Tuesday, October 20, 2020

LGBTQ+ and Youth Allyship

By Guest Blogger Eva Jo Meyers, Spark Decks

Eva Jo Meyers
According to an article published in Keshet this summer, crisis calls to the Trevor Project’s hotline doubled during the quarantine.

Prior to the pandemic, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2017 LGBTQ teen survey showed that:

  • 77% of LGBTQ teenagers surveyed reported feeling depressed or down over the past week; 95% percent of LGBTQ youth reported trouble sleeping at night; and more than 70% reported feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week;

  • Only 26% said they always feel safe in their school classrooms -- and just 5% said all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people;

  • 67% reported that they’d heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people


In addition, according to CDC data taken from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior (YRBS) Survey of LGBTQ students,
  • 10% were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property

  • 34% were bullied on school property

  • 28% were bullied electronically

It is because of statistics like these that Spark Decks said, “Yes!” when we were approached about making a deck to support LGBTQ+ Youth Allyship. Or, actually, what we said was, “NO! But we will work with young people to create a deck BY youth, for youth.” And so that’s what we did.

Like the name suggests, Spark Decks are decks of cards. Each card contains one idea, or “micro-practice” that can be implemented in youth-serving programs. We have decks on topics ranging from SEL to Supporting English Language Learners, to Self-Care. Users pick one card at a time, try it out in their program, and then reflect on how it went.

But while all of our previous decks have been for adults, this one is different - because this one is for youth. 

Source: Eva Jo Meyers, Spark Decks

Thanks to the support of San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families (DCYF), this past fall, prior to shelter-in-place orders, we hosted six sessions with Middle, Highschool, and Transitional-Aged youth, focusing on the question, “What can an ally do to support LGBTQ+ youth and staff at our school?” 

We started each session with an icebreaker, then spent time discussing the statistics outlined above. Did these numbers match participants’ experience? (Yes!) Did any of the statistics surprise them? (Yes!) 

After creating collages that illustrated allyship, (you can see parts of the collages on the box of the new deck!), we spent an hour doing a brainstorm activity to generate ideas about how an ally could be a support, and put those ideas into categories. It’s those ideas and categories that now live in our new “LGBTQ+ Youth Allyship” deck.

Source: www.spark-decks.com

As with all Spark Decks, the new deck has 52 ideas, culled from the six sessions. Based the cards, here are a few actions youth in your program might consider implementing during the pandemic, and beyond:
  • If you’re in a Zoom session, don’t assume someone’s gender. Instead, ask people via private chat what pronouns they use.

  • Be vocal about your support of LGBTQ+ people at your program or school. Be loud and proud!

  • Advocate and plan classes, clubs, and assemblies online through your school so that people can learn more about LGBTQ+ support, issues, and history. 

  • Plan an online fundraiser that makes money for an organization that helps LGBTQ+ youth. Make the fundraiser event fun - like a trivia or comedy night online.

  • Let LGBTQ+ people know that they are safe when they are around you - whether in a Zoom class or on Social Media - and that you will not let anyone hurt or tease them.

Once the school year gets underway, Spark Decks will be offering Training-of-Trainer style workshops that teach staff how to run an allyship workshop using the deck either at their sites -  or virtually. 

And what did participants have to say about being part of the project? “That people will dedicate themselves to learning pronouns is inspiring.” “I learned that it is really important to be an EDUCATED ally.” “I learned that advocacy starts with communication and collaboration.” “Thank you for holding space for us to talk about this.

I hope you will all join me in making space to “talk about this,” even - and especially - during the pandemic.
............................................
Eva Jo Meyers is the co-founder of Spark Decks and the author of the book, “Raise the Room: A practical guide to participant-centered facilitation.” She has held positions as a program leader, manager, and district coordinator for afterschool programs. To learn more about Spark Decks, visit www.spark-decks.com.


Check out My Pal, Luke! My Pal, Luke is designed to address many social emotional elements through his words and questions, including a check-in with kids. Luke also reads his favorite books and educates kids on how to make sense of current events and the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be easily embedded in distance learning efforts or used with in- person programming. To watch an introduction to My Pal, Luke, click here.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

How Alchemy Inc. Works to Find the Gold Within

By Sam Piha

Source: goldthefilm.com

Kwame Scruggs, Ph.D is ED of Alchemy Inc. in Akron, Ohio. He was featured in the 2014 documentary, Finding the Gold Within. This documentary chronicled the transition of young black men from high school to college, the issues of racism they encountered, and the role of Alchemy Inc., an afterschool program in supporting this transition. We were so taken by the film, that we sponsored several screenings in the San Francisco Bay Area. (To watch or stream the documentary, Finding the Gold Within, click here.) Below are Dr. Scruggs' responses to our questions about the documentary and the strategies he has incorporated into his afterschool program, which serves boys of color. 


