Youth Outreach staff Jazlyn Lotman and middle school youth.

Growing up in Detroit for most of her life, Jazlyn Lotman always had a passion for the arts.  Though she grew up in a disinvested community, she had strong support from her family to pursue both sports and acting.  Eventually, this would land her at Columbia College in Chicago, studying Arts Management.  Jazlyn worked two jobs while going to school full-time and barely made ends meet.  “Going to college was a much greater struggle than I ever imagined.  I was not prepared well for how difficult it would be to just be able to pay for my living expenses.”  

Through it all, she had a strong desire to pursue a Christian community.  She attended various Christian College groups and eventually attended the Urbana Conference, a conference held annually in Champaign- Urbana that focuses on Social Justice.  It was here that the Lord first started stirring in her heart the desire to really invest in urban communities like the one she grew up in.  Sunshine Gospel Ministries had a booth at the conference that caught her eye.  As she began talking to the staff, she realized she was already very familiar with the Woodlawn neighborhood where Sunshine resides.

God opened the door for her to come on staff with the middle and high school youth as Sunshine was praying for a young, African-American woman to be a leader.  “Since working at Sunshine, I’ve had a huge learning curve,  particularly working with middle school students, who are at an age where they are trying to form their identities.  Middle School is a very precious stage.  They are not children that need everything from you but they are not adults either.  And yet for many of the youth we’re working with, they are experiencing very adult things.”

“If I had one message for the youth that I work with it’s this; God wants us to really LIVE, not just survive.” 

Jazlyn realizes one of her main purposes is helping them navigate those adult things and being a safe person for them to process with.  Jazlyn, along with the rest of the youth staff at Sunshine has been training for the past year in Trauma-Informed Care practices.  Jazlyn feels it’s incredibly important when working with the youth to understand how trauma affects their behaviors and choices.  “I know that God’s purpose for them is to really thrive, and not just become victim to their circumstances.”  Jazlyn puts this into practice every day as she invests in the lives of the youth in Woodlawn.  She helps run the after-school program for middle-school students as well as the evening high school program. She’s able to incorporate her love of the arts into improvisation classes for students, all while building on their talents and gifts building their resilience.  Jazlyn lives on the south side of Chicago with her husband James and daughter Journee.