Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Critical Hours and Project Coach
By Anna Bartolini, PC Graduate Fellow 2010
Through multiple levels of adult mentoring in its programming, Project Coach intentionally and explicitly attempts to build strong youth-adult relationships. The Critical Hours Executive Summary, which synthesizes research on the benefits of afterschool programs, points to positive relationships with adults as one key area for promoting educational equity. Interaction with adults outside of the home setting can expose youth to a variety experiences that “broaden their horizons” and “build on their interests and skills.” Research suggests that consistent participation in high quality afterschool programs that emphasize these youth-adult connections can help ameliorate some of the “circumstances linked to poor achievement, e.g., low expectations by teachers, students’ alienation from school, lack of enrichment activities, and poor quality education.”
The Project Coach model places youth-adult relationships at the core of its work by providing multiple ways for youth to engage with various adults. Most notably, each high school coach, or Blue Shirt, is paired with a college coach, or Red Shirt. This relationship is fostered throughout the entire year through explicit modeling or instructing of coaching technique and through a variety of more informal opportunities. Coaches work together to prepare for each session with the elementary kids, socialize and get to know each other during Monday and Thursday sessions, and work on long-term goals such as improved grades at school or completing homework assignments on time. The Red Shirt essentially takes on the role of the mentor, guiding or coaching the Blue Shirt through the full Project Coach experience.
Blue Shirts also have the opportunity to engage with a variety of other adults. Each Blue Shirt has an academic coach, a teacher or administrator who helps the student stay focused and on task at school through frequent check-ins with both students and teachers. The academic coach is essential for helping to forge the after school-school link by ensure consistency between Project Coach goals and school goals.
Junior and Senior Blue Shirts also participate in Let's Get Ready, a no-cost SAT prep program. The coordinator for this program, Marie Wallace, serves as another adult role-model and mentor for the Blue Shirts. Many of the Blue Shirts will work extensively one-on-one with Marie in order to navigate the college application process.
As a team, the various adult coaches and the Project Coach administration work to provide Blue Shirts with multiple opportunities for positive adult-relationships through informal interactions, direct academic assistance, and a broad variety of enriching experiences. For example, this month, Blue Shirts will attend a college basketball game (including a session with the head coach), participate in a screening and discussion of the documentary Waiting for Superman, and visit a local college campus. These types of experiences will continue throughout the year, both in efforts to help provide opportunities for educational equity, and to form genuine long-lasting youth-adult relationships.