LIVE Brothers Empowerment Group Initiative | City of Ideas

Posted 12/14/2012 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
Boys from disadvantaged backgrounds and confronted with the stresses of poverty, racism, homelessness, trauma, violence, and family undereducation or underemployment need additional social and emotional supports to secure a healthy and positive early life trajectory. The process of establishing a healthy male identity can be difficult for many young boys. William Pollack, author of “Real Boys,” explains many of our nation’s schools are unable to meet the needs of male students by not giving enough attention to boy’s issues and challenges that surface in the school setting (Pollack, 1998). Some boys coping with violence in the community can show particular vulnerabilities to aggressive and risky behaviors. Exposure to violence in the community can take a toll on adolescence, and youth exposed to community violence have higher rates of emotional, behavioral, social, and cognitive problems. The development of a black and brown boys empowerment group initiative is a critical and meaningful undertaking by the partners on this collaboration to respond to the alarming need for social, emotional, and identity development supports in the variety of settings in which boys are engaged.

Project Proposed:
B-SAFE Summer Youth Programs, Boston Public Schools Achievement Gap Office, the Borghesani Foundation, and the National Institute on Out-of-School Time are partnering to empower middle school black and brown boys from Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan to avoid risky behaviors, make healthier social choices, and get on track for school and life success. Prior research on L.I.V.E. Brothers (Loyal, Intelligent, Victorious, Everlasting Brothers) Group at the at Dearborn Middle School, founded in 2005, points toward the belief that providing space, time, and support to grow healthy identities, to come together, and work/play cooperatively is a valuable intervention and an important mechanism of support to position boys of color on positive pathways. These partners will collaborate to implement and evaluate L.I.V.E. empowerment groups with these features: formal empowerment curriculum, trained facilitators, and bi-weekly sessions in three B-SAFE summer youth programs serving boys in the target neighborhoods. In addition to the social-emotional benefits for boys, we anticipate products from their work together to include publicly shared poetry, photo essays, rap, and personal testimony. We will utilize the public dissemination venues available through the partners and utilize this pilot experience and process evaluation to grow a community-wide initiative in 2014.

Role of Collaboration:
Each of the collaborators on this project brings a unique and necessary contribution to the empowerment group project. B-SAFE’s collaboration role will be to host and manage L.I.V.E. empowerment groups in three of the B-SAFE summer program sites. As an out-of-school time provider for 13 years, B-SAFE provides middle school and teen youth with a learning experience and context that promotes personal responsibility, self-care, and life and leadership skills. The Achievement Gap Office will provide guidance on youth recruitment and connection to schools in target neighborhoods, and networking with district personnel committed to empowering the lives of boys of color. The Borghesani Foundation supported the development of the Boys Empowerment Group leader guide and curriculum this past summer and will continue to serve as advisor, disseminator, and networking stakeholder for the project. The National Institute on Out-of-School Time enters this project, along with NIOST consultant and Boston Public Schools counselor and L.I.V.E. co-founder, Arthur Collins, as a convener of the partners, and to take a major role in documenting the implementation of the initiative, providing process evaluation support, and disseminating findings and the curriculum. Bringing B-SAFE together with a formal curriculum, leader development guidance, target population recruitment, and evaluation capacity enlarges the potential benefits of this project back to the boys and the community more than any one of the organizations could have accomplished alone.

We are committed as collaborators to a relationship together that is characterized by close communication, regularly scheduled team meetings, team-focused perspective, a youth-centered approach, and participatory decision-making. All of the organizations have experience with projects requiring quick start-up and rapid turnaround time frames. We anticipate that we will work through any unexpected challenges and use our organization strengths and our previous history working together to reach solutions that work best for the project and the population served. 

During the summer of 2012, B-SAFE served 625 young people ages five to seventeen (100 black and brown boys between ages 9-14 from Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury). The work of the Achievement Gap Office confirms that critical to closing the gap is working in partnership with the community to support youth resilience against the overwhelming obstacles challenging healthy and positive youth development. Our collaboration represents a comprehensive effort to provide the high quality program and intervention experience that will matter.

The Boys Empowerment Group approach is theoretically framed around the concept of identity formation in adolescence that is affected by the understanding of one's self as a member of  society within a cultural, ethnic, political, religious, and community setting – each associated with potential challenges and protective factors. Social interactions and processes within the empowerment group setting will positively impact youths’ struggles with interpersonal relationships, peer affiliations, and sense of belonging in the community and school. The Collaborate Boston prize will allow the partners to advance the pilot with the introduction of a leaders guide funded by the Borghesani Foundation during the 2012 summer. The curriculum will help strengthen the empowerment groups in targeted settings providing a means to move towards a broader and deeper implementation in Boston out-of-school time programs in 2014. The Collaborate Boston prize will enable a critical opportunity for positive relationship building, group identity formation, and healthy behavior growing for black and brown boys from the target neighborhoods often cut off from significant experiences that are essential for a healthy life trajectory. The prize will also enable the sharing and dissemination of the boys’ experiences through documentation and public presentation such as poetry slams, videos, and photo-essays.

