The Award awakens something
Lincoln Hall is a residential educational centre for young men between the ages of 12 to 18 who have been referred through the Family Court system. The students come from some of the poorest neighbourhoods around New York State. Noble Varughese, Lincoln Hall’s Associate Executive Director, explains the value of the Award to the centre and its students.
"The Award has been the single best addition to our residential programme in years. It instils in our students a desire to help others, a belief in themselves and an understanding of the importance of setting goals and achieving them. Over 95% of our students enrol in the Award and begin their activities within a week of enrolment.
"Most of our students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have focused most of their lives on themselves and what they want. They are closed down emotionally except for the anger that they harbour from past abuse and history of failures. The concept of working on an activity where they push themselves to learn and improve at their own pace is key to the success of the Award at Lincoln Hall. By only competing with themselves the fear of failure is erased and they can venture into areas where they want to learn, but have never felt comfortable.
"Many of our Award participants volunteer at Friends of Karen, a charity helping families with children who are catastrophically ill. They are often reduced to tears when asked to make a wooden name plaque to honour a child who has died. This is an opportunity for Award Leaders to tap into their real pain and help them to work through some of their buried issues. It is also such a unique opportunity to develop empathy in our young men. To quote Bronze Award holder, Luis Ramires, “I felt so good about helping other people.”
Sense of pride
"The culmination of the Bronze Award experience at Lincoln Hall is the Award ceremony. In preparation, all of our Award recipients are taken to Macy’s department store to be fitted for a sport coat, pants and shoes. They are also allowed to select a dress shirt and tie for the special occasion. This is usually the first time our students have ever worn a coat and tie. Their pride and excitement walking around campus and being congratulated by their peers, teachers and staff is incredible.
"When our students leave Lincoln Hall they are always focused on trying to get their first part time job. When they do, many of them call back to say that adding the Award to their résumé really helped them to succeed in finding work.
"Many of our young men also reach out to us after they leave looking for help to continue working on their Bronze, Silver and even Gold Awards. For the first time in their lives, they are doing something positive and they like the feeling.
"This is the beginning of focusing our students on setting positive goals for themselves in their community. The concept of being recognised for doing positive things in the community is an incredibly strong incentive for them. And the more they grow, the more the community benefits. Oscar Pryce found a charity that took paper bag lunches to people on the street as a way to connect with them and to find out how they could be helped. Aubrey Jones volunteers at a children’s centre. Luis Ramires plans to volunteer at the local animal shelter. Douglas Smith wants to continue his ‘Reading Eyes for the Blind’ project when he enrols in his public school.
The Award awakens something
"Our experience with the Award has been more positive than we could ever have imagined. Our students are setting goals for themselves, achieving these goals and then wanting to push themselves even further. These are young men who come to Lincoln Hall broken in spirit, angry and directionless. The Award awakens something in them that they cannot even believe."