Too often we overlook the power and focus of our young people in the community. They can and do make a difference. Family Promise was given a very powerful exposure to some very talented sixth graders when we hosted 24 sixth grade students from the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM School in Akron.
The students, led by their Academy Coach, Mrs. Brenda Leighton, were surveyed early in the school year to determine what they felt was a major issue in our community and how could they do something about it to make it better. These 24 sixth graders felt homelessness was a major concern! Think about that, sixth graders! Homelessness as a major concern! We were amazed at how focused they really were on the topic.
In addition to the STEM middle school students, some slightly older students, led by freshman Jonathan Evanick, of Kent State University, contacted FP to seek direction on how they may start a homeless and emergency relief center on campus for students who are homeless.
The collaboration was cast. The program is between The Akron Community Foundation, Akron Public Schools, and Family Promise. Using the Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) framework of Small Learning Communities, Thematic Learning, and Business and Community Engagement, FP signed a Partnership Agreement with STEM. The approach is Learning by Doing, Relevant, Interest Driven Education, and Collaboration for Community Impact, and a Culture of Belonging.
For the Kent State Students, it is driven by The Provost’s Leadership Academy under Kent State Provost and Senior Vice President Dr. Melody Tankersley, Ph.D. The Kent State students learned of the need for students on campus and felt compelled to reach out to FP for some guidance on how they could help. The timing and the desire to do something positive matched up between the STEM and KSU students.
On Tuesday, April 26, the students came together at the FP administrative offices. Case Managers Erica Cherry and Meisha Greer setup a complete presentation on the who, what, why, when, where, and how it takes to arrange a working homeless shelter. The challenge was how to keep sixth graders engaged and learn, complicated by keeping the college students from quickly being bored. We did not want to talk at them, our goal was to get them to understand all the key essentials for opening and operating a shelter.
Case Managers Erica Cherry, and Meisha Greer arranged the presentation around the game “JEOPARDY”. It was a great success! Even the Teachers got into the game. We broke out into three teams of STEM Students, Team 1 ,2, and 3. The three tables were complete with buzzers. We did learn that the buzzers were not only played with by the sixth graders, but the adults also had fun with them as well! Posted with this article are the questions and answers in each category for you to see the information the students learned that day.
So how did this follow the Ford NGL model? We broke up into small learning communities, which drove the students to share ideas and come to a consensus to give their answer. The issue was thematic around the concept of starting a homeless shelter. And it showed the students that it takes Business and Community to solve the issue.
When “JEOPARDY” concluded, Operations Manager Pauline Egan prepared canvas tote bags with
the FP logo and website printed on them to give each of the STEM students. The students then went to our storage area, where Pauline had pre-set emergency items, a homeless individual might need. The students learned of the supplies necessary for a shelter. The students each loaded a bag and when they were through, they presented it to the Kent State Students to help them get their campus shelter going. The Kent State Students could not have been more appreciative.
FP now has a Partnership Agreement with National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM Academy to work with the members of the sixth-grade class each year until they graduate from the STEM Academy in 8th Grade to go on to High School.
What is very exciting about participating in such a collaboration is that we, FP, have gained 30 young students and young adults who now know about Family Promise. But what is even greater is, that these young ladies and gentlemen will become leaders in their communities, and they now have an understanding that they can accomplish great things for their community together.
FP wishes to offer our sincere and deep appreciation to all who worked to make the event a successful learning experience!