May 31, 2012

by Carlo Bizzarri

The Latin expression "mens sana in corpore sano" translates as "a healthy mind in a healthy body". The intended meaning is that only a healthy body can support a healthy mind, so we should strive to keep our bodies in top condition.

Illness – some physical and some mental – is becoming more common among marginalized young adults.  In a sense, it is somewhat surprising to see young adults with so many health problems. Poverty and unhealthy environments do have a serious impact on youths' health. Ignite is very aware of persistent health issues, frequent visits to doctors, and missed work time among its apprentices. These conditions have a tangible and destructive impact on families, the community, and work.

For a good number of apprentices, Ignite is a safe haven – the only safety they have in their efforts toward independence and self-sustainability. Many come from a daily life of poverty and all of its ramifications, particularly bad individual choices, broken human environments, chronic health problems resulting from overcrowded and substandard housing, inadequate nutrition, and physical and emotional abuse. They find support from Ignite team members who strongly encourage them not to revert to past patterns of "giving up" when they believe they cannot succeed.            

Holistic, incremental success is exceedingly meaningful to apprentices over the course of Ignite's forty-three week program. Experience has shown that often the first success for an apprentice will manifest in a realization that "I can learn and I am smart". This can take many weeks of hard work and challenges from Ignite team members to not "give up".

The next increment may be the personal awareness that the apprentice is actually valued as a human being by Ignite team members and by fellow apprentices – "No one has ever done anything nice for me before, why would you?" The emotional aspect of this realization is extremely profound.

After the internalization of self-efficacy in a learning environment has taken place, the apprentice may then move on to accept the possibility of a productive career in the professional realm, prove reliable, and foster a positive attitude, an improved attendance record, and strong work habits.

The accomplishment of the above steps to success does not happen overnight. Ignite patiently creates a successful learning environment that takes into account the individual physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health of each learner. It takes extraordinary patience and experience to lead young adults through this process and it can only be done by people who have a vocation or true passion for it.

"The greatest good we can do for others is not just to share our riches with them, but to reveal their riches to themselves." (a Swahili Proverb)      



Carlo Bizzarri

Carlo Bizzarri is the Program Manager for Ignite. Since founding the organization in 1990, Carlo has continued to evolve and expand the program that has helped hundreds of at-risk young adults gain the personal strength, knowledge, and work skills needed to become full, contributing members of the community. As Carlo discovered, “To see another human being prosper and move ahead gives you a feeling that will never leave you.”


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