Assisting non-profits crafting solutions for at-risk children and youth in collaboration with Duke alumni.
Kathy Sikes, Instructor, Program in Education
Duke-Charlotte Alumni Association
DukeEngage Charlotte – Crafting Solutions for At-Risk Youth: Practice to Policy – connects students to nonprofit community partners focused on services, resources and policy related to at-risk children and youth. The program, conceptualized and led by Duke Alumni in Charlotte, was offered as a DukeEngage domestic group program for 8-12 students for the first time in Summer 2011.
While each placement is distinct, the non-profit community partners in this program work together closely to link the placements. As a result, students gain exposure to a spectrum of experiences from hands-on teaching of at-risk children to the development of system reform efforts.
A unique and critical element of DukeEngage Charlotte is its enrichment programming. Duke alumni working together with the nonprofit community partners will offer students opportunities that complement and integrate with their on-the-job service learning experiences. There will be a series of events and activities enabling the participants to enrich their on-the-job service learning experience, network with and learn from community leaders (many of them Duke alumni), and enjoy the wide variety of social, recreational and cultural opportunities Charlotte offers.
Activities that focus on further exploring the program theme of solutions for at-risk children and youth will be emphasized. Students will attend a series of dinner or small group gatherings, each hosted by a Duke alum, for the students to learn about the different aspects of challenges and solutions for the at-risk juvenile population including healthcare, the educational system, the justice system, housing, and civil rights/diversity issues. Past immersion and enrichment activities have included lunch with the chairman of the Duke Endowment and a day-long experience learning about the juvenile delinquency court system in Charlotte.
Charlotte, home to over 3500 Duke alumni, offers an example of a community that is committed and very involved in civic engagement. As one prior participant stated, “In Charlotte, community service isn’t accepted, it’s expected.” Students will have the opportunity to form close relationships with alumni who can serve as role models – both professionally and in their active role as civic leaders in the Charlotte community.
Examples of placements may include:
• Council for Children’s Rights
Council for Children’s Rights leads the community to stand up for every child’s right to be safe, healthy and educated. As the largest child advocacy organization in the southeastern US, the Council provides legal representation and direct advocacy for over 2,000 at-risk children every year in the areas of special education, school discipline, juvenile justice, mental health, civil custody and abuse/neglect. The Council compiles relevant research and data about children, leads public policy efforts and facilitates community strategic planning about the needs of the community’s children.
This placement is designed to bridge the practice of working with at-risk children with the development of policies and system reform efforts to improve children’s lives. Students experience advocacy and legal representation in the trenches and convert their learning into creative policy and system reform interventions. There is a special emphasis on strategies focused on breaking the “school to prison pipeline.”
• Freedom School Partners
Freedom School Partners (FSP) provides high-quality, affordable afterschool programs and Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® summer literacy programs for students and families living in poverty in Charlotte. In partnership with area churches, colleges and universities, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, FSP served over 500 children at nine CDF Freedom Schools sites in the summer of 2009.
Students serving at the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® work with high-poverty students in inner-city Charlotte, offering literacy-based summer learning opportunities during an eight-week summer camp for students.
• Charlotte Family Housing (CFH)
Charlotte Family Housing provides an innovative solution for family homelessness in the greater Charlotte community through a continuum of care model that provides supportive transitional shelter and affordable housing for its families. During both phases, social workers and volunteers partner with families to provide supportive services including vocational counseling, financial literacy and advocacy. CFH empowers families to take positive steps in both phases to achieve financial independence and self-reliance.
Students will work to evaluate the impact of volunteers' experiences working with participating families in the program. Students will also work on developing and building a teen volunteer program for CFH. Finally, students may work on developing a merger case study about CFH.
• A Child’s Place (ACP)
A Child’s Place works to ease the impact of homelessness on children and their education and offer them the support and necessary tools to succeed in school.
Students will work to support fundraising and public awareness efforts as well as assist with programming efforts to compile data necessary to measure program outcomes to determine the programs and types of service ACP offers. Students will also provide leadership and structure to ACP’s summer enrichment program, My Place, which seeks to address the multiple and complex needs of homeless children. My Place serves over 100 students ages 5-11 years old.
Below are examples of the types of contributions made by students:
• Developed a database of summer opportunities for youth in Mecklenburg County, NC, with over 700 data points. This data was used to create a "Summer Report Card" that identified trends in program offerings, resources, access, etc. The student presented her analysis and made recommendations to a group of local childcare professionals. The student also wrote grant applications and reports and managed budget data.
