Moving into doctoral work, I found myself further refining my interests. Joining the Challenging Racism and Empowering Communities Through Ethnocultural Research (CRECER) team has provided me with the opportunity to lead the wonderful Kulula Project, further working towards my goals of enhancing youth/college-student racial identity development (simultaneously) while empowering them towards their greatness. Working with elementary, middle, and college-age students provides me opportunities to work at various developmental levels and create sustainable change with community partners.
Thanks for the feedback Christy! This past year we had MANY victories in Kulula. Our mentors and mentees successfully moved through the curriculum at a pace comparable to the different developmental levels (we serve kiddos from grades K-8).
Their major project, the Civic Engagement Project, was also a huge success. The mentees wrote letters to Commissioner Ken Russell about their concerns of homelessness in their community. This helps build their writing and literacy skills and after rounds of revisions with their mentors we saw great improvement in the children's abilities to articulate their ideas clearly and creatively. One group of older girls worked with their mentor to not only diagram the issues of homeless, but offered suggestions for sustainable solutions. Additionally, the mentees invited Commissioner Russell to their End of Year Celebration, to speak with them and their parents further.
The End of Year Celebration is a time to celebrate our accomplishments and reflect on the year. We saw kiddos, who had been previously disengaged in after-school programming, grasp at the opportunity to help. Our older youth made all the flyers for the celebration that were disseminated to their parents, other community partners, and community members. They also organized a food drive and took the lead on running the ENTIRE celebration from set-up to clean up. They even organized a performance for their parents and took the stage by storm. We also had a surprise guest during dinner, Commissioner Russell attended their celebration. He arrived with their letters in hand and thanked the mentors and mentees for sharing their concerns. He later spoke with the children, learning more about them and sharing about himself as well as taking time to meet with the leaders of the Barnyard (the community center where Kulula is housed) about plans for revamping the space and addressing additional issues in the community.
An additional piece of the Kulula program is a bi-directional leadership and academic achievement piece. We believe that working with youth to build these skills helps our graduate and undergraduate mentors re-invigorate their own leadership and academic achievement. Our mentors went on to do some amazing things this summer including: a medical program for men of color at Howard University, a Fulbright Scholar who spent the summer in Europe, and a mentor who is now moving on to a PhD program in Applied Social and Community Psychology.
Overall, we had a wonderful year and are excited to move forward with Kulula in the Fall of 2016.