Dr. Kwame Scruggs, Alchemy Inc.

Q: In the film, Finding the Gold Within, it portrayed the use of "talking circles" to provide support for the young men. Why do you believe that "talking circles" are an important strategy in youth work?

A: I think any format that allows youth a safe setting is important.  A circle is ideal because of the symbolism of oneness, there is no real beginning or end, everything is connected. You can have order or non-order in a circle. Our circle is somewhat unique in that the youth sit in the circle by age, from youngest to oldest. 

Q: You also encourage the use of writing/ journaling. Why do you believe that the use of writing/ journaling is an important strategy in youth work?

A: Writing causes you to reflect. When speaking we often blurt-out the first thing that comes to our mind. Writing causes you to pause and give your thought more thought. 

Source: goldthefilm.com

Q: People often comment that young African American youth do not like writing, therefore this is not a good strategy. Your comments on this?

A: I am not certain if this only pertains to African American youth. In our situation the proof is in the pudding, so it IS obviously a good strategy for us. There have been numerous occasions where our youth have informed me that it was opening-up their journals that assisted them through their darkest moments. It was the quotes and recalling moments in the myths that allowed them to persevere. It was their responses to questions that reminded them of what they thought at a certain moment and how that same thought would add comfort to a challenging situation. 

To find where to view/ stream Finding the Gold Within, click here. For an update on the documentary protagonists, click here

G. Kwame Scruggs, Ph.D is the founder and director of Alchemy, a non-profit organization in Akron, Ohio established in 2003. Alchemy uses mythological stories to engage urban adolescent males. In 2012 Alchemy was one of 12 programs to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities—the nation’s highest honor for after-school and out-of-school programs. Alchemy was also the backdrop for the award-winning, feature-length documentary, “Finding the Gold Within.” Kwame has over 20 years of experience using myth in the development of urban male youth. He holds a Ph.D. and MA in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology. Kwame also holds a MS degree in Technical Education with an emphasis in Guidance and Counseling. In 1993, after being formally initiated into the Akan System of Life Cycle Development (African-based rites of passage), Kwame became a Certified Facilitator of this process. In 2016, Kwame was one of seven recipients awarded the National Guild’s Milestone Certificate of Appreciation and one of three to receive the University of Akron’s Black Male Summit Legacy Award. Kwame is a recently appointed board member of the Joseph Campbell Foundation and serves on the National Advisory Committee of the Creative Youth Development National Partnership.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

All of Who I Am

By Sam Piha


The Center for Promise is the applied research institute for America’s Promise Alliance. They set out to listen deeply to a diverse group of over 100 young people across the country about the critical program features driving their learning and development. The themes and insights that emerged make up the report entitled, All of Who I Am: Perspectives from Young People About Social, Emotional and Cognitive Learning. The report affirmed what we have known for decades, but it is always good to hear straight from youth. Below we quote the report's 6 critical program features youth name most essential to their learning and development. 

