Jessica Frieder has spent more than 1,250 hours the past two years working with at-risk youth at a local service agency while attending Allegheny College as a full-time student. She has completed her two AmeriCorps terms working part-time at Friends of Youth, an organization whose primary goal is to prevent first time involvement of at-risk youth with the court system and to reduce the recidivism rate for those already involved. Jessica has mentored youth, organized and facilitated anger management sessions, supervised court-sanctioned service, organized field trips and events, tutored youth on suspension, and coordinated weekly bowling trips.
Jessica has developed an excellent rapport with the kids; she “gives respect and demands respect” from the stereotypically untrusting and challenging population. Because of her tough, but approachable demeanor, she has earned the respect of many of the kids. Many of them have opened up to her about risky behaviors such as sex and drugs and Jessica has worked on helping to develop more self-respect, and has empowered them to change their behavior. Jessica was responsible for running the Youth Garden this past summer, a responsibility that the agency supervisor has previously never entirely handed over to anyone. She worked with students to plant, weed, and harvest pumpkins and other vegetables as cash crops.
One aspect of Jessica’s role that makes all her work quadruple is how effective she has been as a liaison with Allegheny College. She has recruited, oriented, and trained numerous students to mentor, tutor, and help organize events. This link with Allegheny has equaled positive role models for kids involved with the court system or at-risk youth heading that way. The relationships that have developed because of her involvement with Friends of Youth make a large difference, for the kids and for the Allegheny volunteers. Jessica’s impact as a role model extends past the kids and to the other Allegheny students. She introduces generally mid- to high-income college students to walks of life that they may never have seen.
Jessica’s investment in helping others is apparent in her additional service activities the past three years. She has taught GED Science class through the Crawford County READ Program, gone on an Alternative Spring Break Trip to Atlanta working in shelters and soup kitchens, traveled to Jamaica for two weeks the past two Januarys on a mission trip, and has been a member of her sorority’s Philanthropy Committee. She continues to work with youth at Friends and is dedicated to her role as an advocate for the organization and the kids on campus.
Jessica’s AmeriCorps package included $5,300 in compensation and education awards of $3,127.50. Her compensation has been minimal compared to what she has given of herself and her dedication has gone beyond the expectations of students in these AmeriCorps positions. Jessica’s agency supervisor, Nancy Overman, has an immense respect for Jessica’s abilities and is actively recruiting her for positions after graduation working with at-risk youth in the area.