In May 2017, the Nonprofit Village recognized Identity at its annual Breakfast Awards in Bethesda, MD for its work in Montgomery County that reflect best practices in nonprofit management. Based in Gaithersburg, Identity is a leading youth organization focusing on the needs of Latino youths and their families in the county.
Established in 1998, Identity provides varying levels of support to ensure that this population maximizes in opportunities, in school, work and life. Identity provides a holistic set of services and programs to guide Latino youths in high poverty areas and ensure that they obtain the support they need to succeed in all areas of their lives. Working in collaboration with other county agencies, schools, and nonprofits, Identity ensures that it maximizes its impact through direct services or referrals.
Identity’s programs are grounded in evidence-based research and a theoretical framework that focuses on children as assets. These programs offer Latino youths and their families a culturally competent approach that celebrates the diversity of Montgomery County.
Identity consistently evaluates its programs and services to maximize impact and substantiate its advocacy work. Its emphasis on program evaluation allows the organization to regularly adapt to changes in community needs. As a result of program evaluation, Identity has recently introduced elementary school programming to facilitate continuum of care for youths, as well as a youth police dialogue series.
Through all of their programs, Identity helps youths improve in relation to their social and emotional health, which positively impacts their academic life and workforce readiness.
In-depth intake assessments allow Identity to identify the client’s most pressing needs. Centered on a “Positive Youth Development” framework, Identity’s programming takes a positive approach to the population they serve:
- With Wellness Centers located in local high schools, Identity offers programs to ensure the physical, social, emotional, and mental well-being of high school students during this formative time. Over 1300 youths are served annually through the three Wellness Centers at Wheaton High School, Watkins Mill High School, and Gaithersburg High School.
- Two Youth Opportunity Centers in Gaithersburg and Takoma Park extend referral services and support to youths who are neither working nor in school, and who may be engaging in risky behavior or dealing with mental health and drug abuse. These opportunity centers establish crucial links for disconnected youths, offering them GED and ESOL classes, workforce development and work experiences. YOCs serve 400-500 disconnected youth annually.
- Transitioning to Adulthood: Identity also delivers an array of programs targeting the social-emotional skills of Latino youth and to support their academic needs. Through culturally competent programming, Identity offers after-school and summer bridging programs (21st Century Centers), GED preparation and ESOL classes. Additionally, Identity promotes young Latinos’ preparedness for successfully joining higher education institutions and the workforce through trainings and wraparound services.
- Prevention, Intervention, and Holistic Support: To ensure that Latino youths reach their potential with well-rounded support systems in place, Identity runs additional programs tailored to support all aspects of their lives. Identity programming also includes recreation activities (namely a county-wide soccer program), parent engagement, gang prevention, and wraparound mental health services and case management.
- A holistic approach that takes care of the whole family: 10-15 hours of culturally and linguistically appropriate workshops for parents and families allow them to increase their confidence and ability to help their children and advocate for them, especially in school settings. Additionally, Identity provides various services (childcare, food, and transportation) to facilitate parent participation in sessions by reducing barriers that may prevent their attendance. With Identity’s help, parents report that they are better engaged in their children’s lives and education.
Making use of its strong data-driven research and impact measurements, Identity serves an invaluable voice in the community, advocating for systemic changes to improve the quality of life of Latinos in Montgomery County through the Montgomery County Latino Advocacy Coalition (MCLAC).