United States

Letter from Antonio Serpas

October 31, 2007

Antonio Serpas

HOLA 
Parent and Community
 Resource Director
 www.heartofla.org

The training on identifying trauma in children is one of the best trainings we've experienced as an organization. Dr. Andrea Shirley presented us with a world of knowledge, focused on what our kids (urban youth) are struggling with on a daily basis.

I was personally shocked to hear about the statistics on homeless families in Los Angeles. It is a dreadful reality to know that families are hurting throughout the United States. I learned that homelessness goes hand-in-hand with violence, rejection, and underdevelopment, unhealthy and unsecured lifestyles. This is a problem that is not being addressed by our local officials and it continues to get worse in downtown Los Angeles. The worse part is that homelessness does not discriminate age, so children and seniors are also affected by it similarly.

My staff felt that this training helped us realize how stressors play a role in our reaction to situations and individuals. Now we know why emotional burnout affects our professional and personal lives. Based on this knowledge, we have come to the conclusion that it is important to take time for ourselves and rejuvenate our energies to serve our youth effectively. Also, we are able to identify some of the warning signs of emotional stress and potentially know what is causing such stress.

As a result of the staff training we are planning to have a second training on Organizational Responsibility. In order for HOLA to continue operating at its best, we will have several trainings in the future on staff motivation, compassion fatigue, setting your emotional limits at work and building resilience within the organization, as recommended by Dr. Andrea Shirley.

I think the most important aspect of the training was the segment on recognizing child abuse and the signs to look for. The training was right on target with addressing and discussing the behavior of children when they are being emotionally or sexually abused. For us, it is a necessity to know why our children misbehave or act out and to have the tools to act appropriately when such situation occurs.

Personally, I found fascinating learning about the Role of Attachment for children, mothers and for the family interaction in general. By the same token, it was important to learn what happens when children are traumatized due to lack of attachment and the symptoms involved. Now I realize why some adolescents have such a difficult time trusting and opening up to potential mentors. Similarly, it is disturbing when young people express the need for love and attachment through inappropriate behaviors that often lead to personal disaster.

Last, I was so glad to see the inclusion of the 40 developmental assets for middle and high school youth. These assets are the foundation of our new movement towards becoming a youth development program. We have struggled through our existence with our identity as an organization. At first we were a drop-in center (1991 – 1996) where children felt safe and would engage in recreation and arts and craft. We made an effort to grow and we became a youth community center (1996 -2004) and established membership which meant that we began to develop a structure for our programs and a set of expectations from students and parents. After being at HOLA for five years and having commenced my pursuance of a Masters Degree in Youth Development and Community Leadership, I realized that HOLA needed to change its direction and start becoming a youth development center. Consequently we are making significant strides towards educating our staff and developing our youth development vocabulary. The Real Medicine Foundation staff training is a vital component for our growth and development as professionals in this field. Dr. Fuchs, thank you for granting HOLA such wonderful opportunity. We look forward to working with you and your staff in the near future.

Best wishes always,

Antonio Serpas 
Parent and Community 
Resource Director