By Keo Xiong, MD Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
March was an inspiring month of youth leadership in action. The AALEAD Maryland middle school after-school program spent their March learning about high school, and had extended opportunities to meet their high school counterparts. Middle school youth learned more about life after middle school through our ‘Middle School to High School Transition Support Series,’ which included in-class workshops and guided walking tours facilitated by high school youth. This series began a few years ago as a direct result of high school youth feedback: they wanted more opportunities to work with and mentor their middle school peers. What started as a few high school youth volunteering to lead a one-time middle school to high school transition workshop and Q&A panel at their former middle schools has now become a two-week long series that includes opportunities for all middle and high school youth to participate in the workshops.
High School Transition Workshops
During week one of the series, high school youth prepared and led in-class workshops or their middle school peers. Led by high school youth council leaders, the high school youth worked together to create an engaging lesson plan that included introductory high school information, as well as useful advice they wish they had known when they were in middle school themselves. Thirteen high school youth volunteers then visited AALEAD after-school programs at each of our five middle schools to facilitate a one-hour workshop about preparing for and transitioning into high school. Middle school youth participated in these interactive learning activities, tested their new knowledge through a fun game of Kahoot! quiz, and ended the session with a Q & A with their high school peers. Middle school youth had positive feedback about the workshops – they mostly appreciated that they could ask questions and receive honest answers from high school youth. The following week, we switched it up and invited middle school youth to visit the AALEAD high school after-school programs to learn more about life in high school.
High School Guided Tours
Middle school youth learned more about high school through guided tours and a scavenger hunt at two of our high school sites. High school youth had spent the month prior carefully planning the guided tours. They gathered information about each department, created information booklets, and mapped out routes for the walk. On the days of the tours, high school youth worked in teams to lead small groups of middle school youth through their high schools, stopping at each department to provide detailed information about the programs offered, and to answer questions. At one school, high school youth even secured permission from the drama teacher to allow the middle school youth to get a sneak peak of the rehearsal for their upcoming spring school play. Middle school youth then were given time to complete a scavenger hunt to learn more about the resources available in high school. When providing feedback, middle school youth expressed interest in wanting to lead these workshops one day when they become high school youth.
These workshops were a great way for high school youth to mentor middle school youth, and to begin establishing a system of support for middle school youth who may be enrolling in these high schools in the coming years. During this year’s workshops, we had the opportunity to witness current high school youth, who had participated in these workshops as middle school youth themselves, step up and take on leadership roles. These youth were invested in ensuring that their current middle school peers received all the information necessary to feel supported and ready to transition to high school. At AALEAD, we are continuously in awe of the initiative and drive of young people. With guidance, AALEAD youth have transformed their programs into a safe and supportive space created by youth for youth. We look forward to seeing them continue to implement their ideas to improve program quality, and take the lead on current and future program sessions and activities for themselves, their peers, and those who come after them.