Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Restoring our Community Movement to develop a collaborative multi-organizational outreach for at-risk youth

After the "Restoring our Community" March on June 26th, the participating organizations were asked to subscribe to an eight point agenda. Within them being that each group would contribute one new initiative to reaching our most at-risk youth, and that each organization would commit to reconvening after a couple months so we could begin working towards some long term collaborative efforts.

On Saturday, September 4th, the "Restoring our Community" Movement reconvened during the Wichita Black Arts Festival. The turnout was WONDERFUL as each of the 35 organizations who came together during the June 26th march were represented in the work session and we were also joined by a couple new ones as well. We took time to go around the room so that each organization who had rolled out a new program or initiative had an opportunity to describe the excellent work they're doing in the community and that we could each familiarize ourselves with and appreciate the efforts of the various Organizations. We learned about new efforts and initiatives from the Ladies of Delta Sigma Theta, the Gentlemen of Alpha Phi Alpha, the Peace and Social Justice Center, the African American Coalition, 316TRZ, Justice Keepers, the Wichita NAACP, and many others...

We then turned our discussions towards building a multi-organizational collaborative effort. We proposed the creation of a large scale, long-term, rites of passage type program specifically targeted towards at-risk youth in our community. The program would be designed to help move them, via several steps and phases, away from negative behaviors and a negative social outlook into a pro-social and pro-educational outlook.

The plan would not require the creation of any new initiatives, organizations, or programs... Rather, it would "synchronize" the great efforts of our existing organizations, linking them together in a sequence that the youth would "pass through", allowing them to receive the best of the programs our community already has to offer. And while some of our existing programs seem inaccessible to many of our At-Risk youth who may not currently understand their relevance, the programs would be sequenced so that the benefits and lessons of each would open the doors to understanding the necessity of the next one, and the next one, and so on...

The outreach and recruitment would be managed by the Organizations currently doing Gang Intervention work (such as "do you want to live or die", 316TRZ, Justice Keepers, Sisterhood of Queens, etc). The youth would then go through their curriculum. This stage corresponds to the "Separation" stage in a tradition Rites of Passage program.

Next would be a curricular segment on "History and Context" which would not only address history, but would specifically deal with the context of struggle and sacrifice, and would impart an understanding and appreciation of Civic Responsibility. This segment will be provided by the Social and Civic Organizations who are currently doing this work.

Followed by a Curricular segment dealing with reconnecting the threads of family and community. This "rebuilding the village" phase would be provided by the many Churches and Religious organizations who are a part of this effort.

That would be followed by a curricular segment designed to broaden the youth's perspective beyond the narrow confines of the neighborhood. This segment will deal with diversity and cross-cultural issues, and will be provided by various cultural and interest group Organizations.

The final segment will deal with educational issues; from basic educational needs, to skill development, to reintroducing the idea of College and higher education as being a passport to a different and brighter future. This segment would be provided by the many educational and Greek Letter organizations participating in this effort.

And the thread that will tie all of these pieces together, is that when youth enter into the Rites of Passage program, each child will be assigned a Mentor from the groups who are currently providing Mentoring services to youth. This Mentor among other positive services, will also keep the child accountable for participating through all stages and will provide the necessary reinforcement and reaffirmation as needed.

There are still numerous issues to be resolved and questions to be answered, but the important thing is, we elected to move forward; to create work groups, and to begin meeting on a monthly basis to put this project together and get it off the ground! The first meeting will be in October!

Don't ever let anyone say that we 'can't' come together or work together. We most certainly can and the "Restoring our Community" movement is proving it! ~ I'll keep you all posted as new developments occur...

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