Earlier this month, the Forrest Firm concluded its second Non-Profit Challenge, a celebration of social entrepreneurship in North Carolina. After reviewing multiple submissions from social impact startups and established area non-profits, the firm’s panel of celebrity client judges selected three winners to receive pro bono legal services. We are featuring each of the winners on the Forrest Firm blog, and this week’s winner is Durham’s LIFE Skills Foundation.
Helmed by Executive Director Alex Protzman and a leadership team comprised of specially-trained youth advocates and social workers, LIFE Skills Foundation is being that “someone” to turn to for Durham youth who do not have the economic, familial, or social supports that can assist them to overcome the many challenges that all youth face on their journey to self-sufficiency and independence as adults.
Specifically, the programs of LIFE Skills Foundation serve as a safety net and support network for youth in the 15-24 age range. Many of the more than 100 young people served by LIFE Skills Foundation each year come to the organization’s attention through the Durham County Foster Care System, whether they are currently placed with families or have “aged out” of the system itself. The youth have often been affected by emotional trauma, homelessness, involvement in the justice system, and substance abuse. But as an organization, the LIFE Skills Foundation believes that these youth have the potential to thrive, when you match their resilience with respect and individualized support.
In 2015, LIFE Skills Foundation made a breakthrough in providing services to at-risk youth, when it opened transitional housing apartments. Coupling safe housing with wraparound support services, the organization is now housing up to 25 young adults each year. In addition to its housing program, LIFE Skills offers programming in three areas to fully develop each youth into productive adults: independent living skills, mental health, and wraparound supports, which matches youth with teams of support professionals. In these wraparound encounters, different members of a young person’s support team teach basics like grocery shopping, keeping medical appointments, enrolling in educational programs, connecting with internships, and filling out job applications.
According to Protzman, the idea that each person has a fundamental right to a life of happiness, full of possibility, and free from oppression is central to the LIFE Skills Foundation’s approach. “LIFE Skills is based on the philosophy that programming tailored to the individual is more effective than programming tailored to an idea or funding stream,” he said. “We take great pride in creating individualized programming that allows for our participants to have true input. We embrace the fact that our participants have their own strengths and challenges, their own likes and dislikes, and their own thoughts and opinions about how to best move forward. They set the course, and we help them on the journey.”
The attorneys and staff of the Forrest Firm congratulate Alex Protzman and the team at LIFE Skills Foundation on winning the firm’s second Non-Profit Challenge. We look forward to working with this high-impact organization serving our community’s youngest and most vulnerable, and we are humbled by the opportunity to support their mission.