Destination: Me!

What if every child living in poverty had the academic ability and social support to arrive at their unique greatness?

Photo of Melissa Robinson
3 9

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

I was traveling in my neighborhood two years ago, before 6 a.m. one Saturday morning and was stunned beyond belief that for one entire mile there was an African American male child standing on every corner. I stopped and asked one if he was in school. His response was no. I asked how could he wake up on a Saturday before 6 a.m. to sell drugs but couldn't attend school? His response, "there is nothing at school for me. I make $70 a day on this corner."

I have a brother, Lamar who was murdered at 17 years old and our uncle Lamar who was murdered before age 25; a vicious cycle in my family that I will fight and work to end for the next generation, my two young sons, Jeffery Lamar and Brooks. After my brother was murdered I became a runaway teen and on the road to dropping out of High School. My parents enrolled me in youth program at the "AdHoc Group Against Crime". The organization became an extension of my village. I graduated High School, began working at the organization as a youth worker, was promoted to the runaway prevention coordinator and eventually director of the crisis intervention team all while earning an undergraduate degree and professional degree. I worked at the AdHoc Group Against Crime for a total of 14 years. Working to restore communities is my passion.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)

Website

http://bhcckc.org

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Missouri

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Kansas City

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Missouri

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Kansas City

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The project addresses self actualization and academic achievement among African American children, especially boys living in poverty and low resource environments. Life expectancy disparities among African American males in urban communities are largely related to violence. Destination: Me! instills academic grit and the empowerment that allows young people to imagine upward trajectory and the support to reach the desired destination. Violence among African American males has multiple roots including poor educational attainment; lack of exposure to alternative positive lifestyles; absence of strong family structures; inadequate employment opportunities; inability to positively mediate conflict; and poverty. Children are in a vicious cycle lacking comprehensive support from the community and individuals with a relative familiarity to the conditions they face.

Destination: Me! (DM) creates a safe village for African American children to be supported academically, emotionally, physically and financially.  The project targets young men who has a family member who is a victim of violent crime.  Destination: Me! taps into the strengths of the African American community through exposing young people to successful adults who have similar stories with triumphant endings.  Young African American physicians, engineers, architects, dentists, nurses, teachers, entrepreneurs will provide support for children in the program from third grade through the successful completion of professional school.  Each child will be paired with a certified life coach and academic coach to help them reach benchmarks toward success.  Benchmarks include reading at the 9th grade level at the end of the 6th grade year and reading at the 12th grade level at the end of the 10th grade year.  Additional tracking measures are attendance, grade point average and progress toward a "Let's Do Something Big" project.  The project is designed with the student and their life coach by the end of the child's 5th grade year, projects are tailored to the child's interests and goals but could be becoming an Eagle Scout, being accepted to a top ten college, implementing a large scale service project, writing a novel, etc. 

Each child will travel outside of the United States before High School completion and have five adult champions to Shepard them to success.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded

2014

Project Stage

  • Idea (poised to launch)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

A family completes an enrollment and commitment forms for the child to participate. The child attends programming three times per week; twice after school and once on the weekend. The weekend session is exploratory where the children attend cultural and interactive career exhibits (e,g, tour of a large corporation or job shadow) The child meets with their life coach once a month and academic tutor once per week. Twice per year the children participate in extracurricular activities as a group sports and other specialty camps e.g. music, foreign language, etc. Each child and family will create a personal development plan with the help of life coaches. Participants will work to realize the benefit of their contributions to their success.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We completed a pilot in 2014. In 2015 the program was reconfigured based on what we learned from the pilot. In the pilot phase we decreased in-school behavior incidents by 88 percent. Behavior incidents are defined as having a discipline referral to the principal's office. The program also provided information to school leaders to help train teachers on effective classroom management. We are now working to seek investment to launch the program. The initiative is designed to work in the school environment and in community spaces. Each year 100 new third graders will enter the program while continuing programming with existing children.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $250k - $500k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have a fund development plan for the project. Years 1-3: The local school district is targeted to fund 20 percent of the project; three local foundations are targeted to fund 60 percent of the project and individual giving 20 percent. We hope to develop curriculum that can be duplicated and offered to other markets for a nominal fee. Years 4-6: Local foundations 30 percent, Individual giving 30 percent and earned income 40 percent.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Destination: ME! is a significant long-term, holistic investment in the lives of young people who live in communities where the odds and statistics are against them. The program starts with third graders and will not end until after post-graduate work is completed. DM not only focuses on the child's trajectory, it also addresses the aspirations of the parents and guardians. It is difficult for children to thrive outside of their parents and family thriving along side them. Life coaching and asset based empowerment are key to program success.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Individuals who are closest to the problem are closest to the solutions. We have to empower ourselves to design structures and institutions that speak to our needs rather than dependence on external forces. We all have dreams and aspirations...it's the the things in the middle that cripple abilities to reach pinnacles. We must apply basic, consistent and long-term coaching principles to help children reach the destiny of their dreams. In addition bringing initiatives to scale is key in making impact. Utilizing population health approaches will help us reach a greater depth and scope.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Robert Woods Johnson Foundation

