Friday, March 25, 2011

Larkin Street

Tev’n Powers ‘14
Wednesday morning we spent a few hours at Larkin Street Youth Services, an organization that provides services to run away, homeless, and at-risk youth between ages 12-24 in the San Francisco area. Larkin Street offers a number of different programs at their various sites throughout San Francisco. According to Audrey Muntz, Larkin’s Volunteer Program Manager and a Dartmouth ’04, the center serves more than 3,000 kids each year.
Audrey was a pre-med student at Dartmouth so it was interesting to see someone who turned down both a rewarding and lucrative career path in favor of working at a non-profit. After giving us a brief rundown of Larkin’s history and services, we were split into groups to tackle the various tasks of the day. Five of us were assigned to prepare the day’s lunch for the center, another group put together office furniture for the offices at this site, while the rest of the group worked in the basement organizing clothing, toys and various other items that were donated.
Oftentimes people see community service as a hands-on experience where you see the immediate impact of your work. However, our work was still significant because it allowed the employees at Larkin to invest their time and energy in work that otherwise would have been put off. It’s also a nice gesture that shows the people who do this type of work day in and day out that they are appreciated. As for the cooking, it was more of a direct, albeit small, contribution to the youth that came to Larkin that day.
The most important lesson that I took away from our day at Larkin came after we had finished cooking and cleaning. Audrey was concluding our visit and began answering some questions from the group. In one of her responses she mentioned that nearly 40% of college graduates move back home with their parents at some point after they graduate.
This statistic was astonishing to me and showed how unrealistic the expectations of the general population are for the children that come to Larkin. These children come from broken families and do not have the support system that most children their age have. While it is acceptable for children from typical American homes to return home after age 18, it is expected of a child who grew up without a home to be able to fend for themselves without having any support system. That’s not to say that we should expect these children to be homeless but instead we should recognize this trend and provide the necessary support system so that these children have the opportunity to go on and be just as successful as their peers who do not come from broken homes. I admire Larkin Street for doing just that.
Overall I enjoyed our time at Larkin Street, and although we only spent a few hours at the center, this is the one organization with which I wish we could’ve spent more time. They do an amazing job of reaching such a large number of kids each year and providing a variety of incredibly important services.

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