“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV)
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: We simply could not do the work we do here at Ciudad Nueva without our amazing network of volunteers and community members. They share their gifts and build relationships with one another each and every day. In fact, at its core, Ciudad Nueva is this network of people.
And what a diverse network it is! We especially love the fact that Ciudad Nueva is an intergenerational space where people of all ages work together and minister to one another. And we’re extremely proud of the young people in our midst who have dedicated their time and talents to help others in the community, like the two teenage sisters we wrote about at the end of last year who have taken on leadership roles within our middle school program.
Young leaders at Ciudad Nueva
Another group of young leaders we are grateful to work with is the core group of college-aged young adults who have chosen to be part of this ministry. Keisha Branch, High School Coordinator and Border Fellows Assistant, works closely with these young leaders in her role at Ciudad Nueva. She says that there are eight or nine who currently volunteer on a consistent basis, each having come to Ciudad Nueva through a different path.
“We have a mix of people who have come through Ciudad Nueva’s youth programs themselves and those who haven’t,” Keisha says. The young adults who haven’t been through our programs often come to work with us because of a direct connection to our community. “Some hear about Ciudad Nueva through their friends,” Keisha says. “And some of the families from our food co-op have college-aged children who come and help.”
Ciudad Nueva also has a partnership with the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to employ students part-time through the federal work-study program. We currently have two work-study students working an average of 10 to 20 hours with us each week.
The unique gifts of young adults
Our college-aged leaders are involved in all aspects of our ministry, and they each seem to find the place where their gifts are best put to use. Some young adults feel drawn to work with our adult ministries. They help out with the food co-op by picking up and sorting food and talking with the families, or they assist with the Esperanza Nueva Immigration Legal Aid Clinic. Others feel a call to work in the youth programs by mentoring elementary, middle school, and high school students and by assisting with the Catalyst Job Training and College Preparatory Program. Still others find that they most enjoy helping out with administrative tasks. “I feel like the Lord knows where to put people,” Keisha says. “It works out for a reason that way.”
No matter how they come to work with us or where they choose to share their gifts, we recognize that young adults bring unique skills and perspectives to the ministry of Ciudad Nueva. This is probably most evident in their work in our youth programs. “College-aged students have just graduated high school and are around the same age as the youth, so they can connect in ways that some of the older volunteers can’t,” Keisha says. “They know what the kids are going through. Our college-aged students are so prepared to help and be part of the lives of the students.”
Most of the time their schedules are flexible, too, which means they’re available during times of the day when other volunteers and community members are at work. “We benefit from their availability,” Keisha says. “And not just their calendars, but also their vulnerability.”
A ministry built on relationships
As important as these young adult leaders are to our work, we recognize that the work is important to them as well. Keisha knows one young adult student who has been volunteering with Ciudad Nueva for three years. He continues coming, even though he’s already graduated from college. “Once they get to know our students, it’s hard for them not to continue to get involved,” Keisha says. “They build a rapport with the students.”