We All Have Stories to Tell Developing Resilience Through Story Telling | City of Ideas

Posted 11/17/2012 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
This project represents a pilot program offering children a method of developing resilience and conflict resolution skills in the face of any number of challenging and potentially traumatic events: bullying, violence, natural disaster, an abrupt move from another country, etc.  The curriculum was originally developed for use with elementary-school aged children in the New Orleans area in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and later revised for use as an afterschool curriculum in the Worcester Public Schools, a project funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education.

The following resilience-promoting techniques will be referenced repeatedly throughout the stories and activities in the curriculum:

“I Have” (External Supports):
Someone to trust; Rules and Requirements that show and tell me how to behave in a way that is safe, healthy and helpful; Role Models; A Safe Place to Be Me; Places To Go For Help.

“I Am” (Inside Strengths):
Lovable; Proud of Myself; Responsible for me; Filled with hope, faith and trust.

“I Can” (Social Skills):
Say what I’m feeling; Solve Problems; Practice Self-Control; Know How I Tick; Talk with people I trust.

Project Proposed:
The proposed program is an after-school that will be initially offered at the Russell Elementary School, one of the Boston Public School’s “Circle of Promise” (CoP) Schools.  City Mission Society is in its second year of partnering with the Russell.  The curriculum will initially use academic reinforcement (reading, speaking) to teach social and emotional intelligence to male students in grade 5.  Subsequently, the program will expand to other CoP schools in grades 5-8.  By drawing on children’s literature and crafting activities, the program provides training in specific skills and assets that reassure a child about his/her own capacities in difficult situations. 

Initiated in 2010, the Circle of Promise was created by the Mayor and School Superintendent in January of 2010 to encourage local businesses, colleges/universities, nonprofits, community-based organizations, and faith-based institutions to support schools in the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Boston.  The BPS Office of Community Engagement and the Circle of Promise (CECoP) fosters school and faith-based institution partnerships through building relationships and aligning school needs with faith-based resources and strengthens partnerships through technical assistance and trainings.

Role of Collaboration:
We propose a collaboration among City Mission Society of Boston, the Russell Elementary School, the Boston Public School’s Office of Community Engagement and Circle of Promise (CECoP).  City Mission Society of Boston is the lead agency. 
-City Mission Society will be responsible for providing the program curriculum, which will be based on the existing materials for “We All Have Stories to Tell,” but revised to meet the specific needs of students at the Russell.  CMS will also be in charge of recruiting and doing CORI checks on volunteer tutors.  CMS will provide a staff person who will train and supervise volunteers in delivering the curriculum. Finally, CMS will be responsible for all program reporting and billing.
-The Russell School will host the program, “We All Have Stories to Tell,” including identifying students to participate, and arrange meetings as necessary between the participants’ regular teachers, volunteer tutors, parents and City Mission Society staff. 
-The Boston Public Schools’ Office of Community Engagement and Circle of Promise (CECoP) will recruit support and participation for this pilot program throughout the resources of the Boston Public Schools. The CECoP will also carry out evaluation of the program and make recommendations for its expansion to other BPS schools.

Impact:
An article in the Wall Street Journal August 20, 2009 indicates that  colleges are adding an essay component to their admissions process to help identify students who, because they have successfully met earlier challenges, may be better candidates for admission than their grade points would otherwise indicate.   The Collaborate Boston Prize would allow the techniques contained in “We All Have Stories to Tell” to reach students in some of the most challenged schools in Boston.  In the first year that would be the Russell, followed in subsequent years by other schools that belong to the Circle of Promise. 

The materials are multi-cultural by design. The Russell School has a significantly diverse population, with an especially high number of youth that are coming from low-income households.  Furthermore, 68% of the students’ first language is not English.  The proposed program uses literature and reinforces reading, writing, and speaking lessons, thereby strengthening the students’ English language skills.  At the same time, the content promotes resilience and provides a comfortable transition for those students that are struggling to settle in their new home and their new neighborhood.  The relationship to a tutor can be crucial to helping the students assimilate successfully into American culture.

