CASA's Youth Engagement Initiative is a local immersion program whose larger goal is to create a community of learners, K-12 and beyond, who are civically engaged and whose sense of compassion inspires them to create positive change within themselves and the larger community. We do so by working to close the opportunity gap that exists in education and by creating experiences where people build relationships with one another and communities who they may not otherwise know. We believe that providing experiential learning that is based on building relationships will challenge perspectives, develop empathy, and create a sense of shared responsibility.
The Youth Engagement Initiative collaborates with multiple schools and community centers through co-creating programs, helping to enhance existing programs, and providing additional support staff. We send over 80 USD Federal Work-Study students who spend about 10 hours a week in the community, student volunteers who commit to at least 2 hours a week, service-learning students, and students who have designed their own holistic, asset-based curriculum for K-12 youth.
The significant and consistent amount of time spent in the community allows USD and K-12 students to build meaningful relationships, helps fill the growing needs in school classrooms and after school programs, and raises the awareness of the social issues impacting our local community.
In the above image, USD students came up with words that speak to the gifts they received from the community, through their work with the Youth to College program.
After School and Intersession
USD's Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness, and Social Action, in addition to in-classroom support, works with community partners to create curriculum for after school programs. The curriculum encourages self-expression, critical thinking, civic engagement, and improved literacy skills among K-12 students. The curriculum is designed through community partnerships, Youth Engagement Initiative staff, and with graduate and undergraduate students. USD students are also placed in these after school programs to help sustain their growth and create meaningful school-community relationships. The curriculum created includes:
A journaling project and community circle at Montgomery Middle School's Homework Club that seeks to build community, while improving literacy skills, public speaking, and self-expression;
Grade-level, hands-on science lessons created and taught by undergraduate USD science students at various local schools;
- Creating character development curriculum that weaves into a literacy program (Academic Club, a program created by Bayside Community Center) for 2nd and 3rd grade English language learners at Kit-Carson and Linda Vista Elementary School. Service-learning students also created drama workshops whose storyline was created by the youth in the program..
A journaling project tied to culture, self-expression, and college/career counseling with Native American youth through the American Indian Recruitment (AIR) Tutorial program.
A health fair were USD service-learning students, in collaboration with Montgomery Middle School students, identify health issues (nutrition, sexual health, impact of drug use, etc.) relevant to this school-community, create and develop a booth idea, and put on a health fair for most of the school to attend.
A service-learning program for middle school students that seeks to improve literacy, public speaking, and critical thinking skills at the Montgomery Intersession Academy.
Youth to College
Excerpt from "College Song"
Can’t be left behind
To fulfill my dreams in mind
I’m running out of time
So I gotta go
I think it’s impossible
But I gotta make it happen you know
Can’t let all my goals go
So I gotta go
– Written and produced by local teenagers at the Linda Vista Teen Center