Fostering self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities

September 2015

Dear Friends,  

The best kept secret to education is... someone  chooses to learn.

At Isles Youth Institute, a new crop of 70 young people, mostly 17-20 year olds who have struggled in and dropped out of typical classroom settings, begin their education anew this week. 

To make sure they are ready, Isles created a Mental Toughness Period to test and further their readiness.

We look for each student's ability to be part of a team, resolve conflicts, and willingness to do what it takes to get a high school equivalency degree. 

This is not a typical 'Back to School' training.  But then again, these are talented young people who have decided to drop out at least once before.  So we don't think that "typical" works very well for them.  Or for us.

One challenge the youth face is the intensity of the violence on Trenton's streets.  Some of the students suffer from PTSD, but all of them have the capacity to be peacemakers in their communities.  Isles works to create safe havens like gardens and parks, safe families through training and counseling, and safe tools like education, job training, and support for gang leaders looking for a better life. 

This puts us in the middle of the anti-violence (or pro-peace) challenges in the city. 

The benefits of this work are enormous, to families, communities and places.  We know Isles saves taxpayers and others money by helping young people avoid prison, find and keep jobs, and serve as role models on the streets while families enjoy cleaner and greener communities. We continue to try to better quantify the impact of our work.

For now, we can say that we make these benefits happen with very little funding.  While government seems all too interested in funding prisons, and the expensive pipeline that leads to them, we find innovative ways to prevent those costs up front. 

And we rely on folks like you to help us fund the work.

In community,

Marty Johnson 

P.S. We want your feedback  - please take this short survey on our enewsletter. 

Isles Youth Institute (IYI) continued its tradition of acclimating new and returning students to IYI through a challenging two week orientation called Mental Toughness. Throughout the Mental Toughness phase (September 14 -September 25 ), students gathered at the West Ward Recreation Center and faced obstacles that challenged them emotionally, socially, mentally, and physically. The goal of this orientation is to help increase students' team building skills and clarify the staff's expectations for the upcoming year. 

Staff members facilitated workshops on core themes such as Expectations, Choices/Fears, Communications, Hope/Trust, Perseverance / Success, Goal Setting and Unity/Community. Community leaders like City Councilman Duncan Harrison, Marty Johnson and other local, strong community voices spoke to students about their choices and their futures.
Students were able to self-reflect as well as publicly acknowledge their team members for their consistent efforts. 

The overarching theme of Mental Toughness was the importance of working together.  As noted by a student's reflection, she learned that in order to be successful, "You really have to communicate with each other, stay focused, and pay attention." Stacy Felder, IYI Director, stated, "Helping students develop the team building skills, rigor and grit necessary to be successful, not only throughout their IYI training but also throughout their lives, is our purpose."
This fall, Isles Youth Institute is partnering with  The College of New Jersey to reduce violence in our community. The College of New Jersey will provide IYI staff  with Aggression Replacement  Training (ART), which includes   anger management interve ntion strategies to help support IYI students. In addition, our  students will receive focused  anger reduction training throu gh  a 10 w eek class.  

Through these trainings, we hope to improve social skill competence and moral reasoning, better manage anger, and reduce aggressive behavior of IYI students, individuals served through the Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy, and other Trenton youth.

Isles in the NewsInthenews