Upham's Corner Online

City School - Programs of Social Justice

Posted: April 11, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

The City School is often referred to as an "after school" program.  Better to think of it as an out-of-school program that offers "summer, after school and weekend programming to develop the power of youth to build a more just society."

Combining community service, academic study and leadership development, City School programs offer teens an in-depth understanding of issues confronting them in their daily lives, in their communities and in the media.  Youth develop and practice leadership skills to work toward building a better, more just community and world area.

Question:  In terms of developing youth leadership, where has your organization made a difference?

We should begin with the SLP or Summer Leadership Program.  While we have three pathways that occur all year long, our largest pool of young people who stay with City School come from the summer program.

The Summer Leadership Program (SLP) brings together a diverse group of 60 to 70 students for 6 1/2 weeks in a community classroom learning environment.  Students participate in:
  • a creative and exploratory research seminar
  • a related internship in a community-based organization
  • a youth created project to make positive change in the community
  • diversity and leadership training
During the school year we have three different pathways:  education, organizing and organizational leadership.

Our "City School Pathways to Change" diagram demonstrates how the choices made by the youth influence their lifelong careers as educators, organizers and leaders.

Pathway
Impact on Youth
Lifelong Impact
Education Youth community educators Lifelong educators
Organizing Youth organizers Lifelong organizers
Organizational Leadership Youth program coordinators Lifelong organizational leaders
The City School Pathway to Change
Click the diagram to enlarge.
City School ProgramsCommunity educators

 Our young people learn skills around curriculum development, agenda creation, doing research and presentations.  As an example, a young woman created a workshop on animal cruelty.  To do this, she had to research definitions of animal cruelty, what resources exist around the issue of animal cruelty, the laws, organizations and so on.  That's her passion, that's her love, that's her interest.  She essentially did a mini community course for us.

Organizers and advocates

We are skill-building around specific advocacy work.  Youth are learning what a campaign map is, how to conduct research related to their interest, how the legislative budget works, public speaking and member recruitment. They are some of the folks who helped organize the rally that happened in February where 1000 young people from across the state came together at the State House over Jobs for Youth.

Organizational leaders

Our young people are learning how to run an organization.  The staff brings the youth onboard by doing a workshop on The City School organizational income and expenses so they can understand that.  It's budgeting but from a different standpoint.  Youth help organize events, for example, our June 2nd event "Celebrating Change."  They help with phone calling for getting gift certificates donated and other forms of fundraising.

Graduate Leaders United (GLU)

Finally, we should mention GLU or Graduate Leaders United.  These are the youth who graduated from the SLP summer program.  They have a special status within City School because they have already demonstrated commitment and leadership. 

So their roles include:
  • Helping coordinate a major Youth Summit in Boston each May
  • Advocating for youth funding for jobs
  • Coordinating youth-led events
  • Arranging and leading overnight retreats
They also receive one-on-one mentoring with adult staff.

Many of our youth stay with us for years.  Something about working on social justice issues causes them to blossom and want to make a difference in the world about them. 


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