By Ari Pak, Programs Director Photos & Media courtesy of AALEAD Staff
AALEAD is proud to share highlights from our first-ever 100% VIRTUAL Summer Unwritten Program: Elements of a (R)Evolution! This past summer, AALEAD served 45 middle and high school youth across DC & MD in a six-week identity and leadership development program. Staff led programs centering around youth ownership, relationship building, team-work, and skill-building. Program engagements included five live-sessions per week, asynchronous lesson plans and virtual learn hub interactions, and staff-led youth wellness check-ins. Based loosely on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Summer Unwritten focused on building the four elements of Identity, Community, Empathy, and Transformation with participants. High school youth (Impact Leaders) and middle school youth (Discovery Leaders) came together in different element cohorts and combined their talents to create powerful presentations exploring topics of culture and identity, empathy, teamwork, leadership, and community impact. Each week’s programs culminated in team project presentations and learning reflections.
High School Impact Leaders took on a peer-mentorship role for their middle school Discovery Leader counterparts, leading workshops, and community building activities each week. In preparation for their roles, Impact Leaders completed rigorous staff-led orientation and training to ensure that participants received quality, relevant, and fun workshops! High school youth developed skills on how to plan and facilitate lesson plans, work through program challenges, and how to practice small- and large-group leadership.
Youth showcased their accomplishments and projects with live performances and presentations for parents, family members, and community members during the closing Summer Unwritten: Elements of a (R)Evolution Showcase. Bringing together over 160 attendees and performers, the AALEAD Summer Unwritten Showcase featured youth presentations, performances, and awards to display the accomplishments of youth throughout the six+ week program. During this virtual event, youth led presentations, performances, and screened media creations to display their summer growth in the areas of leadership, identity, empathy, teamwork, and community responsibility. It was clear to all attendees that program participants had developed important and close friendships across the summer, an admirable accomplishment given that programs were 100% virtual. While AALEAD celebrates each summer program term with an ending Showcase, the Summer Unwritten Showcase was the first time AALEAD staff and youth transferred their performances and presentations into a virtual format. To the excitement of youth and staff alike, the sense of community support, celebratory energy, and the impact were just as powerful in the virtual format as in past in-person showcases. The success of the summer program set the foundation for a well-equipped staff team to lead an engaging and creative after school program year in Fall 2020.
To measure youth program impacts and identify areas for continued growth, AALEAD administers post-program surveys at the end of the Summer Program term. As positive youth development practitioners, we strongly believe in centering youth voice and leadership in evaluating AALEAD program success and in guiding future program decisions. AALEAD is proud to share the results of the post-program surveys which demonstrate over 90% of youth satisfaction with program offerings, and an average of 90% of youth who strongly agree/agree with statements of growth in areas of SEL, identity, and leadership. Highlights are represented below.
100% SEL Improvement
|100% of youth agreed that “ I improved skills in empathy, teamwork, problem solving, responsibility, and initiative”
79% Social Emotional Skill Building: Social Awareness
79% average youth responded that they had practiced social awareness and empathy skills “extremely carefully” and “quite carefully” (Panorama SEL*)
90% Identity, Leadership, and Mentorship Skill Growth
|90% average youth responded that they improved in identity, leadership, and mentorship skills
|100% Meaningful Contribution
100% Impact leaders agreed that “I contributed meaningfully to the experience and growth of program participants”
|I gained a better understanding of how my personal life connects to the world around me
87% Community Action
I feel empowered to take action in meaningful ways to solve problems in my community