YO: Durham Fall 2007 Newsletter
YO:Durham — Year of Opportunity for Durham Teens — is the newest initiative of DCIA, Durham Congregations in Action, an interfaith, interracial organization whose 58 members collaborate on projects to strengthen the Durham community. Thanks to the support of congregations, corporations and our local community, YO:Durham is reaching its goals and is making a difference in the lives of at-risk Durham youth.
YO:Durham's four goals are 1) to increase workplace preparedness, 2) increase enrollment in education after high school, 3) increase high school graduation rates, and 4) decrease the number of students in the criminal justice system.
In our first year of programming, YO:Durham is providing real opportunities for our students to make positive choices and lasting change in their lives.Our students, many of whom struggled in school and considered opting out, are empowered by new skills and are bringing their talents to their schools and employment.Five months into our first year, our three part program — the Summer Career Academy (SCA), Internships and Mentoring — is proceeding as planned. Twenty-three students are actively participating and directing their positive energy back into their communities.
Summer Career Academy a Success
The Summer Career Academy (SCA) addresses several core questions: Why do I need an education? Why stay in school? The answer — to be employable — is clear, but as our students learned critical employment skills, they also explored what it meant to be a productive citizen.
The SCA is a highly-structured, intensive six-week academy including speakers, daily writing, interactive role plays, and field trips. It is led by 45 volunteer presenters and facilitated by three team leaders.Every aspect of the curriculum is designed to give students a highly formative and professional experience: Students attend classes dressed in business attire; classes are held in the NC Mutual Life building — a work place that gives students opportunities to interact with professionals daily and during lunch in the cafeteria.Students receive a stipend for attendance and a portion of their earnings is deposited in a savings account to help them acquire money management skills.Individual presentations and classes include Dress for Success, Character Education, Writing 101, Communication Skills, and African Drumming.To research careers, Students use "Futures for Kids," a Durham Public Schools computer program designed to help young adults explore different career paths. From this starting point, each student produces a career portfolio.
A true highlight of this summer's SCA was our speaker series. Many prominent community leaders volunteered time to share their professional experiences, insights and advice, addressing the need for education, hard work and an overall plan for the future.One speaker's motto was "don't let your actions limit your options," and the YO:Durham students adopted this motto as their own.
While workplace activities prepared our students for the next phase — Internships — and speakers provided valuable lessons, our students benefited most from activities that built self-esteem and promoted the ethic of teamwork; this included a multi-week conflict management seminar; daily writing classes, public speaking sessions and two visits to Durham's Parks & Rec's ropes course.During these sessions, our students had the chance to vent, examine and conquer feelings of frustration, develop interpersonal relationships and trust each other, becoming more self-confident throughout the SCA.Our students have learned that their individual voices matter, that they can be leaders, and that they can help one another. During the summer, three YO:Durham students were selected to serve on the Durham City Youth Council.Without YO:Durham, these students might not have had the opportunity, skills or desire to participate.Another student who had decided to play pro sports was counseled by his fellow students to enter college and is doing well as a freshman at Durham Tech.Because of YO:Durham,our students have the confidence and the ability to work together and see alternatives — different choices — and this has already led them to choose more productive options and make a positive difference.
But what do students say? Here are a few of the many insights our students shared at the SCA Graduation Ceremony:
When we hear these comments and look at the productive youth these students have become, we know YO:Durham is already making a difference in the lives of Durham's at-risk youth.
Students Performing Well In School
Now back at school, YO:Durham students are informally monitored from time to time by Susan Blackmon, Program Director, who is in contact with both teachers and counselors at the schools.In most cases, reports from the schools are strong — across the board, our students are more engaged, their work is more purposeful,their behavior less disruptive and their attendance is much improved.Ms. Blackmon will be checking in as needed and at grading periods with all students.
