Sueños Youth Center

In 2008, Neighborhood Ministries' Wayne & Kit Danley Scholarship Fund began providing college scholarships to first-generation youth who have grown up in our programs. Scholarship recipients receive support and accountability to achieve their collegiate goals, ensuring their post-secondary success. Each year, about 17 youth attended college on our in-house scholarship.

Neighborhood Ministries’ Sueños Youth Empowerment Center invests heavily in 12-to-21-year-olds from low-income Phoenix households. It promotes community building, increases academic attainment, and mitigates the detrimental effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to promote positive life outcomes. This is crucial as Arizona’s percentage of children ages 0-17 who have experienced 2+ ACEs is the highest in the nation. In 2019, 27.3% of Arizona children had experienced at least 2 ACEs, significantly higher than the national average of 20.5%. Ample research documents educational and health disparities among those who experienced ACEs, and outcomes worsen as the number of ACEs increases. ACEs also result in elevated involvement in criminal and juvenile justice systems, social services, public housing, health care and behavioral health systems. Although the negative impacts of ACEs can last a lifetime, they do not have to. Research has found protective factors, which are intentionally developed by Sueños Youth Empowerment Center programming, can help prevent or reverse the damaging effects of ACEs by building resilience. Healthy adult relationships, for example, are one of the most promising ways to mitigate the effects of ACEs.

Research repeatedly demonstrates that just one safe, supportive relationship with a caring adult can buffer children from the long-term, harmful effects of ACEs.


That is why Sueños focuses heavily on mentoring and developing positive, supportive relationships with youth. Operating four nights a week, the program uses a trauma-informed approach to reach about 150 youth and young adults annually to build protective factors, develop social-emotional skills, and improve mental health and well-being. The program offers life skills training, social-emotional learning and mindfulness workshops, mentoring, STEAM classes, sports, leadership, and spiritual development, conflict resolution workshops, ACEs and trauma-informed care training, coding classes, career explorations, therapeutic art classes, financial literacy, work readiness, and dating violence and substance abuse prevention classes. Sueños staff are trained to recognize and effectively respond to students’ trauma responses, thus creating a place where youth feel safe, connected, and supported. It incorporates mindfulness, social-emotional skill development, and other self-regulation activities. Additionally, referrals are made to other Neighborhood Ministries programs or service providers to connect youth to additional resources outside of the Sueños Youth Empowerment Center's scope.