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Rodolfo Serna Won the Skidmore Prize! We are so proud of him

Pear - Creatively Mentoring Homeless Youth

From Rodolfo’s Skidmore application — which details more than anything his commitment to both kids and art. We are really lucky to work with this man!

I am a transition coordinator assisting homeless youth in getting off the streets. At p:ear we relate to our youth on an individual basis so my role differs greatly from case to case. To some youth I am a case manager or resource and referral advocate. To others I am a mentor, a friend, and a constant. I have been tasked with building a good repoire with the most unreachable youth in the service field so that I may be able to help them get out of terrible situations such as trauma and addiction. I do this by engaging them sometimes through art, at other times through sports or exercise, and sometimes even through Native American ceremonies.

I am a ceremonial man and an aspiring mural artist; it is these qualities that I feel really influence the way I relate to people. As the Mexican spirit of Quetzalcoatl, bringer of art, liberation, and compassion, spread his message throughout the Americas, I too come with a similar message. In my community we also promote nurturing the earth and living healthy lives. To me, all life is sacred and so my respect for others is genuine. This is a critical component in building trust with the youth I work with. My connection to my heritage allows me access to the many healing traditions which I generously share with not only the youth but my peers as well. I have also come from a difficult background, so when youth try to claim I don’t understand them, I have my own similar experiences to share. I survived a violent and abusive household, threatened by gangs and drugs on the streets, and harassed by racist institiutions in Chicago. I joined the military to escape the ghetto and barely lived through it – but here I am, years later, living my dream. I tell my kids that if I was able to escape poverty and oppression so can they, as I am no better than they are.

Ever since I was a boy art has been a passion for me. As I matured, art continued to guide me to where I am today and taught me how to manifest a healing experience. At p:ear I have been given the opportunity to share in the art experience with kids as well as provide a valuable service. However, my primary role at p:ear is finding the best method of assisting in the process of transition off the streets. Eventually I would like to develop a clear and efficient model for others to be able to replicate and build upon. If p:ear were to grow in capacity, I would recommend expanding my program and form a team of transition coordinators mentoring and providing the youth with necessary resources. My vision is a team that supports each other in all aspects with the intention of successfully developing a community that keeps on growing. As one man with a vision, I work at specifically documenting my role and building strong relationships with the youth and the community.

Since 2002, p:ear has mentored over 1000 homeless and transitional young people through education, art, and recreation programs. We believe that each of these young people has enormous potential and that they have a future. We believe that addressing their emotional health and well-being is an essential first step for combating destructive feelings of isolation and low self-esteem and is instrumental in changing harmful lifestyles, ultimately giving these young people the tools and confidence to transition off the streets. We regard youth homelessness as a critical human rights issue that cannot be addressed solely through government programs and large social service agencies. We as a community desperately need to mobilize and support a variety of innovative approaches to deal with this complex problem. p:ear’s programs present one such vehicle for change.