Thursday, September 6, 2012

Back to (After)school

Carrie Sauer, NeighborWorks America
intern, Northeast Region
Education is said to be the great equalizer for students from all social and ethnic backgrounds. However, many youth from distressed neighborhoods lack the resources and the support to successfully navigate the opportunities that schools or the community may provide. Youth in such situations are apt to feel disconnected from their school, to feel socially isolated, and experience an overall sense of unpreparedness. The solution? Schools and communities should focus on engaging the students. 
This is exactly what the folks at Madison Park Community Development Corporation in Roxbury, Massachusetts are doing as a part of their newly established mentoring initiative, “the Circle for Success Initiative (CSI).” This effort connects 9th grade students with peer mentors who guide, advise, and assist with the various issues that accompany the transition to high school.  Members of the resident services program at Madison Park collaborate with the parents to help students decide on a career or education path, and then develop a strategic plan towards that goal. This ensures that the participants understand their potential and are exposed to the career and educational prospects that will allow them to realize their potential. 

Madison Park Community Development Corp. summer youth staff
Mentoring programs like this one address a wide spectrum of potential barriers including social, psychological, educational and emotional issues all by introducing a strong role model. Mentoring does not have to be formal, though. By getting engaged in the community in any sort of youth program, students strengthen their networks and build relationships that foster similar social and emotional growth — and such progress carries over to performance in school. 

According to studies by the Afterschool Alliance, the Urban Institute and the Public Health Agency of Canada, students who are involved are less likely to skip school and more likely to feel a sense of belonging in their school.  These positive thoughts and behaviors translate to hefty gains in test scores and graduation rates.  Furthermore, these impacts are more significant among disadvantaged students, confirming the need for community development agencies to incorporate youth programming into their mission. 
Mentor and mentee
As students return to their studies, it is important to remember that school makes up but a fraction of a day.  What happens in the afternoon can make all the difference to an individual’s development both as a student and as a young adult.

Learn more about other youth programs offered by Madison Park Community Development Corporation, including their summer mural project, by visiting their Facebook page or watching this video