We begin by identifying a group of fifteen high school sophomores. Our only criterion are that students must be passionate and willing to learn, and cannot have a parent that has been through college. Students then meet three times per week, two hours per day, for a fourteen-week period. After concluding the program, our students are given “College and Career” counseling services in order to help make college a reality. Returning students are eligible to serve on the “steering committee,” where they help to determine the focus on the next program. Juniors and seniors serve as trainers and mentors to our next group of sophomores.
Step One: Introduce Students to Basic Concepts of Community Organizing
We bring in life-long organizers and experts to teach workshops on communication, leadership development and grassroots organizing skills. We demonstrate by example how grass roots community organizing is empowering to individuals.
Step Two: Support Student-Led Targeted Projects to Address Identified Needs
Based on the results of the needs assessment, our students lead three targeted projects to address the specific concerns of the community. Past projects have included a community garden, a voter registration drive, and a photojournalism exhibition. As students work toward their project goals, they begin to develop collaborative teamwork and leadership skills. They enlist the support of local residents and community leaders, as well local businesses, the media and politicians.
These projects have two results: First, students begin to view themselves as leaders with the ability to make grassroots change. Secondly neighborhood residents begin see improvements in their communities, which have been proven to renew their own investment and to reduce crime. Throughout the program, students identify resident leaders who can sustain the projects after the program has left. This important part of our organizing model ensures that we have a lasting impact and that there is continuity over time in improving neighborhoods.
Step Three: Provide College and Career Counseling
Finally, the College and Career program is designed to help our students access the information, tools and opportunities available for them to get to and through college. The program emphasizes academic achievement while in high school, provides workshops on financial aid, scholarships, writing college application essays as well as one on one support throughout the admissions process. At The Intersection we know that our students deserve the opportunity to go to college, and we are going to make it happen.