When we first began offering youth after school leadership programming, we wanted to hold on to promising students as they grew older, offering them continued development as they grew into their potential as neighborhood leaders. This is why we refer to our two after school youth leadership initiatives collectively as a Youth Leadership Academy. A student coming to Metanoia in the 1st grade will continue all the way until high-school graduation and into college. In 2012, we graduated our first class of high-school seniors. Two of the students had been with us since 2nd grade, the third student since the 7th grade. All three went on to pursue post-secondary education; two of them the first in their families to do so.
The Young Leaders are 1st-5th grade students from our neighborhood elementary school, Chicora School of Communications. The 40 students of the Young Leaders are recommended to us by their teachers for showing leadership potential. They spend every day after school working on leadership skills at Imani Circle, receiving focused homework tutoring, receiving a healthy meal and getting physical exercise.
The Civic Leaders are 25 6th-12th grade students from a variety of area middle- and high-schools. A high percentage of them are ‘graduates’ from the Young Leaders program. The Civic Leaders follow a similar academic and leadership focus as the Young Leaders, although they pursue additional entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills curriculum. Our staff uses national best practice curriculum from the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship and has recently created their very own curriculum for middle-school Civic Leaders. High-school Civic Leaders are offered the opportunity to earn a modest income and build their job skills by working for our two youth businesses: the Hodari Brothers Screen Printing Company and Isoke Sisters Jewlery.
Why our Youth Leadership Pipeline is different
Metanoia’s youth leadership programming is by no means the largest in the area. However, we believe it is one of the most effective, holistic and efficient initiative for building our community from the inside rather than depending on outside agencies to provide large-scale services. Here’s why:
Working with leaders
Our youth leadership pipeline is not a remedial program! For years, even non-profits with good intentions operated on a “needs-based” child care model for distressed communities. In trying to help those most struggling, it discouraged those from performing at their best. In many ways, it encouraged high-performers to dial down their efforts in order to take part in services. High-functioning communities have the ability to identify and invest in their present and future leaders. This is at the forefront of our thinking as we seek to create a generation of community leadership that is capable of transforming the community from within. We want all students in our community to have the same opportunity to quality after school and summer care. However, with limited resources, we believe working with high-functioning leaders is the most efficient and effective way for our community to heal itself.
Rather than offering opportunities just during the school year or just during the summer, we offer a continuum of leadership-building opportunities all year long. During the school year, students develop in the Young Leaders and Civic Leaders. During the summer, these same students (with additional students in the summer) are provided day-long leadership and academic opportunities at Freedom School.
Getting parents involved
Because we understand parents have to be involved in students’ lives to make them great leaders, Metanoia requires parents to participate in our community to keep children in our programs. In an average year, Metanoia parents contribute more than 1,500 hours of community participation to keep their children involved.