PLATFORM FOUR: COMING OF AGE IN AMERICA YOUTH PROGRAM: MENTORING OUR YOUTH
Our Fourth Platform develops special after-school programs to engage junior-high school students who are at risk or come from low-income or poverty environments. The goal is to develop creative models that reach youth at a critical stage in their lives when they are developing their own self-awareness, identities and values. Our programs involve mentoring, community and civic engagement, role-playing civic and history-based games and other models all focused on providing students with a safe and supportive space to become successful citizens.
We have partnered with the Maine Youth Alliance better known as "The Game Loft" in Belfast, Maine which has a highly successful 20 years of experience in creative educational and mentoring programs for such youth. We currently have three major programs in operation:
I Know ME (a program focused on mentoring);
Coming of Age in America (a program built upon core values of Idea of America and historical events that relate to current challenges in our society and our nation);
Historic-Civic Role Playing Games (games that connect with youth who have grown up in an era of internet and social media).
We have partnered with the Game Loft in developing and evaluating these models with the hope that they will be models that can be embraced in communities throughout the nation.
"I KNOW ME" MENTORING PROGRAM
"I Know ME" is a six-year program of mentoring, support, outreach for at risk students and those from low-income and poverty backgrounds. Student participants join in the seventh grade and continue through high school. The program is designed to achieve the following goals:
High Intensity Intervention. Students meet in weekly cohort meetings lasting two hours per week during the school year. These are supplemented by Peripheral Programming and Individual Relationship Building programs averaging 2-4 hours per month. These activities are supplemented by 5 to 7 field trips lasting between 1-3 days each in the summer and semi-monthly parent contacts.
Individual Relationship Building. Goals and activities are developed and scheduled to meet the need of the student as determined by the Holistic Student Assessment survey. The purpose is to assist in emotional control, create trust, encourage empathy, promote reflection, increase optimism, help students conduct positive problem resolution and make referrals for the alleviation of emotional problems.
Peripheral Programming. Programs specific to individual needs are developed for each student participant in working with staff and mentors. A major resource for these efforts are services from the federal government AmeriCorps members who are full time staff generally on two to three years assignments.
Alignment with Community Needs. Specific activities are identified for the engagement of students which involves field trips and instruction to teach youth about the people, places, economy, ecology, challenges and potential of the state of Maine as well as coaching for improved social and behavioral skills and communicating with adults and peers. The activities and engagement are all built to support and supplement normal school teaching curriculum. The goal is to provide a safe and supportive environment for at risk students to be successful in school and in life.
This program is being funded by the Emanuel & Pauline A. Lerner Foundation in six different sites in Maine. The foundation invests resources to provide long-term, comprehensive relationship-based programming to youth. This structured yet flexible programs model aims to increase resiliency and introduce new opportunities to cohorts of our people starting in the seventh grade and continuing through high school graduation. To document the potential impact and effectiveness of this unique model, the Lerner Foundation contracted with the Data Innovation Project "to conduct a comprehensive, multi-year implementation and outcomes evaluation." That evaluation has just been done based on three years of the program operation.
Idea of America Network has been working with the leadership and staff of this program since its inception three years ago. We view this as the best mentoring program that has been developed and evaluated in the nation. It is our judgement that this innovative and unique program offers a model that can and should be replicated throughout the nation. Our goal is to provide access to the expertise in Maine that have developed this model by other institutions and communities that want to make a difference for the "kids in their communities."
COMING OF AGE IN AMERICA
This program is designed for high school students and is currently run as an Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) for elective credit through a local public high school. It focuses on the lives and histories of young people growing up in Maine. It is “learning history by being history.”
Key Program Components:
Coming of Age in America empowers young people to take ownership of their circumstances and encourages them to play a role in the life of our communities and the destiny of our nation.
It is a program built upon historic based role playing games and brief lectures that challenges the students to reflect on what it means to be an American in today's world.
It emphasizes our belief that We the People hold the power to make a difference in the future of our nation. Along with that power goes civic responsibilities that are critical to our common good.
It is an after-school program, meeting two hours a week for the entire academic year. The historic setting is established each year, identifying a particular point in our history where conflict and crises have occurred and the challenge was for we the people to resolve the issues and reach a common good. In doing so students learn how to deal with challenges we have faced in our past and how those challenges were resolved.
In learning history by living history, we find that the students quickly make the bridge from our past history to current times. This has proven to be a far more effective means of learning from our past and engaging in our future than the traditional structured core driven teaching of our history in the classroom. But the schools have found that the students from our program make a real difference when they are back in the classroom and share their experience with others.
This is an innovative and well tested program that requires leadership on the part of civic- minded adults who want to become engaged in the schools in their local communities. We encourage any of you who might consider undertaking a similar program in your community to contact us through our website. We have the resources to coach and guide you in developing this innovative program in your community.
HISTORIC CIVIC ROLE-PLAYING GAMES
This program develops role-playing games that younger students quickly grasp and fully engage. Coming of age in an era of “Dungeons and Dragons” and “E-Sports” role-playing is in their DNA. But rather than being confrontational and war-like games, our historic based games are collaborative and cooperative. The goal is to confront a given historical event that is most often confrontational and divisive and to engage in resolving that challenge in a way that preserves our values and reaches a common good. The games we have developed and tested are effective because they are experiential, empathetic and engaging. Role play enhances students understanding of story and narrative because it functions like a living text that includes character and plot development, comedy and tragedy, theme and mood, time and setting. In a role play game the students are not passive spectators or recipients of programmed knowledge but active participants as co-authors of the historic based story.
We recently developed an historic based role playing game for Colonial Williamsburg Foundation entitled: “The Magazine Episode at Williamsburg: A Royal Theft.” This is the story of two points of view. One point of view is Lord Dunmore’s. The world, as he sees it is part of the ever-more-mighty British Empire. The other point of view is yours (meaning student game participant). You are a character in a drama. The town you live in, Williamsburg in the Colony of Virginia, is about to be a stage for this drama. You will play a part in the dramatic collision between your point of view and the Governor’s point of view, between what you see as your world and what he sees as his world.
You can call this play a drama. You can call it a game. How you and your colleagues play your part will determine whose world view wins: The Idea of Empire or the Idea of America.
See our website “ideaofamericanetwork.org” for instruction manual and other resource material regarding how we developed this particular game which can serve as guidance for others to develop similar games. We have the experience and expertise to assist you in these efforts. Just contact us!