Program Design Clarity

The first year of the launch phase the initiative will benefit 100 children and their families through three interactive sessions per week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) at the children's home school and community sites. Tutoring will be provided after school; life coaching and exposure activities will be provided on Saturday at community based sites. A six week summer experience will occur. The organization will provide transportation and meals at each session. The services are delivered by five trained life coaches and twenty volunteer tutors; a program coordinator and a case manager.

Community Leadership

The organization is committed to seventy-five percent of program staff live in the impacted/target area. A parent is currently serving on the advisory committee. We look to involve participants in decision making opportunities throughout the experience. There is an multi-sector advisory committee currently guiding the design, pilot and implementation phase. We are targeting tutors who grew up in the target area and have obtained success.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 6 - 12

Spread Strategies

The initiative requires a strong connection and relationship with the African American professional communities who currently have no connection with the target group/area. Shaping philanthropy and giving circles to recognize and value program designs that utilize indigenous leadership in ways that build community capacity. Tapping into leadership development institutions, higher education, and youth employment are also key strategies.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Life coaching is critical and key to helping children reach self-actualization and understand the inherent value they possess. The model uses an asset based approach and is rooted in the best practice, "Family Development Credential". This work positively connects children to their home communities and exposes them to caring adults who successfully live in their space and those who once lived in their communities and are also successful.

Leadership Story

I have worked in youth development for nearly two decades, becoming a youth worker early on and now the co-designer, with my community to implement Destination: Me! I have come to realize that comprehensive services that are constant, creating a village for children are key to building self-confidence and positive contribution to society. I have taught life-skills classes in schools and facilitated cultural appreciation classes for adult prisoners. I have seen first hand the road to despair and the many missed opportunities to make a difference in the lives of children and families.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

The project was awarded a pilot grant from the Community Based Anti-Drug Tax.

Organization's Twitter Handle

@robinson4kc

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

Black Health Care Coalition

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-robinson-99686

3 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Nicole Forsyth
Team

Hi Melissa! This is wonderful! I love that your project takes this approach:  "Individuals who are closest to the problem are closest to the solutions," and I think a mentorship program like this has shown success in other areas, so I think you're on the right track for a solution! I'd love to know more about what these life coaches and tutors focus on. Are they trained in a certain way that helps empower and inspire these kids to become their own agents of change? How do the adults support the social and emotional development of the students? How are the students picked to participate? Is it the parents, teachers or kids themselves that choose to participate? When you say 88% reduction in school behavior incidents, what types of behaviors are you tracking? I'd love to see more details on how you are measuring impact. Is it too early to say they stay in school longer/more days?

Photo of Lacy Stephens
Team

Congratulations on a very well crafted submission and hugely impactful approach. I can see this being exceedingly valuable, not just for the students and families directly involved, but also with impacts resonating within the community. I look forward to seeing the expansion and future measured impacts of your work. 

Photo of Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE
Team

I absolutely adore your program!!! I'd love to see it scale one day to all urban areas in our country. I think one of the best things going for it is the multi-faceted approach you have designed. Involving these boys and young men in thriving community, where they can see and feel themselves as significant members belonging to a supportive group, and letting them spend time with successful mentors in their area, as well as offering both life coaching and academic coaching will undoubtedly significantly impact the trajectory of their lives. I teared up imagining the difference you're offering for the young men in the photo you included! Good luck and many blessings to you in this important endeavor.

Additionally, I'm not sure what your pool of life coaches is like, or if you'd be willing to have one who is not local (though I do currently work almost exclusively by phone and Skype) -- but I'd be very interested in offering my services in that respect. I'm professionally trained and certified and have been in practice since 2007. My email is nmmctague.cpcc@gmail.com, if you'd like to discuss it further. 

Again, good luck, and thanks for your vitally important work.

Be well.