SHIM’s youth programs provide comprehensive and nurturing support to children and teens from preschool through graduation. Many students enroll at a young age and continue to participate through their teenage years. We’d like to introduce you to one of these students—Aluk.
Aluk lives in Whitehall Borough and is a senior at Baldwin High School. Her family discovered SHIM when SHIM’s South Hills Family Center was housed in several apartments in the Prospect Park neighborhood. Aluk’s dad is from Sierra Leon and her mom is from Zambia. They met in Pittsburgh and love living in the South Hills. Aluk is the oldest of three and helps care for her younger sister who is four years old. Her twelve-year old brother participates in SHIM’s Youth Mentoring program.
Aluk loves kids and dreams of being a pediatrician one day. Despite her love-hate relationship with science subjects in school, she feels confident to take on the challenge of medical school thanks to her positive experiences in Youth Mentoring, including medical classes presented by University of Pittsburgh medical students. Aluk tries to attend Homework Help each weekday and relies on mentors to help her understand and complete her homework. She is especially close with Susie, SHIM’s Youth Mentoring coordinator, who helped establish the program ten years ago. Susie encourages higher education for the students in Youth Mentoring, incorporating college visits, college application help, and financial aid forms into Youth Mentoring activities.
“I used to struggle at home to do homework… I wouldn’t want to do it; say I’d do it later… when you come here, you have to get your homework done.”
Aluk has matured into a dedicated, confident learner, thanks to the support she received in Youth Mentoring. Aluk improved her math skills and no longer fears being called on in class by her teachers. She has become better about managing her time, and is challenging herself by taking AP classes.
“At the beginning it was hard to open up to people…I learned more to open up, not to keep everything inside.”
In November, Aluk was integral to the planning of a second annual ThankSHIMing event. The inclusive evening centered around students gathering to celebrate their diversity, bringing multicultural dishes and spending an evening feeling unified. Aluk says the best thing about Youth Mentoring is “the ability to be yourself—everyone wants to know you for you, there’s no judgement.”
Aluk has also honed her communications skills through her relationship with mentors and the other students. Meeting teens whose families come from various countries and cultural experiences has taught her to be thoughtful about the words she uses. Her awareness of others’ perceptions helps Aluk lead the group in an inclusive manner.
We are grateful for the chance to get to know the amazing teens who participate in our Youth Mentoring program. Now in its eleventh year, we’ve seen 100% of our high school seniors graduate, 2 of them as valedictorian. As these graduates go on to fulfilling careers, we are heartened to know that their time in Youth Mentoring helped them gain confidence to chase their dreams.
Learn more about SHIM’s youth programs HERE.