Today’s Monday Inspiration is the incredible youth-advocate and agent of social change, Brooke Richie-Babbage, founder and Executive director of the Resilience Advocacy Project ( i.e., RAP, we love rocking acronyms!).
Lauren met Brooke through the Skadden Fellowship program, of which they are both alums, and we at Atlas have basically worshipped her energy, passion, and anything-is-possible attitude ever since. Check out what Newsweek had to say about this amazing rockstar and the innovative program she founded here.
The aspiring urban do-gooder can rely on two foundational assumptions. First, if no one intervenes with a poor child early in life, she’s likely to fall into a multigenerational cycle of poverty. Second, society doesn’t devote enough resources toward helping her break that cycle.
When Brooke Richie went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund in New York, she realized the second axiom wasn’t true. “There is a rich social-service infrastructure—really amazing health clinics and hospitals, really interesting and innovative charter schools,” she says. The problem was that the young people didn’t know how to access those resources. No one explained to teen mothers how they could get subsidies for child care. Applications to get a state ID—crucial for teens wanting to find work—were hard to find and even harder to fill out.
After graduating from law school, Richie started the Resilience Advocacy Project (RAP) in 2008, which takes its name from the idea that children are surprisingly able to bounce back from tough circumstances. Each year, RAP recruits about 15 kids from disadvantaged New York communities and puts them through a 12-week boot camp. Richie, her staff, and volunteers from nearby law schools teach the kids the basics of laws that are likely to be relevant to their peers. Then the kids set up in community centers and libraries and give free legal advice to their peers—how former foster children can access their immunization records, for example, or how a homeless teen can apply for public housing.
The model avoids bringing in another adult authority figure, which can scare off some kids. It’s also easily replicable and relatively affordable. Each class of 15 can help up to 400 teens get answers to their questions without paying legal fees. Richie plans to launch the program in three other cities within two to three years. “People hear ‘law,’ and they think ‘complicated,’ ” Richie says. “It’s challenging, but if we can teach this to kids, the gap between resources and awareness starts to disappear.”
—David A. Graham
Atlas is lucky enough to team with RAP’s LEAP program this spring and we’ll work with a number of awesome youth to help establish and sustain a youth-led empowerment and advocacy infrastructure in the City’s poorest communities. To apply email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Atlas would like to spend this Monday recognizing and thanking Brooke for her contributions to Atlas and all youth around NYC and beyond, stay tuned for more news on our partnership with this incredible woman soon!