Internships Off to a Great Start
Internships are the second part of the program and they began in September for most students; and a few will start internships when football season is over.We are extremely grateful to our Employers for providing internships and for being flexible with hours.YO:Durham and corporate partners are providing Internships to all 23 of our students, some during weekdays, some on weekends.Internships are 6 — 10 hours per week and all are paid.This "real world" experience is a first for many of our students; and employers are reporting that the students are hard workers, eager to contribute and be productive members of their businesses.We would like to publicly recognize and thank our Employers:Accent Hardwood Flooring, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, Bright Horizons - BCBS, DCIA, Duke OB/GYN Research Office, Durham CAN, Durham Land Trust, Eno River Church, Habitat for Humanity, Measurement Incorporated, National Farm Worker Ministry, NC Mutual Life, New Life Child Development Center, One World Market, and SEEDS. If you have questions regarding internships or can provide an internship for a YO:Durham student in the future, please contact our program director, Susan Blackmon, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mentoring Training Underway and Plans to Start Soon
Mentoring is the third part of the program, and mentoring in this case occurs in a group setting with four students meeting with four mentors twice a month.Mentors and the YO:Durham student receive training regarding mentoring and what to expect — one training session was held October 20th and a second was held November 6th.Mentoring is scheduled to begin in late November and the students are very eager for this.We would like to thank the mentors; without you this program could not be a success.Mentoring will happen twice a month: one session will be career-oriented, and one will be a social gathering.The group mentor matrix (four and four) is designed to enable a wide possibility of relationships to develop without any one mentor feeling overburdened.If you have any questions regarding mentoring or would like to mentor, please contact our mentor coordinator, Krystal Foxx at email@example.com.
Community Projects — a fourth component developed by our students
While students looked forward to beginning internships this fall, they were looking for additional ways to continue the friendships created during the SCA and make a difference beyond the classroom. With the help of Susan Blackmon and team leaders, they developed a series of community projects in which they are participating together:
1) Durham CAN Community Youth leadership Training Workshop/Kids Voting: YO:Durham Students attended a one-day workshop run by Durham CAN being effective youth leaders and making lasting change locally.Students decided to participate in the "Kids Voting" community project where YO:Durham students will assist kids voting in 2 precincts in November elections.
2) Habitat for Humanity Youth Project: YO:Durham's students will help in this year-long Habitat construction project for youth.
3) DCIA Teens Building Bridges — an interfaith youth group for DCIA congregations which is helping paint a mural on the wall of First Chronicles Community Church.
4) Durham County Workforce Development Board Annual Youth Summit: YO:Durham students and parents were invited on October 29th to join the Durham County's Workforce Development Board's Youth Summit along with youth from area programs including YES, RIL, NCCU's African American Male Leadership Academy and Durham Housing Authority.The purpose of the event was to discuss real options and solutions for Durham's at-risk and underserved youth. It was truly an honor to be recognized in our first year and invited to join this important summit. Our students felt empowered as they spoke with Durham officials regarding changes they recommended regarding youth at risk in our community.
With each of these projects, it is evident that our first class of YO:Durham students are contributing in positive ways to our community and civic culture.These community projects have given the YO:Durham students further opportunities to increase their self-confidence, find their own voices and bring their own strengths into our community.
Plans for YO:Durham 2008 — Our second class
We are currently planning for our second class. We anticipate our current YO:Durham class of 2007 will graduate in late April and the next YO:Durham class will be selected in May. We expect the 2008 class to follow the same structure: SCA, internship and mentoring with the six week summer academy occurring at roughly the same time (mid June through early August). Please mark your calendars and spread the word. We will notify schools regarding applications at the start of 2008.
YO:Durham is collaborative effort; it is a success because it is supported by so many and in so many ways. We thank DCIA, our corporate sponsor, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the many contributions from DCIA's member congregations and individuals.We are grateful to the many volunteers who came together to make our first Summer Career Academy a tremendous success; we thank the Internship Employers who are providing invaluable experience to our first class of YO:Durham students; we appreciate the mentors who will be spending many thoughtful hours with our students guiding them through ups and downs individually and as a group.To all of you — again and again — we say THANK YOU.
We cannot do this alone.We will succeed as a community, working as a team and supporting each other — just as our students learned this summer.
We are extremely grateful for any contribution to help continue making a difference in the lives of at-risk youth in Durham. The generosity of the Durham community will help us create opportunities for our students and this opportunity in turn builds a stronger community for us all. Here's how you can help:
1) Financial Contributor
From dress a student — to Major Underwriter —
I would like to donate, can you call me and tell me more about what you need?
Or here is my check for ________________________________
2) Employer (you do not necessarily have to pay the student yourself)
I am willing to hear more about being an Employer
I am willing to hear more about mentoring
I have something to share with your students, a message that will benefit them
5) SCA Teacher
I have skills I think you can use
6) Grant Writer
I write grants and am willing to help
7) Spread the word
I am willing to make a presentation to my workplace, congregation, book club or other organization about YO:Durham and spread the word
8) General Program Volunteer
I have time and like what you are doing
9) Generally Interested
I like your message and don't know what option to pick but call me!
Thank you!Please include your name, phone or email and someone from YO:Durham will contact you.If you have any questions, please contact Susan Blackmon, Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-688-2036 or check the YO:Durham website (www.yodurham.org) or the DCIA website (www.dcia.org) for information or updates as our year progresses.