare young people for lives as successful adults. What contributes to the success of the interventions that enable 90% of the students who participate in Mission Graduates programs to successfully complete their college degrees? Jenna Casey who is Mission Graduates Director of Community Engagement explains:
“A network of partnerships have been developed with the public school system through which the implementation of a structured personalized support approach is provided to students and their parents through high school graduation.” Mission Graduates staff are proud of the participation of the many volunteers from the Bay area who understand that for a city in transition their involvement provides critical support to the immigrant population that resides in the Mission District. They are excited with staff support to teach the students and their parents how to navigate systems when they do not have resources.

Mission Graduates believes that opening up their eyes to and sharing solutions prepare students and families for successful pathways to college . The importance of the creation of a self sustaining and expanding community of informed citizens is an important objective. Jenna Casey describes as one example, the Latina Tech Mentor Program which uses a 1 to 1 model of digital literacy training. Parent leaders are trained to become mentors to new parents in the school community. Spanish speaking volunteers are trained to help parents become comfortable with online educational resources and to learn to find new ways to integrate technology into family life.
What might be a very important example of a skill that nonprofit organizations can instill within the communities they serve? Mission Graduates demonstrates that a very valuable skill it fosters in the Mission District community is not only to train people with skills that they need to learn, but helps these individuals acquire mentoring skills needed to help others learn these skills in turn. 

Instilling such key values within a community is an important force that strengthens and empowers citizens in their neighborhoods. Such values are among the values essential to sustain a nation.
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