Protest all you want; the real change happens here.
The most effective protest against racial inequality is an investment in youth development programs. Furthermore, the remedy for the very conditions that you are protesting happen right in your local after-school program.
Never has there been a time when the need to support youth programs in our cities was more urgent. Every day our news feeds are fresh with events highlighting the wrongful deaths of people of color. This is set with a backdrop where a disheartening proportion of Americans affected by COVID-19 in America have been those in Black and Hispanic communities. The frustration is palpable and creating a deeper, widening divide in our politics. But through all these crises, there is no room to argue against the fact that our youth are deserving and in dire need of enriching, educational programs that will make their time outside of studying fun and inspiring. Here are three major reasons why:
1. Social emotional learning has economic benefits
Effective youth programs such as summer camps and after-school programs initiate significant gains in a child’s social emotional learning (SEL). Not only does SEL increase a child’s intangible skills such as self-confidence, self-management, and teamwork, but numerous institutions have pointed to studies suggesting that there are long-term economic benefits, with recipients staying out of trouble and earning higher wages in the long run. Studies conducted in connection with Columbia and Penn State Universities have estimated that for every $1 dedicated to effective SEL programs, the return on investment is between $11 - $21 in long-term benefits to students, schools, families, and communities. This is likely a result of reduced crime rates and public assistance service needs, combined with higher employment rates and tax revenue.
2. Youth employment programs are critical
A known drain on America’s economy has been that millions are unemployed, yet we have a major gap in sectors like health care, education, and information technology, leading to many American companies struggling to compete globally. This is called the “middle skills” gap and it is remedied through training and opportunity after high school but before a bachelor's degree is earned. In addition, as recently noted by a New York Times article, participation in entry-level job programs such as NYC’s Summer Youth Employment Program not only led to “better self-esteem and academic accomplishment,” but also that it “found that the young people who applied but did not get selected were at greater risk of incarceration or death."
3. Mentoring pays forward
No effective youth program is complete without the great role models who mentor our young people. Children remember the names of their favorite counselors and teachers long after attending, and as MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership notes, “disadvantaged youth who have had a mentor are 130% as likely to hold leadership positions, 55% more likely to enroll in college, and 90% more likely to become a mentor.”
What these programs represent is equity, an attempt to alleviate deficits in society’s fairness. That could mean helping little kids in the South Bronx learn how to read – literacy is power. Asking firefighters, union delegates, salon owners, podcasters, photographers to speak to kids in East Harlem – mentoring is contagious. Putting a kid from Brownsville in a life-altering internship that inspires them to choose a major and look for scholarships – fascination is a currency.
“Policing” communities that are under-resourced, under-represented, and perpetually underestimated is tantamount to putting a band-aid on a broken leg. Although people want to protest, donate money to bail out other protesters, and support memorial funds, we simply cannot afford to raise the bare minimum on education, mentorship, job readiness, college access. If we do, we will be right back shouting in front of City Hall, heartbroken over more incidents that showcase glaring inequities for years to come.
There are dedicated institutions whose mission and outcomes support the very building blocks to a prosperous trajectory for young people, particularly those in communities vulnerable to systemic cycles of poverty and racism. And despite any progress that may come out of current calls-to-action for institutional reform, no progress can truly be made without our entire communities donating anything they can, be it small contributions, large donations, or simply spreading the word.
So go ahead and black out your profile picture for a few days for #BLM, repost articles, give money to someone running against your least favorite congressman if you care to. But now is the critical time to ask yourself… which youth charity will you support?
The Roads to Success team is making an impact on traditional education through project-based and social-emotional learning. Through after-school programs, leadership summits and camps, and summer job placements, we are using these learning techniques to create a long-lasting impact on our students.
Here are 10 ways Roads to Success is making an impact.
1. Our philosophy of self-discovery
By effectively adopting the social-emotional learning (SEL) style, students learn to develop the skills to manage their emotions, build positive relationships, make safe and responsible decisions for themselves, and handle challenges constructively and ethically. Research has shown that social-emotional skills are critical to success in school, work, and life.
Furthermore, project-based learning engages students to learn and develop skills and knowledge over time using problem-solving skills in real-world situations. This is achieved through research, collaboration with others, and presenting their work and findings along the way. As a result, students are empowered by their efforts and have autonomy over their work.
2. We are committed to building community connections
Through our partnerships with 21 public schools and after-school programs, we have been able to serve 5,188 youths throughout New York City. In 2019, Roads to Success reached twice the number of students than the year before.
3. Our vision to provide access
We are determined to create and provide access to academic and professional opportunities for all New York City youths regardless of socio-economic status.
