The K-12 Initiative is a project of The University of Kansas Medical Center, Office of Cultural Enhancement and Diversity Health Careers Pathways Program and Kansas City Kansas Community College serving Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools.
Developing meaningful, experiential, real world programs, demands that we tap into young people’s passions. This challenges the adult mentors, program developers, and facilitators to listen and dialogue. We must utilize small group discussion to work a topic or idea. We must check and check again to make certain the young people are understood and the conclusions drawn from their input are accurate. If there are holes in the program landscape, take the time to go back and fix it or scrap it and start again. This type of critical refinement is a great role model for young people. They see their opinions are valued but also they see they see that working to get it right is more important than getting it the first time.
Expect some positive turbulence along the way. Ideas, opinions, values, viewpoints are part of who we are. Having these ideas, values, etc. challenged can be scary and bring out defensiveness. We must claim all of our humanity. Areas that create turbulence are as important to our growth as the calm of certainty. We have found that young people need a voice and place to share that voice. We have learned that young people need to express ideas and it is just as important to express an idea in the making, as it is to express the completed thought. The feedback allows young people to adjust, in process, their thoughts and style of implementation. This is truly a valuable skill they will use in their successful education and career journey
Young people have taught us that they feel and value many of the feelings and emotions we value. They long for peace, healing, laughter, acceptance, less judgment, love, relationships, understanding, a compassionate listener, positive rewards, and attention from peers. Sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it?
The K-12 Initiative is getting it right over time. We have added all the parts of our equation to get the right answer. The young people we serve, who serve the younger children, are becoming healthy, smart, socially developed young people, eager to learn and ready to reach out to higher education, successful careers, while reaching back in service to their community of origin.
Extended Day, Saturdays and summers are critical time periods for young adolescents and high school teens. If a young person is fortunate, he/she has a power packed time filled with social activities under the watchful eye of a parent or caring, professionally trained adult, study time at the library or on the computer, an artful expression, e.g., music, painting, creative writing, dance, filmmaking, technology, etc. and an acknowledgement of a job well done. A safe place and healthy food are also part of the right answer to a positive extended day, Saturday and summer experience. Social engagement, a caring adult, creative expression, study time and healthy food are the first part of the equation.
Marcia Pomeroy, Director