So many kids have problems in school and it’s no different in Israel. It makes me very happy that ELEM’s youth centers are now in schools in Israel. Welcoming and non-threatening, they are places where you come because they want to, not because they’re have to.
ELEM’s 25 drop-in centers throughout the country are incredibly successful in helping troubled youth – those who are depressed and anxious, who’ve dropped out of school, have suicidal thoughts or are involved with prostitution and crime.
The drop-in centers have been so successful that Israeli state and local government have decided to work with ELEM to put these centers in schools to give troubled youth easy access to ELEM counselors during school hours. ELEM counselors and volunteers engage youth at the centers, earn their trust and establish long-term relationships with mentors and vocational trainers. Officials realize that the sooner these kids get help, the more likely they will stay in school and not fall prey to the crime, drugs and prostitution on the streets.
Last year the Shluk project was launched: six schools now have ELEM drop-in centers in schools that are funded by the government, local municipalities and ELEM. Youth can voluntarily talk to skilled ELEM counselors who the kids relate to before dropping out of school. Shluks are a powerful preventative strategy that will help keep kids in school and ELEM is planning on opening two more shluks this year.
What makes ELEM’s drop-in centers and shluks so successful? The secret is that they don’t look like places kids would go to talk to a counselor. They look like coffee houses, like places to read and relax. They are staffed by counselors and volunteers who look a lot like they do, but older, and who listen to them without judgement. The shluks, like ELEM’s drop-in centers, are places where kids are comfortable and want to go.
ELEM’s drop-in centers and Shluks work. The models have a proven track record of success with an excellent return on investment in kids who stay off the streets, join the army and contribute to the Israeli economy and society.
ELEM has specialized youth centers that meet the needs of youth throughout Israel: “Hafuch al Hafuch” are centers located in cities; “Migdalors” are in neighborhood centers; “Finjan” youth centers are located in Bedouin communities and “Ichfa” centers deal with issues particular to youth from ultra-Orthodox families. The Shluks in schools will have staff who understand the particular cultures of the students at the school.
With 240,000 youth in Israel suffering from difficulties functioning, depression, severe emotional problems, drug and alcohol use, suicidal thoughts or behavior, homelessness or vagrancy, Shluk centers to help youth stay in school are an important tool to help keep Israel’s youth off the streets.