Other information:

The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) has been working with the L.I.V.E. Brothers group at the Dearborn Middle School since 2005. Preliminary research and a pilot evaluation funded by the Borghesani Foundation has produced two research briefs for the field widely disseminated through the publication School-Age Notes and a workshop presentation at the National Afterschool Association Conference in 2010 focused on the development of empowerment groups for boys of color in out-of-school time programs. Conference attendees noted the significant need for guidance on curriculum and leadership. This summer the Borghesani Foundation funded the development of a written curriculum to guide adoption and dissemination of the L.I.V.E. model. NIOST has partnered with Friends of St. Stephen’s Youth Programs for two years as part of their program quality improvement and summer learning initiative. We despaired with B-SAFE through the tragic loss of one of their lead counselor teens, a Madison Park High School graduate and 13 year participant in B-SAFE, this September to gun violence in Dorchester. Such a loss has emphasized the need for this initiative, and we are fervently devoted and strategically positioned to advance this important work forward with the support of Collaborate Boston.

Primary Contact:
Georgia Hall, PhD, is a Senior Research Scientist at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and specializes in research and evaluation on youth development programs, settings, and learning experiences. For the last two summers, Hall has served as the Principal Investigator on NIOST’s evaluation of the Boston Summer Learning Project in the Boston Public Schools. Hall and her colleague on this project, Linda Charmaraman, PhD, served as researchers for the Out-of-Harms Way initiative at the Dearborn Middle School from 2005-2008. Additionally, Hall is Principal Investigator for the Partnership Measurement Pilot, hosted by Boston After School & Beyond at the Orchard Gardens, Dever-McCormack, and Dearborn Middle Schools. Hall in her position at NIOST will bring the collaborators together and manage the implementation of the project, the process evaluation, and dissemination.

Partner 1:
Tim Crellin, has been the Vicar of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church since 1999, and launched the youth programs in June of 2000.  In addition to his church responsibilities, he is Executive Director and Chaplain to St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, a member of the church’s Executive Committee, and a member of the SSYP Advisory Board. After graduating from Brown University, Tim worked in the South End for two years, running an after school program which mentored and counseled teens.  He received his Master of Divinity from Harvard in June, 1996, and was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in April, 1997. 

B-SAFE is supported by Friends of St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, a 501(c)(3), serving as host to six summer youth programs. Most B-SAFE youth are Latino/a and African American. The majority of our students live in public housing, at or below the national poverty level. All of our students are impacted by the stress of living in poverty, and being surrounded by violence.

Our goal is to transform communities, one young person at a time. To help disadvantaged young people on the road to successful adulthood, we provide out-of-school time academic support and enrichment through two core programs: our after-school program (B-READY) and our summer program (B-SAFE). Key features of our program model are: long-term, year-round relationships with students, from elementary school to secondary education; collaboration with other care givers including parents, teachers and schools; and leveraging and coordinating community resources to provide each child with a comprehensive circle of care. 

B-SAFE plays a critical role in our students’ physical and emotional health. Having a safe, comfortable place to interact with peers; be exposed to caring adults and positive teen role models; and eat two nutritious meals a day, are benefits which students may not otherwise experience during the summer. In conversations with families, it is clear how much they appreciate these aspects of B-SAFE.

Partner 2:
Dr. Carroll Blake, former Principal of Dearborn Middle School, is the Executive Director of the Achievement Gap Office of the Boston Public Schools. The primary purpose of the Achievement Gap office of the Boston Public Schools is to close access and achievement gaps so that all children are performing at high levels and achieve proficiency. The district is particularly interested in the impact of achievement gaps for the following categories: race/ethnicity, regular vs. special education vs. English language learner programming, socioeconomic backgrounds, and genders. The Achievement Gap office believes that it’s critical for every member of the BPS community – students, parents, teachers, partners – to be aware of these gaps, believe that those gaps can be closed, and to maintain a personal commitment to closing them.

Partner 3:
Betty Borghesani is the Secretary and co-founder of the Anne E. Borghesani Community Foundation,  a public 501(c)(3) non-profit, voluntary organization dedicated to reducing the incidence and effects of violence by promoting development of healthy children and families and to providing scholarships that encourage personal growth through community involvement.  The Foundation was created by friends and family of Anne Borghesani in 2000.  Anne’s life was cut short at the age of 23 by a single act of random violence in 1990.  Anne will never fulfill her dreams, but her spirit lives on in the work of the Foundation.

Our goal is to closely partner with selected organizations whose efforts reduce violence and to provide seed money to assist in the development of innovative programs committed to community building, social justice, and violence prevention.  In selecting programs for grants, we are attracted to those incorporating mentoring opportunities.  Development of programs addressing education and prevention of violence for at risk youth is a Foundation goal. We are pleased to have funded the development of the Leader's Guide and Curriculum this past summer.

Partner 4:
For 35 years, the National Institute of Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at Wellesley College has been addressing our mission of ensuring that all children, youth and families have access to high quality programs, activities and opportunities during the out-of-school time hours. The National Institute on Out-of-School Time is an action-research institute of Wellesley College providing a national perspective on the critical issues facing the out-of-school time field. We are dedicated to: (a) Conducting, tracking and organizing research, (b) Interpreting and synthesizing research for multiple audiences, including policymakers, press and practitioners, (c) Participating in evaluation research at the program, community and national levels, both by conducting research and contributing to collaborative evaluations, and (d) Disseminating and packaging information in a variety of products such as publications, videos and electronic media.
We collaborate on this project, along with NIOST consultant and Boston Public Schools counselor and L.I.V.E. co-founder, Arthur Collins.

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