Other information:
City Mission Society has had an ongoing relationship with the Russell School.  There are two distinct aspects to this relationship:
1. CMS works with Greater Boston area congregations and businesses to recruit volunteers to work in the Russell School.
2. CMS’s annual Coat Boston program provides children connected with the Russell the opportunity to receive a new, free coat each winter.

The Russell School is comprised (2011-12) of a total of 369 students: 189 Male, 180 Female. A diverse students body exists with 232 Hispanic students, 113 African American students, 40 Asian students, 13 Multi-racial students, and 8 white students. 361 students come from low- income households and 227 students are part of ELL (English Learning Program); 69 Students are part of the special education program. 

The Russell School is a particularly suitable environment for volunteers because of its positive school climate, as reported by both students and teachers. According to the 2010-2011 School Climate Survey, 98% of students felt that their teachers worked hard to help them learn. There is clearly a level of respect that exists between teachers and students, and the standards are set very high for these children.

Primary Contact:
Dr. Paul Baxter has nearly twenty years of experience working in non-profits, specifically in the fields of adult education, workforce development, and housing.  He has been Associate Director of City Mission Society since 2004.  His responsibilities include:
-Design and evaluate existing and new programs
-Write foundation grants
-Hire and supervise staff and contractors
-Oversee communications, including web, email and print
-Oversee volunteer recruitment
Dr. Baxter’s past positions include creating a computer access and training center in Quincy and serving as Director of Training at a job placement program.   He holds an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. from Boston University. 

City Mission Society is the oldest multi-service agency in New England.  It has served the educational, economic, social, and advocacy needs of impoverished Boston residents since 1816.  Our services reach over 40,000 people each year, both directly and through organizing volunteer efforts.  Our programs include Homelessness Prevention, Youth Peace Empowerment, Boston Urban Outreach, and large-scale volunteer events including Coat Boston, the Christmas Shop, and the Martin Luther King Day of Service.

Partner 1:
Tamara Blake (Russell School): Tamara Blake-Canty has been the principal at the William E. Russell Elementary school in Uphams Corner, Dorchester for five years.  She has worked in the Boston Public Schools for eleven years, including six years at the McKay K-8 school in East Boston.  Her primary interest is in the relationship between socioeconomic status, school policy, race, culture, language and the achievement gap.  Ms. Blake-Canty holds a Certificate of Graduate Study in Leadership in Urban Schools and is pursuing a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts.  Her undergraduate degree is in child psychology from Emmanuel College, and she holds a Master’s from Wheelock College.  She expresses her philosophy of education as follows: "My vision for early childhood is that it's academically rigorous and that it's socially appropriate and that teachers are given the tools and necessary resources to be successful so that children can be successful."

The Russell School has been very committed to nurturing young black male students.  In partnership with Nazarene College, one of our third grade teachers has been running the “10 Boys Initiative” for several years at the Russell.  College students help mentor our boys and teach them to be responsible youth.  In addition all of our teachers have gone through professional development around Cultural Competency with Dr. Carol Blake.  The school truly works as a whole to help develop and grow our students into great responsible leaders.

Partner 2:
Ruth Wong (Boston Public Schools CECoP) graduated from Wellesley College with a B.A. in physics and from Harvard University with a Master’s in Education. She taught high school physics for eight years, including seven years at Brookline High School. Since 2006, she has been working with the Boston Education Collaborative program at a faith-based nonprofit called Emmanuel Gospel Center, focusing on networking and supporting urban churches and Christian nonprofits that engage in education work.

Ruth currently directs the Boston Education Collaborative and serves as the Coordinator/Community Liaison with the Boston Public Schools' CECoP. Ruth's primary responsibility with the CECoP is to foster and develop partnerships between Circle of Promise BPS schools and faith-based institutions.

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