At Ciudad Nueva, we love to engage with the children and youth in our programs. It gives us abundant joy and satisfaction to watch these young people grow into kind, impactful, and successful young adults. Program alumni share that our programming made a difference in their lives and have continued to stay connected through the friendships they made here. This month’s alumni testimony with Marshall shows how equipping tomorrow’s leaders begins with community engagement and relationship building.
Marshall entered our Launch Pad program soon after it began; he was in the second group of kids we ever had! An observant third-grader, Marshall noticed how Ciudad Nueva’s staff interacted with the community in a unique way. He had never seen anything like it. Community dinners brought neighbors together once a month and honored the contributions of each member. Moms would bring delicious meals, kids would play and meet new people, and adults would make meaningful connections. Absolutely everyone was welcome, and invited back.
“Ever since then, I haven’t seen any other community do something like that. I saw how important it was for communities to spend time together,” Marshall said.
Throughout his time in Launch Pad, he took notice of the generosity and love showered on the kids by the staff. He vividly remembered that a mentor would give each child a gift card to Toys R Us every Christmas. Marshall shared that, “coming from a low income family, this was a huge blessing to us and less stress for my parents.” At Thanksgiving, Marshall remembered receiving groceries from the program to help his family make the holiday special. As a middle school student, Marshall noticed how Ciudad Nueva provided his family with the concrete support they needed but also met him where he was to invest in him personally.
Admitting that he wasn’t the easiest student to work with, Marshall shared that the staff was patient and kind to him. They noticed his personal growth and provided the mentorship he needed to feel proud of himself. Activities at Ciudad Nueva like rock climbing gave him opportunities to receive positive feedback and be cheered on for his accomplishments. In the alumni testimony with Marshall, he went on to praise Ciudad Nueva for the connections he made during summer camp.
His fond memories of camp included excellent food, exciting travel, and a safe environment to learn about living a positive life. Kids of all backgrounds were introduced to Jesus Christ through a welcoming and non-judgemental approach. Staff members used simple methods and open-door attitudes to let the kids know that they weren’t alone in their struggles 一 they had a safe place to go.
“I wish I could go back in time and do it again,” he said. “They made the community a safe place, somewhere you weren’t embarrassed to ask for help.”
Looking back, Marshall realized that without Ciudad Nueva’s intervention, many kids may have lost their path or made unwise decisions growing up. Now a thriving and positive role model in his community in Salt Lake City, Utah, Marshall is happy to think back on his time at Ciudad Nueva. When he visits his family in our neighborhood, he stops by. “They are family,” said Marshall of his friends here at the office. We are proud to have been a part of Marshall’s young adult life, and are excited to see him continue to make a difference in his community.