BY EDGAR SANCHEZ
Paola Benitez was struggling in school – her grades were low and she was suffering from anger-management issues due to trauma experienced at home.
Paola’s mother wanted to see her daughter succeed, so she enrolled her in the Summer Lunch Program of La Familia Counseling Center (LFCC) in South Sacramento and into Youth Voice, a program funded by The California Endowment.
Paola savored the free meals offered by the program and the support staff gave her – something she didn’t feel she was getting from her school.
When Paola started attending the after-school program, Youth Voice, La Familia’s staff realized Paola had anger-management issues, and they enrolled her in their Project Reach program, which provided her with individual support and case management. They gave her the loving care and attention she needed to overcome the troubles that were holding her back.
Three years later, Paola is completing 10th grade at McClatchy High School. An emerging leader, the 15-year-old is determined to attend college and help others.
People who have seen Paola’s development over the last few years expressed their awe at her transformation.
“Paola has blossomed into one of our future leaders,” said Rachel Rios, La Familia’s executive director. “Her growth and confidence in herself, and her interest in helping others, are truly admirable.”
Hers is just one of the many success stories at LFCC.
For over 45 years, the nonprofit has provided free multicultural counseling, outreach and support to low-income families. Some of the many programs offered by LFCC include Behavioral Health Counseling for children 0 to 21, Youth Leadership, At-Risk Youth Case Management, a Parenting and Home Visitation Program, Health Programs, Employment and Educational Services, and after-school activities such as STEM, Homework Club, Girl Scouts and Youth Voice. LFCC also partners with other community agencies to offer additional services that support families and youth.
“Our strongest asset is having caring staff…
and building trust [with clients],” Rios said.
“Our strongest asset is having caring staff… and building trust [with clients].”Rachel Rios
La Familia Counseling Center
Paola is also active in LFCC’s Youth Voice where participants meet after school every Friday to talk about neighborhood issues and ways to address them. The goal: amplify young people’s voices and get the youth involved in the community.
In March, Paola graduated from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Youth Academy, an after-school program that teaches high school students about the criminal justice system.
“I wanted to be an FBI agent,” Paola said.
Now, she’s uncertain about her career but she knows it will be meaningful.
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