March 14, 2018

On today's show we hear from Dr. Lori Salierno – Maldonado, the Founder and CEO of Teach 1 to Lead organization doing amazing work with at-risk children.

There are various definitions of at-risk depending on who you talk to but all can agree that an at-risk youth is a child who is less likely to transition successfully into adulthood. Success can include academic success, job readiness, and the ability to be financially independent. It also refers to the ability to become a positive member of society by leading a purposeful life.

Of the 1.8 million young adults (age 16 – 21) who have left high school without a diploma – 66 percent are not working.

Researchers agree that poverty plays a direct role in determining the likelihood of juvenile delinquency. According to a study by the Department of Health and Human Services, 20% of children from low-income families are charged with a crime by the time they turn 24, compared with 16% of children from middle-income families: and 12% of children from high-income families.

A positive relationship with a “caring adult” is the most important factor in helping youth reach their goals and become purposeful, responsible citizens.  We understand the benefits of mentoring young people when we hear the powerful stories of teens whose lives have been changed by a single, caring adult. If you listen, you hear those stories everywhere.

A study of African American youth conducted by the University of Georgia showed how important mentors were to teens with hardships. For example, young people who had experienced discrimination, family stressors, and abuse were less likely to break the law or engage in substance abuse if they had a positive mentoring relationship. Again, their mentors provided the relational support to help them believe in their abilities and overcome difficult life challenges.

And this brings us to today's nonprofit...

Lori with Mother Teresa
Lori with Mother Teresa

One nonprofit that is working to make a difference in the lives of many of these at-risk youth is Teach 1 to Lead 1.

We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Dr. Lori Salierno – Maldonado, the Founder and CEO of Teach 1 to Lead 1, an organization dedicated to transforming at-risk kids into responsible citizens by building character based on practical leadership skills and universal principles. 

Lori’s story goes back to her mentoring relationship with Mother Teresa and the time she spent over ten years working in Calcutta alongside other volunteers at the homes for children and lepers that Mother Teresa had established.  The inspiration for Teach 1 to Lead 1 was planted 22 years ago when Mother Teresa told her, “Go back to your own Calcutta and be the light to your own people".

Teach One to Lead One has been successfully planting locations and helping at-risk youth all over the United States through their nationally acclaimed curriculum.  

In 2012, Lori launched her “Challenge the Cycle Tour” to raise money to help an additional 10,000 at-risk youth.  Setting out on her bicycle from Portland, Oregon she cycled 3,284 miles across the United States to Emerson, Georgia in 46 days and raised over $186,000.

Jen Rubino and Cards for Hospitalized Kids
Jen Rubino and Cards for Hospitalized Kids

On today's Hero of the Week segment, we look back at an earlier episode to a friend we first met on our April 24, 2013 show. She's Jen Rubino, and her own experiences with multiple hospitalizations and surgeries inspired her to found Cards for Hospitalized Kids(CFHK) to spread hope, joy, and magic to hospitalized kids across America through handmade cards sent by kids and groups from around the globe. 

As the founder of CFHK, Jen is able to combine her own experience as a patient and her desire to help others in a way that allows her to help children across America who are facing what she has faced.  Together with help from individuals and groups across the U.S., Cards for Hospitalized Kids is impacting thousands of hospitalized kids.  Lifting others up through CFHK has allowed Jen to lift herself up as well and, chronic illness or not, she knows it will be the same for everyone who gets involved with CFHK.

CFHK continues to grow and the number of cards that they receive grows every year.  In 2016, they celebrated their five year anniversary.

Jen is now a junior studying International Affairs at George Washington University (GWU) in DC.