By Sam Piha
Despite the reach that is provided by our new digital media, many young people are isolated from large sectors of their own community and positive visions of what they can become and accomplish as adults. Many are also unfamiliar with other places and cultures and lack a global awareness – an awareness they will need to have to be successful in the 21st century. Afterschool and summer programs are perfectly positioned to help young people expand their horizons through various activities that can be offered in these settings.
“I would say that education always has to expand horizons for young people, to expand their sense of what’s possible. One of the things we're constantly working against, particularly with young men of color, is the negative and pernicious effect of stereotypes - stereotypes which lead them to believe they have a better chance of being a ball player, or a rap star, than of being a scientist or a writer, or being an elected official or lawyer.
Part of expanding horizons means giving concrete experiences, which allow them to see and learn about how knowledge is applied in the real world, in professional settings, why in fact that is a course of action and a career path that they may want to choose, and most importantly, what does it take to get there? So that kind of work, of expanding the sense of what's possible, of exploiting the stereotypes, and of tapping into those that deeply seeded sense of identity is essential to the work of really capturing the imagination of young people.”
– Pedro Noguera, Professor, UCLA, School of Education
What learning that EXPANDS HORIZONS looks like:
Seven things program leaders can do to begin promoting expanded horizons:
1. Explore and assess: It is important that you take the time with your staff to explore and assess your alignment with this expands horizons principle.
2. Invite a speaker from the community to come to your program: This can be most effective when the topic is linked to something the students are studying in school, or to a project they are working on in the program. For example, if they are learning about the Civil Rights movement, you might invite neighbors who lived through those days to talk about what it was like. If they are studying butterflies, you might find a local entomologist to visit. Firefighters and other people with exciting jobs are always welcome speakers. Community colleges, museums, parks, volunteer centers, and community centers are all good places to start looking for speakers.
3. Get out of the building: Any time you leave familiar space you are allowing young people to expand their horizons. Take a field trip to a regional park or museum. Visit a local establishment, service, or branch of government to learn how it works. Attend a program or activity at a local non-profit organization such as the Red Cross, Sierra Club, a social justice or civil rights organization, or a local arts center or library. Practice using public transportation, and let young people help figure out how to get where you are going.
4. Expand the participant’s knowledge of other groups and cultures: Start by educating yourself. Avoid tokenizing young people or others in your program or school by asking them to explain their culture. Instead, go to the library, look on the internet, attend local cultural events, and call or visit organizations promoting equity for the group you are researching. Learn what you can about the history, art, literature, music, food, celebrations, and struggles of a culture or group. Then help the young people in your program study different cultures and celebrate the contributions of different groups. You might learn about women, people of color, and gay people who have contributed to your neighborhood. Celebrate various holidays as they are celebrated in different countries. Celebrate Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Gay Pride Month, or Cesar Chavez’s Birthday. Young people can present what they’ve learned, and adults may be willing to share food, decorations, or music. Don’t make assumptions about what any particular person might share. Be sure that these celebrations are part of an ongoing process of inclusion and education, and that some groups aren’t just segregated to certain ‘diversity days.’
5. Career and educational exploration: It is important that we help young people think in new ways about what they could become as adults. This means exposing young people to professionals and possible careers. This can be done by inviting working community members to offer presentations to your group, by visiting businesses out in the community, and career exploration activities that include job shadowing and internships. (See Curricula and Compilations of Activities below.)
Because many careers require training or education after high school, consider activities that have young people see higher education as something that is reachable and achievable. This includes bringing in speakers who have succeed in post-secondary education, forming relationships with college fraternities or sororities, visiting local colleges, and helping youth and their families access information regarding financial assistance and entrance requirements.
6. Global awareness: Plan activities that increase young people’s exposure and knowledge of other countries and cultures. Virtual Vacation is one of several curriculums that can assist staff in designing experiences for young people. The Virtual Vacation Leader’s Guide is available for purchase here: http://www.temescalassociates.com/resources/resourcestemescal.asp. Afterschool for the Global Age and other resources are available at the Asia Society website (asiasociety.org).
7. Internships: For older youth who have shown a passion in a specific area, look for community partners who would be willing to accept an intern. Internships allow young people to advance their mastery and to see how they could use their new skills in a real-life work environment. 88 It is important that the young people as well as the businesses are prepared in advance and are very clear about the expectations. Visit other programs that have successfully introduced internships and take advantage of articles and curriculum that have been published to assist programs that are just launching internship programs.
Below is a good program example of expanding horizons:
After School All-Stars (K -12), serves 90,000 students 468 Title I school sites in 20 major cities across the Country. CampUs, is a middle to high school Summer Transition program they run as part of their We Are Ready initiative:
Participants camp out at a college campus such as U of Hawaii, UCLA and Ohio State, for 6 days so that they can learn all about what life is like in high school and college. While on campus, they live in dorms, are taught study skills and about the SATs, they create their own personalized 4-year plans, and they learn what requirements need to be met for graduation. Participants have the opportunity to pick majors and they learn about careers connected to those majors through guest speakers. They are asked to complete a mock college application which includes an essay, resume, recommendation letter, and in-person interview, and take part in a mock acceptance ceremony on the last day, held by the All-Stars staff. They meet and are mentored by current college students. This allows the participants to visualize the process and understand how all the steps connect.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.