Onwards & Upwards!
It has been a while since I have written here. I find that particularly ironic after my promise that I would keep the updates flowing. One thing I will say is that I have been tremendously busy testing out this idea. I can’t really say why, but that is something that I always tend to do. I am a metrics, social scientist kind of guy, and thus I always love coming up with theories and then putting them to the test.
After a year of my life invested in AmeriCorps, particularly a high-performing team of 8th graders that achieved amazing results – I can honestly say that I have a fair amount of evidence and hard data to suggest that what we are striving to do here will work.
So, that brings me to exactly what I have learned over the course of the past 8 months since I’ve given an update…
1) Volunteerism for teenagers is fragmented
Most teens these days are required to complete a certain amount of volunteer work. Often times this work is completed with different organizations at different times, rather than a cohesive focus on a particular objective.
2) 13-18 year olds can perform extraordinarily well after a bit of team-building
I worked with a group of at-risk, low-income youth in Kyle that had previously viewed volunteerism as a form of punishment and watched them transform into a successful, highly motivated group of kids. This small group of six students successfully raised over $1,000 worth of food during the course of a week-long food drive. It did take a couple of months (about 8 hour-long meetings) to ignite trust between each-other, but I now have a fantastic curriculum of activities that serve that purpose.
3) Cultivating a team that shares a common service project goal is pivotal to success
Out of the six group members that were originally involved, one member shared little interest in the service project that was selected. It did not come as a surprise that this member had the fewest participation hours in the group.
4) High-performing teams generate results outside of the scope of their project
Here is the thing about the organization that I worked for – I actually got to track student grades and behavior throughout the course of our project. Four out of the six students showed significant improvement over the course of this 4 month group in either academics, classroom behavior, or both.
5) Civically engaged teens draw attention from the media and others
The Hays Free Press, Hays CISD (central office), Hays Food Bank, our school’s principal, teachers, parents, and students all discussed our group, wrote about us, or connected with us in some capacity as a result of the food drive.
6) The end objective of the team must be specific and measurable
The goal that the boys decided on was to gather 500 individual food items for the drive from peers within their school. Having a target goal allowed them to closely monitor their performance upon the onset of collection days, eventually causing them to strive for a new record – which ended up being over 750 food items collected.
7) Testing ideas can be a waste of time (this one applies to me, personally)
I should have simply acted on this idea initially rather than taking a year and working to test it, but nevertheless, here I am with the evidence that it works. What can I say, I’m learning… :)
Those are the updates for now. Onwards and upwards from here. One more meeting to go before we move forward and push out a preliminary schedule for the summer.
Looking forward to achieving amazing results!