  • Relationships Overall, the term refers to a young person’s relationships within their learning setting. These relationships are multidimensional, in that they offer multiple types of support—e.g., informational, instrumental, and emotional. The rich relationships that young people spoke about include those with teachers, other caring adults, adult and peer mentors, and their peers.
  • Belonging Belonging is the psychological or affective experience associated with the perceived validity of one’s inclusion and positioning within a given social context or network. (Young people) indicate that this affective experience contributes to the young person feeling enveloped in support and connected to peers and adults in a young person’s context; this in turn may facilitate community-building and mutual respect.
  • Meaningful Learning Meaningful learning occurs when a young person’s educational activities and learning experiences are relevant to them, align with their life experiences and interests, and/or have value to them by connecting with their future orientations or life goals.
Source: America's Promise Alliance
  • Intentionality Intentionality refers to a young person’s perception that there is a purpose and a reason for school or program activities and experiences. A Nation at Hope includes a recommendation for learning settings to have a strong mission that “prioritizes the whole child” and offers a clear and consistent vision that cuts across all aspects of the setting. This vision infuses all aspects of the learning setting; be it the language that community members use when talking to each other, how different spaces and areas are set up, or how schedules are organized in each setting.
  • Agency Agency refers to a young person’s sense of, and expression of power over their own experience and their own lives. Agency conveys that the individual’s behavior originates in the person rather than compelled by someone else, and also reflects a person’s interest or investment in the behavior in the context of a goal (e.g., attending class in order to graduate). In this way, a young person’s agency is both tied to their internal focus of control and rooted in the individual’s relationship with their ecosystem (e.g., other people, the outside world). Agency acknowledges the influence of external factors and recognizes that the young person has the power to respond to these external forces by making choices that influence their impact.
  •  Identity Development Identity is the compass that guides an individual’s path—an internal sense of self that resonates with who you have been and who you can be. In this way, an individual’s identity is an internal meaning-making process, negotiated in relationship with a range of experiences and with that person’s conceptions about the future.
This report aligns very nicely with previous youth development frameworks. To go beyond the critical features named in this report, we suggest that you consider how best to lead discussions with staff on these critical features and focus on actual practices. To assist you in these things and more, check out our Youth Development Guide 2.0

Jennie Rosenbaum
To learn a little bit more about this study we interviewed Jennie Rosenbaum (EduCare Foundation's ACE Initiative Site Coordinator at Social Justice Humanitas Academy, LAUSD), who's youth participated in the study. Below she responds to our questions.

Q: How is it that you were selected to participate in this study?

A: Last spring, we received word from Jennifer Peck (Partnership for Children and Youth) on how to apply for an upcoming study by the Center for Promise. The Center for Promise wanted to include young people in conversation and research to better understand what young people felt was necessary to create conditions that supported their social, emotional, and academic growth. 

Highlighting our extensive work in social-emotional learning since 1990, we at EduCare Foundation applied and subsequently received word that we were one of seven organizations nationally selected for the America's Promise Alliance's study. High school students at Social Justice Humanitas Academy, one of our outstanding LAUSD Beyond the Bell afterschool program sites and an EduCare ACE Initiative school site, were chosen by EduCare to participate. ACE Initiative school sites empower students, teachers, and parents to enrich themselves and their school community with kindness, empathy and human connection.

Q: What did you think about America’s Promise findings?
A: The America’s Promise findings reveal what young people need to feel safe, seen, heard, understood, worthy and loved--that which we all seek in order to thrive. In these times when inequities are even more prominently visible, these findings direct us towards a framework to re-invent educational spaces to meet everyone’s needs, not relying on youth to figure it out or to get lucky in a system that doesn’t always work in their favor. 

Q: Would you comment on the critical features named in the report?
A: I most liked the interdependence and intersectionality of the six themes. Growth and self-actualization does not happen in a vacuum. The best lesson taught by the most renowned teacher passes over the head of the student who has no connection to the person teaching them or the people sitting to their left and right. Even then, the lesson stays in the student’s head, leaving no impact on the world, leading to no change if the student lacks agency or a way to apply it meaningfully. 

Q: Can you give an example/ practice of how “agency” is promoted?
A: Our school supports agency through a summer bridge program to help incoming ninth grade students build new relationships with teachers, peers and near-peer mentors, learn the expectations and supports offered at their new school and acclimate to the school culture in a low-risk setting. In the second week, teachers offered students options in STEM, Art and ELA through which students explored their identity and their goals for themselves and their communities. 

Q: Can you give an example/ practice of how “intentionality” is promoted?
A: Our school reinforces intentionality through its partnership with EduCare’s ACE Initiative in which we start each school year building relationships with team building games, problem solving challenges outside of our comfort zones, goal setting for the year and beyond, and reflective talking circles or “heart talks.” For our students, this frames their way of starting their school year and their lives by developing greater personal leadership, empathetic connections, and a compassionate school culture in which they can be supported and thrive. 



We'd like to share the latest project from Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation- My Pal, Luke. My Pal, Luke is designed to address many social emotional elements through his words and questions, including a check-in with kids. Luke also reads his favorite books and educates kids on how to make sense of current events and the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be easily embedded in distance learning efforts or used with in- person programming. Check out episode 1 here or follow the My Pal, Luke Instagram for updates.

LGBTQ+ and Youth Allyship

By Guest Blogger Eva Jo Meyers, Spark Decks Eva Jo Meyers According to an article published in Keshet this summer, crisis calls to the...