4. Creating economic wealth in the community
According to Columbia University’s research studies (Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education Teachers College, 2015), the benefits outweighed the costs of our SEL-focused programs. For every $1 donation to effective SEL programs, like Roads to Success, the return on investment is $11 in long-term benefits to students, schools, families, and communities.
Furthermore, our program facilitates financial literacy workshops for NYC students.
5. Establishing a safe environment
Our programs help lower crime, lessens risky behavior, addiction, and the need for public assistance. Also, our summer job employment program and college access programs create higher employment, thus higher tax revenue in the community.
6. We encourage academic performance
Our approach to a growth mindset, is the idea that intelligence can grow and be developed through hard work, positive strategies and support from others. We believe in motivating students to embrace challenges, learn from criticisms and setbacks and find inspiration and lessons in others’ success. By promoting a growth mindset, our young people believe they can achieve their goals and will work harder to achieve success.
7. Jumpstarting students’ futures through higher education
There is a college-going culture at Roads to Success, Despite academic grades and assessments, we explore post-secondary options with all students. We know that youths exposed to college and vocational school options at an early age understand the purpose of doing well academically and they can access through hard work.
Roads to Success facilitates college visits to Yale University, as well as, a college and career fair at the annual Leadership Summit.
8. We embrace new experiences
RTS after-school program with Ballet Hispanico exposes youths to Latin culture through traditional dance instruction. Our partnership with US Soccer Foundation and DYCD gives students access to soccer lessons and games developing team building.
Our newest program, the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), has partnered with 52 organizations to give youths the opportunity to learn about new career paths. One of those organizations is the Metropolitan Equestrian Team (MET). MET is a nonprofit headquartered in Brooklyn. In summer 2019, SYEP youth were tasked with projects that would help develop the Equine Opportunity Program, which brings horseback riding opportunities to children regardless of socioeconomic status. The SYEP team researched and presented on ten nonprofits across the US that they felt would benefit from equestrian sports. As a direct result of the work performed by the SYEP youth, the Equine program quadrupled in under a year and expanded to cities across the country.
9. Cultivating leadership
Our program hosts events that encourage student leadership personally, professionally, and within their community. Such as the Leadership Retreat at Camp Jewell and MLK Day of Service with State Bags at M.S. 57.
Since 2013, RTS has partnered with the Country Roads Foundation to run Camp Power, a weeklong leadership program in the Poconos for 200 youth from targeted, under resourced NYC neighborhoods.
While campers range from ages 10 to 18, the16- year-old campers are selected for a CounselorIn-Training program, and 17 and 18-year-olds can be promoted to Junior Counselor interns. This project-based occupational experience is for those interested in being educators and youth workers. In 2019, 40% of the Camp Power staff were youth alumni who previously attended Camp Power as campers.
10. We Care
Our core values can be summarized by the Circle of Courage. The Circle of Courage is a model of positive youth development based on four universal growth needs. It is important to us that our Future Leaders experience the values of Belonging, Independence, Generosity, and Mastery which are ingrained in every aspect of our programming.
Our programs cultivate a welcoming environment made by caring individuals who provide support and a sense of community, ownership, loving others and being loved. We foster independence through youths making their own decisions and being responsible for failure and success based on their choices.
Our team continuously practices showing selfless concern for others well-being and helping to sustain an environment where students are encouraged to practice and master skills in cognitive understanding in many areas of life.
At Roads to Success, we are adapting to a new reality. We are offering an alternative to in-person programs and events. Our after-school programs, summer camps, and events, such as the Leadership Summit, will be available to students online. Our team is committed to promoting and sustaining an environment for academic, personal, and professional development through out-of-school-time programs.
Keeping students’ safety in mind as the world continues with the COVID-19 health crisis, parents and teens may want to consider online alternatives. We have compiled a list of 5 awesome job opportunities for every type of student.
The summer of 2020 in New York City looks extraordinarily different from past years. Our city was often used as an example and compared to many other states and countries around the world adapting to a global pandemic. As businesses started to slowly open, safety remained the topic of heavy debate. Not only are adults coping with the shortage of unemployment, but students also found themselves without a summer internship or a job opportunity as planned.
For teens who love theater or are interested in broadcasting, we suggest working as a voice-over actor. This is a cool way for those interested in acting or entertainment to find part-time work and learn about the industry from the comfort of home.
Teens as young as 13 can register with Voices.com as long as parents or legal guardians manage the account and agree to comply with the terms for keeping kids safe online. The site is free and connects actors with clients.
Voice-over actors can find work doing commercials, podcasts, video games, and radio. The rate per project will vary; however, it is a fun opportunity for self-discovery with a diverse set of genres.
