SJCS Stories

Interview with Larry Russock, Regional Director, SJCS-PA


Recently, SJCS-PA joined a new and exciting community partnership with The Village of Arts and Humanities (The Village) in North Central Philadelphia. An offshoot of the Employment First initiative, this new partnership will include SJCS-PA assisting The Village in integrating their Trauma Informed Care model with SJCS-PA’s employment services, providing career development, training, and work experiences to the students and young adults who participate in arts classes provided by The Village. By working together, they aim to help break the cycle of poverty many of these students face living in one of the most economically challenged areas of Philadelphia’s inner city.

I recently spoke with Larry Russock, SJCS-PA Regional Director, to find out more about this exciting and new opportunity for SJCS-PA.

AM: Thank you Larry for meeting with me. Can you tell me a little bit about who The Village is?

LR: The mission of The Village of Arts and Humanities is to encourage the voices and goals of the community by supplying chances for showing artistic and cultural talents. The Village is about motivating people to embrace healthy changes through programs based on arts and culture, inspiring youth involvement, energizing the community, protecting heritage and cherishing the environment.

Through all of its programs and initiatives, The Village is committed to building a neighborhood in North Central Philadelphia. Youth and their families have the chance to be involved in activities related to culture that assist in creativity, thinking outside of the box, life skills, and strengthening their future views. They have programs and projects under two initiatives: Learning through the Arts and Building through the Arts. These involve youth in proper learning through the arts, and at the same time they foster creativity and instill the value of personal success.

Building through the Arts involves and encourages co-working between youthful residents, their loved ones, and community partnerships in activities that are meant to improve the environment and cultivate a sense of belonging.

AM: Can you explain to our readers what Trauma Informed Care is?

LR: Trauma Informed Care is dedicated to reducing the adverse childhood experiences that harm children’s developing brains so profoundly that the effects show up decades later; they cause much of chronic disease, most mental illness, and are at the root of most violence.

AM: How are St. John’s and the Village working together as partners?

LR: Our intern and I teach a Career Development Group every Friday during semesters at the Village. There are four semesters throughout the year. Usually our group is between 8 and 12 students. We are also working with the Village around creating a model of a Trauma Informed Workspace and how to integrate Trauma Informed Care and Supported Employment. We presented on this topic at the APSE (Association of People Supporting Employment First) conference in June, 2017, a session titled Trauma, Health and Employment: How do we make a meaningful impact in supporting students?

AM: How important is the collaboration between St. John’s and the Village to youth, the community and to St. John’s?

LR: The importance is that both organizations inhabit different spaces in the community that usually do not overlap. Because of our partnership, it increases the visibility for each, but also the ability to connect around shared initiatives that impact both communities. This has also allowed us to connect both our networks, which again increase our audience and works toward innovative integrated models, such as Trauma Informed Supported Employment services.

AM: What are the future plans for the work between the Village and St. John’s?

LR: We are finalizing a PETS (Pre-Vocational Transition Services) grant which will allow our existing work together to be fully funded. In this effort SJCS-PA will take on the logistics through our relationship with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation that the Village would not otherwise have the time to navigate. Together we will be engaging the Philadelphia School District to reach a wider audience for both SJCS-PA and the Village’s Services. We anticipate this work will begin during the summer of 2017. In addition, we are working together to move forward innovative models such as Trauma Informed Workspaces and Trauma Informed Supported Employment.
It is clear that the SJCS partnership with the Village promises to address some of the more critical challenges facing communities in North Central Philadelphia. By working together to take on intergenerational poverty, trauma, unemployment and other issues, SJCS-PA and the Village can foster a better life for youth and their families, while developing a model of collaboration that can be used throughout the country!