Forty Under Forty: Steven Portericker

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Steven Portericker

Director of Youth Services

Union Settlement


MENTORS FOR ALL YOUTH

Fast fact: Tweet him @sdotporterl53

 

Steven Portericker has been the Director of Youth Services at Union Settlement Association since 2007. Under his leadership, the number of children, adolescents and young adults served has grown fourfold from 600 to 2,400 and the youth services’ budget has more than tripled from $1.2 million to $4.1 million. He also chairs the Harlem-Bronx LGBT Task Force. In 2009, he was recognized by the Partnership for Afterschool Education as one of “the best and brightest of New York City’s youth development professionals.”

 

NYN: HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN YOUR FIELD?

SP: Even as a young person, from middle school, I knew I wanted to work with children. I just love the opportunity of exploring with young people, whether it’s recreational activities or academic enrichment activities – and also just kind of having fun.

 

NYN: DESCRIBE AN ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF.

SP: We had a young man who came through our doors who was a young father and also a high school dropout, and he was pretty much a disconnected youth. He was lost and his grandmother brought him into the center to seek services because she knew the breadth of services that we have as an organization – but most importantly she wanted her grandson to get back on the path to earning his high school diploma. Within two years he earned his GED, he became very active in his son’s life, but more importantly he then took the steps to enroll into college. This May, he graduated with his four-year degree.

 

NYN: WHAT CHANGE WOULD MOST HELP THE INDIVIDUALS YOUR ORGANIZATION SERVES?

SP: There’s always been higher levels of funding for the younger children’s programs – so elementary kids, head start, pre-K. As you get into middle school and high school levels the funding is pretty scarce, therefore programming is limited. It would be really important on a policy level to ensure that adolescents, teenagers and young adults have more funding opportunities. I think they often are forgotten about and that’s why I think for many of our kids, they fall through the cracks and they begin to get into those areas that are not so healthy for themselves.

 

NYN: WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU RETIRE?

SP: The one thing that I would love to accomplish is to build out a comprehensive mentoring program that’s open to all types of youth. We currently have a very small mentoring program for youth on probation. They are already in trouble. How can we create a mentoring program that we can offer all young people and not just the ones who are most at risk? 

 

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