The Music Lover
Do you enjoy listening to and discovering new music? We found your ideal summer job! Become a music reviewer starting at age 13 for a website called, Slice of Pie. This platform allows you to review songs, which ultimately helps artists, record labels and brands make important decisions on the content they created. The more helpful your review and your overall-star rating will determine how much you will earn.
For example, a 1-star reviewer earns $0.03 per track review, while a 5-star reviewer makes $0.15 for each track reviewed. You can collect payment via PayPal once your account has a minimum of $10.
For younger teens, parents should monitor what their kids are reviewing
If you love writing, why not start a blog! During the summer, would be the perfect time to start building your writing portfolio. Become a freelance writer for clients at age 13 using Fiverr for age 18 using Upwork.
You may be great at catching other people’s mistakes or more comfortable with translating or transcribing. In which case, you would make an excellent proofreader/editor.
Jobs on Fiverr are referred to as ‘gigs,’ and you can write or edit for blogs and businesses on your schedule.
Harnessing your skills with design software and programs like Adobe InDesign and Photoshop? Why not start working as a graphic designer for sites like Redbubble and Society6? You can upload your designs to these sites that you can then sell on coffee mugs, pillows, and stickers
On Society6, designers can earn about 10 percent of the retail price while the average artist on Redbubble earns 17 percent. You must be at least 16 years old to use these platforms.
Don’t be shy to market your work independently on social media to get more sales.
This is a chance to express yourself. Being a graphic designer means creating eye-catching imagery to reflect a brand, company, or your ideas. Go brainstorm!
Are you the type of person who enjoys talking on the phone? Are you internet proficient or comfortable with different project ways of project management? If so, working as a virtual assistant could be the perfect fit for you!
Virtual assistants respond to emails, conduct research, handle general social media management, and more depending on the client’s needs. A client may ask you to work on a needed-basis or for a set number of hours.
A virtual assistant can work for a company or as a solo entrepreneur. You can manage how often you work, your rates, and if you will take on more clients. This is a great opportunity for a problem-solver looking to learn new skills.
Students age 13 and older can use platforms such as Fiverr, Instagram, and Facebook. However, you must be 18 to use Upwork.
Roads to Success’s mission is to help young people find their identity and build their independence through personal and professional development outside of the classroom.
Summer break is coming to an end and many teachers and parents are faced with the reality of homeschooling this fall. As an educator, you may feel overwhelmed to create a schedule/routine for your young learner. You are not alone!
The first thing to remember is that every homeschool is different because every family is different. Typically, homeschoolers do not fit into an 8-hour day model. Public school often requires a lot of crowd control time which does not exist in the homes of students. So how long should structured learning (aka direct teaching or independent/small group work) be?
Pre-school - 15 to 20 min
Kindergarten - 30 min to 1 hour
1st to 2nd Grade - 45 min to 1.5 hours
3rd to 4th Grade - 1.5 to 3 hours
5th to 6th Grade - 2.5 to 3.5 hours
7th to 8th Grade - 3 to 4.5 hours
Highschoolers - 3.5 to 6 hours
When it comes to the order of your curriculum schedule, you will have to find out what works best for your students. For example, it has been found that starting the day with Math helps the day go faster. However, that approach may slow your young learner’s day down afterwards.
Student’s retention of information after learning is important. That is why structured learning combined with interactive activities is a great way for students to practice the lessons they are learning. By lessening teacher talk time and focusing on a student based approach, your student will gain a better connection to the lesson plan and an understanding of the material.
Furthermore, engaging students using project-based learning helps cultivate a growth mindset environment through research, collaboration, and presentation of their work. Students are empowered by their efforts and take ownership of their projects as a result.
At Roads to Success, we believe in having a growth mindset and teach students the idea that intelligence can grow. Therefore, during lessons and extracurricular activities practice avoiding a fixed mindset.
This includes thinking or saying things like: “I am doing this wrong;” “I don’t know what to do;” or, “This will never change.” Rather practice positive strategies of support, such as: “I can do things that are challenging;” “Practice makes progress;” or “I am still learning and it’s okay. Next time I will focus on...” By promoting a growth mindset, your young people will believe they can achieve the amazing goals in your curriculum!
The 5th Annual Youth Leadership Summit was held virtually this year and featured over 30 volunteer speakers who shared their personal experiences from high school to college, up to their current careers and the lessons they learned along the way.
Participating youth were able to take workshops in financial literacy through our Go Pro Series, and speak to college representatives from top local and out of state schools such as North Carolina A&T, SUNY Albany, Adelphi and City College.
