AOK is a family we choose. We support the kids who come to us as if they were our own.

And just like we all would for our own kids, we will stop at nothing to make sure they have the love, encouragement, support and resources they need to be successful, happy, caring adults who are invested in their communities and active citizens who make a positive difference in the world.

THURSDAY NIGHT DINNER (TND)

Our first encounter with new youths is generally at Thursday Night Dinner, a diverse, weekly gathering that builds trust, breaks down barriers and establishes relationships rooted in love and high expectations. TND is a wonderful way to introduce new youths to AOK. It gives them a powerful dose of AOK love and joy. It is a boisterous gathering of AOK family members, anywhere from 15-30 people of all ages and backgrounds. The love around the table is palpable and the home-cooked food is delicious and plentiful. Everyone is present (no phones at the table) and everyone is welcoming to the new faces around the table. And from that point on, we welcome them as new members of the AOK family.

AOK YOUNG PEOPLE

The young people who come to us are generally between the ages of 18 and 22. Most of them are artists. Some are in or want to go to college. Some have finished high school but are unsure what’s next. Some have GEDs or want to get their GED. 100% of our young people come to us because they’ve been invited by current AOK youth, who know best if their peers can benefit from our approach. They are super-protective of AOK and only invite others they believe are ready to dream, ready to get to work to make those dreams come true.

Our success depends on building trust with every young person that comes to us. How do we do that? We listen to them and we believe them. We accept them where they are. We stick with them through thick and thin. And though we also have a deep awareness that every youth is different—and as a result our experience, interactions, trajectory and relationship with every young person is unique—we also know that each of them has a diamond inside that, with the proper love and support, can shine a unique, dazzling light on the world.

AOK COMMUNITY

This is where the current AOK youth, adults and community partners come in. Once a new kid has shared their dreams, we work with them to create a strategic plan for making them come true, and then we reach out into our community to find the resources they need to do so. We depend on a growing and amazing community of youth, adults and community organizations to bring together the resources our young people need to succeed.

We have a very high standard for the volunteers and community partners who help us support our kids. We only invite adults and community partners to be part of the AOK family who are as amazing as the young people. They have to see the potential in every youth, love them and support them as we do and want to help not because they see them as problems to solve, cases to close, objects to change, clay to mold, but because they see the diamonds inside them. We are as protective of the youth as they are of us, and only allow partners who will help our young people thrive in the same love-rooted way. If we didn’t recruit partners as amazing as our kids, then the young people would stop coming.