• Created and updated a blog promoting the organization’s Summer Camp Fund; students created a PowerPoint presentation outlining the organization’s strategic plan to be viewed/used by the 24-member Board of Directors; created a promotional video for the organizations’ Summer Camp Fund – will be posted on POST website, Summer Camp Fund blog and annual September Fundraiser dinner; took various photographs at summer camp site visits to be used for various promotional purposes (e.g., POST website, Summer Camp Fund blog, etc.); gathered and organized research on after-school outcomes to support the quality standards pilot; drafted memos for funders to read about the quality standards pilot
• Served as court translator for a young woman seeking U.S. citizenship; served as translator in various inner-office meetings; gathered data for the Coalition Mapping project – inputted findings into database that will generate a report (due out in the fall) providing the local community with information about the 500+ non-profit agencies in the greater Charlotte area
• Taught daily literacy-based instruction and enrichment programming for a total of four classes (one class each) of approx. 10 – 14 students at a total of three different Freedom School sites
• Assisted camp staff with instructional and enrichment activities for approximately 100 homeless youth at the My Place summer camp; three interns all wrote grants requesting funding; one student gathered and organized data relating to program effectiveness to be used for future funding/grant requests – sent a report and summary of the goals and findings; created a weekly camp newsletter to send home to parents of camp participants
• Performed evaluations for the Summer Camp Fund, a local partnership that provides scholarships for low-income children to attend summer camps. She also organized and executed the beginning of a series of meetings between POST, the Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance (a youth program run by the city) and area out-of-school-time providers to assess current needs and ways to increase youth involvement.
• Wrote policy briefs and performed research for projects revolving around school readiness, juvenile jurisdiction, and per child spending by the county. He also tracked legislation relating to youth through the NC General Assembly for the organization.
Program Requirements & Environmentals:
Language/Other Prerequisites: None
Reflection Sessions: Students will hear from a broad range of community leaders at required weekly forums, and will have opportunities to participate in field trips, workshops, and community events.
Neighborhood: Students will reside in downtown Charlotte. Downtown Charlotte (locally called “uptown”) is the heart of the business district as well as a vibrant area filled with cafes and restaurants, museums, theatres, music venues, shops and other attractions. Uptown is relatively compact and very “walker friendly.” Public transportation is widely available with options including the free Uptown Trolley, buses and the light rail line that extends the length of downtown, through the historic South End district and on to South Charlotte. From uptown, the city’s traditional residential neighborhoods and surrounding communities from “the university” (UNC - Charlotte) to “the lake” (Lake Norman or Lake Wylie) to the NoDa Arts District are easily accessible by a short drive. Charlotte has abundant parks, green spaces, and bike and running paths/routes.
Housing and Accommodations: Students will be living in residence halls in an uptown Charlotte college or university. Students can expect to be living in fully furnished rooms with adequate furniture and access to laundry and vending services.
Meals: Students will be given a stipend to cover the costs of meals. Students can choose to cook in on-site kitchens in their housing facilities or eat out at local restaurants.
Communication: Students will have internet access from their room. It is recommended that students bring a laptop to Charlotte.
Transportation: Students will be expected to use public transportation for their in-town travel needs. Vans or taxis will be rented by program staff for immersion activities and events. While not encouraged, students are allowed to bring their personal cars for use.
Volunteer Placement Logistics: Students will be expected to be at their placements approximately 40 hours per week Monday through Friday during normal working hours (8:30 am to 5:00 pm). Some work may occasionally require evening and weekend commitments and those placed at summer camps may start earlier in the morning and end earlier in the afternoon Responsibilities will consist of office-based work, hands-on service, and may require off-site community outreach or field work.
Opportunities for Autonomy / Private Space: DukeEngage students are required to attend all group programming. Students will have program commitments one to two nights per week from about 6:00-9:00 PM and approximately every other weekend. Programming may take place at various locations around Charlotte and could include: reflection sessions with the group and program staff, speakers, enrichment field trips, or group meals. The remaining three or four nights during the week and every other weekend will be free for students to relax or explore the city on their own. Occasionally students may have evening and weekend commitments with their community partners. While there will be some downtime, students should not anticipate a great deal of autonomy.
Miscellaneous: DukeEngage Charlotte offers participants many additional opportunities to engage in the community and more fully understand the Charlotte community and challenges it faces. There will be a series of programs enabling the participants to meet others – students from other schools, civic, non-profit and business leaders, recent Duke graduates – and to experience the wide variety of opportunities Charlotte affords.
Programs and activities might include:
• Activities that complement and deepen the students’ experiences at their community partners by further exploring the program theme of solutions for at-risk children and youth. Students will be able to participate in group dinners and small group gatherings intentionally designed to complement and integrate their on-the-job service learning experiences. An example might include a dinner hosted by the former city-county school board president and a recent Teach for America program participant.
• Activities that expose students to the practice of civic engagement and service. To bring to life the concept of knowledge in service to society, students would be able to interact with people who practice civic engagement as a career or through outstanding volunteerism. An example might include dinner with the leaders of the Duke Endowment
• Activities that capitalize on Charlotte’s tremendous “natural resources” – an abundance of engaged Duke alumni who are civic leaders, prominent professionals, and leading philanthropists and are also just interesting, fun folks who share a common bond as part of the Duke community.
• Activities that take advantage of Charlotte’s cultural and recreational opportunities. Charlotte has a number of cultural establishments and events for participants to explore. This includes a series of theaters, a vibrant music scene, the African-American cultural center, a number of museums including the new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and two distinct clusters of visual art galleries.