What We've Been Up To

Miss us over the last, oh, 18 months?  We’ve missed you!  It’s been a hectic time and a lot fell by the wayside, like this blog and, oh, even basic hygiene procedures beyond tooth brushing.  All of the CityPathways founders have been up to BIG stuff.  

Danielle helped design and launch an innovative CityPathways-esque initiative called CareerClue.  A collaborative project of the NYCDOE and the Center for Youth Employment (CYE), CareerClue provides a foundational career development experience for teens that supports their acculturation to the world of work through service learning projects while strengthening academics and facilitating self-assessment and consideration of career paths. Her CareerClue work runs alongside the launch of Danielle’s biggest brainchild to date, Kindra,  a platform through which caring people co-create special memory and photo books to celebrate amazing people in their life at milestone moments.  The products are one-of-a-kind--like the people being celebrated--and Kindra is an indelible manifestation of the power of personalization.

Cal recently left GenerationReady to become the Chief Schools Officer for NYC Outward Bound Schools and Michael continues to flourish as Executive Director of the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education, increasing the quality and quantity of computer science opportunities across the city as part of CS4All.

Sanda and Jeanne--mostly Jeanne--helped design an exciting new charter middle school called School in the Square that opened in Washington Heights this September. 

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While visiting last week, it was evident from the moment you walk in the door that this is not just any school.  It felt like a welcoming oasis, and there was visible evidence of student voice and choice all around.  

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Originally envisioned to have a very central CityPathways partnership, due to developments described below related to Sanda’s time, it was very pared back but the Expanded Learning Time--an optional hour each morning from 8-9AM before the “official” school day starts at a decent hour, and then another (required) 90 min chunk at the end of the day--provides students with a rich array of enrichment.

At 9AM each morning, students engage in Primetime, a customized mindfulness and community block; it was amazing to witness how centered the students were after the session.

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It’s a beautiful school--the basketball court and the roof are particularly impressive.

Students express being cared for and “known.”  During a recent focus group conversation with a cross-section of 6th graders, common sentiments were cited: about how connected they feel--to the school and to each other; how supported they feel by teachers and by the efforts teachers make to keep learning interesting and to find different ways to help them understand; how smoothly they feel they were able to transition to middle school as a result of this; how much they appreciate the opportunities they are being afforded; and how invested they feel in being upstanders and leaders.

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In Sept 2015, Sanda signed on as Executive Director of the Governor’s Committee on Scholastic Achievement (GCSA), hoping it might some day serve as an organizational anchor for CityPathways and putting cPaths on a backburner while trying to get the new GCSA model off the ground. While GCSA had existed since the 60s, it had historically been a college scholarship organization that over time grew to include mentoring for high school students and, after being dormant for six years following the financial crisis, relaunched with a heavier emphasis on more indepth, long term mentoring focused around postsecondary success skills.  Now, GCSA partners with schools and corporations to provide one-to-one workplace-based mentoring across the four years of high school (and beyond!) in order to equip young people from under-resourced communities for college and career success. It was a whirlwind year!  We:

  • Doubled the number of students and mentors (to 400 in total), expanding the program to serve 10 cohorts of 9th and 10th graders partnered with seven fantastic technology and finance companies (including Spotify, Google, and Verizon.)

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Developed a robust and rigorous curriculum--yet flexible enough to be customized by each mentor pair to focus on the needs and interests of each young person--focused around building essential skills for college and career success in ways learned most effectively beyond the level of the school.

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  • Engaged a diverse and dynamic cadre of part time youth development professionals as coach-facilitators, serving as the “glue” of the program through working weekly with students and complementing and contextualizing the biweekly work of the mentors.
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  • Implemented pre- and post-assessment around socio-emotional learning factors linked to postsecondary success, thanks to the wonderful Student Support Network, and were gratified to discover that our students yielded statistically significant gains in academic self-efficacy, agency/self-advocacy, and problem-solving.
  • Engendered positive feedback from participating mentors and youth on end of year surveys-- over 94% of mentors report being very satisfied or satisfied with the match with their mentee and 93% express being very satisfied or satisfied with their experience as a GCSA mentor. 93% of youth report having strong relationships with their mentors and coaches and over 90% of youth believe GCSA prepares them for the professional world and helps them set and accomplish goals.

What are the implications of all of this?  Validation of core elements of the CityPathways’ approach and ethos in a different context, which galvanizes us to continue the work in all kinds of new ways and to engage in various kinds of cross-pollination.

 

Which led us to create CITYExpeditions in collaboration with the wonderful The Knowledge House over the spring and summer, focusing on building a tech pipeline in the South Bronx.  

CITY (Connecting, Inspiring, and Trailblazing with Youth) Expeditions is a program matching youth with near peer mentors from their communities for learning trips to technology and innovation centers throughout New York City. These expeditions provide youth with exposure to technology, applicable digital skills, leadership development, and reflections on their role in the technology ecosystem.

Program Goals:

•Provide youth with exposure to organizations, institutions, and companies through which they can gain skills, apply digital literacy to real-world contexts, and decide what they are interested in

•Develop their leadership and soft skills (self-regulation, teamwork, curiosity, creativity, collaboration) and technical skills (digital media making, 3D modeling, coding games, blogging)

•Deepen understanding of youth interests and priorities through interviews and observations

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CITYExpeditions youth documented their projects and reflections via digital portfolios under the guidance of coaches. Youth and coaches  compiled a NYC digital asset map—available at http://bit.ly/digitalroadmap1-- for use by others who want to replicate this program. They presented the digital map--and shared their experiences--at the citywide EmotiCon youth conference in June.

We facilitated a workshop based on the program at the Mozilla Festival in London in October, in a session called “From Broken2Brokering: Designing Digital Road Maps to Connect Dots for Youth in Our Cities” and were heartened--albeit not surprised--by the resonance and level of interest from cities around the world.

CITYExpeditions is comprised of two components: CITYSaturdays and CITYSummers.  Saturdays and summers are under-utilized times for expanded learning. CITYSaturdays provides youth with untraditional, real-world settings for learning, helping engage them in exploration of the tech ecosystem. Near peer mentors teach workshops, work with small groups of youth with whom they regularly connect, and discover opportunities including events, programs, individuals, and institutions that support youth in continuing learning and enriching their networks.

This first CITYSaturdays cycle ran eight Saturdays from April through June with 9th graders from Fannie Lou Hamer High School.  Saturday trips were graciously sponsored by Uber, providing door-to-door service for carpools of mentors and youth to traverse across three boroughs and to see and feel what it’s like to work in various capacities within the tech sector.  The CITYSummer cycle ran in July and August 2016 in collaboration with The Point and serving a cohort of students age 14-24 (!)  Both were tremendous learning experiences--for our youth and for everyone involved--and we’re excited to raise funds for new iterations!