Urban Improv Workshops | City of Ideas

Posted 11/18/2012 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
Statistics for students in Boston school indicated in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 2011 show a significant need for the proposed program. As stated in the data, 40.6% of male students have been involved in a physical fight at least once during the past year before the survey. 65% had witnessed one or more acts of violence, 28% had been assaulted. 31% carried a knife, 6% carried a gun and 42% said it would be fairly easy to get a gun. The above demonstrate the need for innovative programming that promotes healthy and safe youth development for boys and young men who live in neighborhoods where violence is a daily fact. Engaging inner city Boston students for 20 years, Urban Improv has been evaluated as a program that works (and has earned the endorsement of teachers, students and those Boston leaders who are committed to healthy youth development.)
The issues that we will address in our assemblies are the same as those public health problems among youth as reported in the Risk Behavior Survey: bullying, weapons in school, neighborhood crime, family dynamics and alcohol and drug use.

Project Proposed:
Urban Improv and its partners, the Mildred Avenue K-8 Elementary School and the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, will facilitate a number of assemblies for boys and young men attending fourth through eighth grades at the Mildred Avenue School in Mattapan.  Mildred Avenue students come from Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan. Boys in each grade will participate in a minimum of three assemblies that will include topics that the three partners deem most appropriate for the participants according to their age and challenges.  The goal of the assembly series will be to provide boys and young men with skills to make safe choices in life so they can thrive. Our programs build skills for creative problem solving, collaboration, cooperation, leadership, decision-making, critical thinking and self-expression. 
 Urban Improv has been designing interactive, improvisational theater workshops around the challenges of growing up in the inner city since 1992 and is familiar with the issues faced by students of color. We believe that youth who realize they have the power to make positive change and healthy decisions can profoundly influence their futures, their peer groups, their schools and their communities.

Role of Collaboration:
Mildred Avenue is a K-8 school located in Mattapan. The students are African American and Hispanic. Deborah Dancy, the Principal of the Mildred Avenue School will work with her teachers and Urban Improv’s Actor/Educators to select the topics she and her staff believe will be most helpful and appropriate for the boys and young men who will attend the assemblies.  Principal Dancy and her staff will participate in a pre and post assembly survey for teachers and also administer pre and post assembly surveys to their students.
Based on the topics chosen by the Mildred Avenue staff, Urban Improv will create the curriculum for each of the assemblies.  Five Urban Improv Actor/Educators who represent the culture and background of the students they serve will facilitate the assemblies.  Urban Improv’s Program Coordinator and Workshops Director will create the pre and post Assembly surveys. Workshops include a theme or themes of the day which are presented in short scenes by the Actor/Educators.  Students are asked to join the scenes when choices are to be made about outcomes.  Students discuss the scenes, their choices and share their own experiences.
Abigail Ortiz of the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center (SJPHC) will conduct the process evaluation for the program.  She will attend each of the assemblies and provide a description of the activities and the responses of the students. One of the founding members of Youth Unscripted, Urban Improv’s program for Boston high school students, Ms. Ortiz conducted the process evaluation for the program for several years and remains an integral part of Boston’s efforts to ensure healthy youth development.

The three partners in our collaboration have a history of working together for the benefit of young Boston students.  Urban Improv began its programming in Boston elementary schools in 1992 working with fourth and fifth graders.  When Jamaica Plain community activists came together to address teen violence in the community, the SJPCHC and Urban Improv established Youth Unscripted for at-risk teens.  Last year when Urban Improv expanded its elementary school curriculum to a five year program, Mildred Avenue came on board.  Both our fourth grade and high school programs have been positively evaluated by independent researchers who presented our outcomes at a national conference on youth development.  Now we believe that we can expand and further evaluate our process by designing a pilot program that will address the challenges black and brown boys and young men face in the inner city.  By piloting the program at a school that teaches the target population with a principal and teachers who understand and trust our program and by including an evaluator who is familiar with our methods we can ensure that we go forward with and replicate a program that will improve the lives of black and brown boys and young men.

Other information:
Urban Improv Actor/Educators are adult role models who come from the same races, cultures and neighborhoods as the students they serve.  We have seen our program participants quickly bond and trust our Actor/Educators.  In addition, our programs offer students a chance to learn by participating and making choices that will affect their decision making in challenging situations.  Urban Improv is a rehearsal for life.

Primary Contact:
Kippy Dewey is the founder and Executive Director of Urban Improv.  Urban Improv, establlshed in 1992 serves approximately 5000 students every year providing interactive improvisational theater workshops and assemblies that address youth development.

Partner 1:
Deborah Dancy is the Principal of the Mildred Avenue School with vast experience in education. The Mildred Avenue School located in Mattapan comprises kindergarten through eighth grade.  It's students are primarily African American and Hispanic children from Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan.  Most of the students come from low income families

Partner 2:
Abigail Ortiz is the Director  of Community Health Programs at the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, which is a community health center and part of Brigham & Women's Hospital.

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