Attendees networked with professionals from various industries including: professional athletes from the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Whitesox and Baltimore Orioles; US Olympic Fencers Daryl Homer and Nzingha Prescod; culinary Chef Trill Cooker, Jose DeJesus who recently won against Bobby Flay in Beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network; and entrepreneurs and professionals in the fields of sports, music, media, law, medicine, fashion, and more.
This year's summit was titled Leaders of the New Norm, and reflected the new pathways youth have had to adapt to in order to remain on the road to success. By going virtual, we were able to expand our reach to young people anywhere in the US and even welcomed a few international students who stayed up late to be with us.
Thank you to everyone who volunteered their time to speak to our young people and answer their questions. It is only with the help from our community that we are able to have the greatest impact on our youth.
This summer, Roads to Success was earmarked to place 874 young people with entry level positions through the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). However, the program was canceled back in April leaving our kids and over 74,000 more young people citywide jobless for the summer.
Just recently, the City introduced a new virtual model known as the SYEP Summer Bridge Program. Under this new program, the total youth served citywide would be reduced to 35,000 participants. At Roads to Success, the number of youth we could place dropped to 637 - just 30% of the number of applications we actually received.
SYEP has been a vital resource for young people of color in New York City who come from low-income families in high-poverty neighborhoods who for the most part, have difficulties finding employment for various reasons. Many families depend greatly on this income, and many youth rely on this opportunity as a stepping stone for their future. As the nation’s largest youth employment program, approximately 125,000 young people apply annually
The disparities in our city have become highlighted these past few months, as poor social determinants of health (including access to high quality jobs and economic stability) contribute to the racial inequities in health. The reduction in SYEP that benefits mostly black and brown young people sets up our youth for this future of disparity in health, education and career.
The youth employment program at Roads to Success serves to address this inequity as the communities we serve include the South Bronx, Harlem and Central BK – all neighborhoods that have been deeply affected by both systemic racism and economic effects of COVID.
But due to budget cuts and loss of general funding as a result of the pandemic, we have been unable to fully meet the demand, leaving hundreds of youth without a plan. This loss is more than just a summer without a job, it’s a loss in access to career exploration, project-based learning and management, and civic engagement skill building for thousands of youth.
While the development of the SYEP Summer Bridge Program is a start, it only touches the surface of what our young communities and their families need. Budget cuts have made it even more difficult for young people who are already disenfranchised to get the services and connections they need. We must continue to fund community based programs that provide vital resources to communities where systemic racism is a way of life. Now more than ever, our young people need to know that there are those who believe that their future is important and that we want them to succeed.
As youth workers, children look up to us to teach them right from wrong.
The death—the murder—of George Floyd is wrong. Our country’s unrelenting, inequitable treatment of people of color is wrong. The systemic racism embedded in our society is simply wrong.
Black lives DO matter. Our organization’s commitment to stand in the shared values of anti-racism, inclusion, equity, and fairness toward those whose well-being is under constant threat will remain.
In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Right now, everywhere the youth of New York look, they see injustice. Many of these children already sense that the deck is stacked against them
Roads to Success stands with our youth as well as their families and against the institutional racism and systemic abuse that has eroded the social trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve.
As we continue to provide virtual after-school and summer programming, we will also continue to embrace a holistic approach that includes trauma-informed practices as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, we need support from parents and caregivers to continue to have conversations with your children regarding these topics at home.
If you're not sure where to start, here are 10 Tips for Teaching and Talking to Kids About Race from MomsRising (y en español también), and let your child ask questions. Remember, silence about race reinforces racism by letting children draw their own conclusions based on what they see. Childcare providers, youth workers and families can play a powerful role in helping children of all ages develop positive attitudes about race and diversity and skills to promote a more just future—but only if we talk about it!
It's OK to not have all of the answers... they're called difficult or courageous conversations for a reason. Be honest, do some research, and learn (and unlearn) together.
This is life-long work. Your children will always be our students, and we will always stand in partnership with you and your families.
Bashan Fernandez and the Roads to Success Team
Programs that we've had to suspend include, College Access for All, college campus tours financial literacy workshops, and our Annual Leadership Retreat. The Summer Youth Employment Program for 2020 was officially suspended by the City in April, and our summer camp programs remain in the air as the uncertainty of when our city will reopen leaves us paralyzed.
In order to maximize our reach in this new digital space, we've been working diligently to create opportunities where young people can easily become a part of our community.
Instagram live classes are offered daily at 4:30pm, taught by RTS instructors and range from fitness to the arts, and even cooking! Our Go Pro with RTS series are held every Tuesday and Thursday, offering college and career workshops that are open to all ages.
With so many changes happening daily, our first concern is of course, the health and well-being of everyone in our community. But if we are to be role models to our young people, especially in a time like this, then it is important for us to adapt and move forward with a positive outlook and continue on with our mission of empowering youth as best we can.
It’s a buzz term you hear a lot, but what is SEL exactly? In short, SEL, an acronym for Social Emotional Learning, is basically this: young people learn to understand themselves, understand and collaborate with others, and make responsible decisions on their own. Studies have suggested that the resulting outcomes such as confidence and resilience will be more of a predictor of a person’s success and lifelong well-being than any academic test scores.
While the best youth programs train their staff in evidence-based techniques known to promote gains in SEL, you as a parent cannot be expected to host a fulfilling summer camp experience from your dinner table, or suddenly become Mary Poppins while juggling work, remote learning, meals and so on.
However, fear not! Below are 5 tips for encouraging SEL within your home. Because while Mary Poppins status may not be quite within reach, perhaps you can take a few tricks from the unsung heroes at your child’s after-school or summer camp program.
1. Focus on Language
Two major terms that have emerged in youth guidance include asset-based language and growth mindset.
Asset-based language means focusing on a child’s skills and abilities instead of shortcomings. The best way to motivate most youth is by giving them the credit that they CAN succeed. “Why can’t you do your assignments on time?” is a deficit-based approach, whereas “I am confident that you will complete your assignments” is an asset-based approach, which is more likely to inspire your child to succeed at small tasks. At times when we are frustrated, this can be difficult, but practice makes (almost) perfect.
Growth mindset (opposite of fixed mindset) refers to the idea of focusing on how your child can become intelligent by working hard, as opposed to just being smart or being naturally good at something. This is backed up by recent brain studies which suggest that we’re all capable of learning new things and changing our behaviors during our entire lifespan!
By complimenting your child’s efforts instead of their “gifts” and by focusing on their successes rather than struggles, you contribute to their gains in self-efficacy and positive identity, two tremendously important SEL capacities!
2. Rituals & Routines with Purpose
Nothing comforts young people like enjoyable rituals that they can look forward to. Continuing with established activities such as coloring Easter eggs and celebrating birthdays is very important while practicing social distancing. However, it is also easy to create at-home rituals that are more short-term, which hold purpose in helping your child continually grow within. Here are some ideas:
3. The Group Agreement
Do you have a constant battle over a daily routine, or a less-than-favorite household task that just needs to be done? Instead of getting into a game of tug-o-war, continually debating details of how something should or shouldn’t be done, simply take the time to put it in writing! Most importantly, make it collaborative. Give your child a voice. You will be surprised at how often their choice will be to do the right thing when they are asked to give input on a rule or guideline. With some guidance as to what you are trying to accomplish with them, you will raise the bar and watch them meet you there.
Your tone is important in this exercise, and you MUST be careful to listen and compromise – not to lecture or dictate. Think about what you need to accomplish during this time (or times), why this will help your child, and how you can explain non-negotiable parts of the agreement without making them feel like they have no authority over their participation. You can use a poster or a dry-erase board to document these guidelines or invitations. To take it a step further, celebrate this milestone of agreement by decorating it with your family. Remember to have it handy for when you might have to refer to it again. Also, be flexible. Maybe parts of the agreement are not realistic and need to be changed. Work with your family and show your child how to adjust and compromise. That brings us to the next tip ...
4. Role Model!
Perhaps the most important ingredient to building up your child’s capacity to collaborate or manage themselves is not a creative, new ritual or tool, but something that must live in the very fabric of your day: role modeling. Now, we all cannot be perfect humans 24 hours a day, but there is some control we have on how we interact with one another. Resolve conflicts, don’t hide them. Give the benefit of the doubt, respect the other opinion, debate don’t hate! Your child will witness and borrow your techniques.
5. Tell stories, lots of stories!
Stories, new and old. Stories, fictional and nonfictional. Stories made up by you. Stories from a book. Stories told by your child. These are all great resources. Years ago, we had no Netflix. We got our guidance and entertainment from generations upon generations of written and/or spoken word. Even before many religious scriptures there were fireside tales that helped people agree upon social discourse. Whether you confide in the Bible, Dr. Seuss, a relative who likes to tell tall tales via FaceTime, or all of the above – make plenty of time for stories, and make plenty of time to ask probing questions about scenarios that your children may find themselves in one day. When used effectively, stories they can provide an excellent compass for your child’s self-management and social awareness.
Want to share a great at-home tip for supporting SEL? Leave a comment below: