Social Connectedness / 2013

Children Mending Hearts: Kids Helping Kids

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Children Mending Hearts

PROJECT BACKGROUND

Children Mending Hearts (CMH) is a Los Angeles non-profit dedicated to empowering local disadvantaged youth by giving them a chance to help other children. If local youth are provided with opportunities to help other children in need today, they learn how to be more involved, empathetic citizens. The youth participating in our project this year will be active adults in 2050 - they'll be Los Angeles' workforce, parents and policy-makers. We want to help them grow up with a deeply rooted sense that Social Connectedness - volunteerism, empathy and positive social activism - is as fundamental a part of their lives as brushing their teeth or going to school each day. That's where our Global Arts After School Project comes in.

The CMH Global Arts After School Program teaches youth ages 9-14 about the importance of volunteerism, empathy and being a responsible Global Citizen. Our program helps local youth living in troubled neighborhoods discover that millions of children around the globe are living with even more extreme challenges of poverty, political violence and natural disaster - and that they, as Global Citizens, have the power to reach out and help those children in crisis. Our message: making a positive difference doesn't require a big income or advanced education. It just takes caring, respect for other people's feelings and a willingness to reach out and help.

Here's how the Global Arts After School Program works: CMH partners with local organizations that serve disadvantaged youth. We provide a free, 10-week after school program for students, complete with curriculum, instruction and supplies. Every class cycle enrolls 25 students, with programs running concurrently at multiple sites. Every after school session features three components: - A CULTURAL LEARNING component teaches students about what life is like for youth living in a country currently suffering from extreme poverty, political violence and/or natural disaster; - Our SOCIAL SKILLS component presents opportunities to learn and practice skills such as empathy, positive communication, respect for cultural differences and appropriate ways to offer help; - HANDS-ON ARTS ACTIVITIES reinforce previous lesson concepts with projects that directly tie to social and cultural ideas presented in class.

Each program cycle culminates with an international exchange of artwork and written messages between the Global Arts After School students and youth living in the country they have studied. Working with CMH, after school students also help to send supplies and resources so that international youth may also engage in the same project as their Los Angeles counterparts.

PROJECT NEED

In the last two years, CMH has received many requests from community youth organizations to expand our After School programming to: - Include more sites; - Increase enrollment; - Expand our curriculum to include current events; - Provide opportunities for students to remain involved throughout high school.

Many of these requests are due to the fact that we are the only After School program in L.A. focused on teaching a combination of global citizenship, volunteerism and empathy skills. Local leaders recognize the importance of these issues, given high levels of youth violence, drug use and bullying in school and community settings. CMH also has clear positive outcomes for students per evaluation measures administered as part of the program.

PROJECT GOAL: Improve Social Connectedness in Los Angeles, by increasing the number of local youth ages 9-18 enrolled in Children Mending Hearts programs that teach volunteerism, civic engagement and empathy.

SUPPORTING OBJECTIVES:

1. Expand our Global Arts After School program to 4 new public school sites by September, 2013 for a total of 7 sites in Los Angeles; 2. Increase middle school enrollment in the program by 120%, serving a total of 620 students in 2013; 3. Integrate study of current events into our curriculum and create two new arts tracks for the program, enabling students to sustain their participation beyond the initial 10-week session. Each "continuing" curriculum will be comprised of 10 lesson plans and accompanying teaching resources; 4. Hire a part-time (.2FTE) Outreach Coordinator to oversee development of CMH activities for high school students and on-line student outreach resources; 5. Recruit 16 high school students from at least 10 different high schools throughout Los Angeles to serve on a CMH Teen Advisory Council and begin developing programming for youth ages 14-18.

These objectives will be carried out via our established partnerships with Los Angeles community organizations including Boys & Girls Clubs, After School All Stars, CoachArt and others. Given our current level of outreach and established program infrastructure, we are confident of reaching our stated objectives by December, 2013.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Since its inception in 2009, Children Mending Hearts has helped over 12,000 disadvantaged youth become involved in practicing Global Citizenship and positive social activism. The thing we’re most proud of is helping children of ALL cultural, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds learn that they have the power to make a positive difference in another child’s life. After participating in our community outreach events or after school programming, we have seen countless children – most of whom are themselves challenged by poverty, community violence and limited educational opportunities – gain a sense of empowerment as they discover that they have an innate capacity to make life better for someone else. As their sense of pride and self-esteem grows, they become eager to reach out and help in their communities. Some of Children Mending Hearts’ additional achievements include:

  • Providing free, sustained after school programming for hundreds of youth living in Los Angeles neighborhoods challenged by drugs, gang violence and poverty;
  • Developing a CMH blog that educates thousands of Los Angeles parents and youth about volunteerism, Global Citizenship and positive social activism;
  • Sponsoring outreach trips to Haiti, Darfur and Democratic Republic of Congo, where we provided thousands of children living in crisis with arts and educational workshops, in addition to providing them with basic necessities such as shoes and school supplies;
  • Holding large-scale public children’s events in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York, where hundreds of children learned about the importance of volunteerism and Global Citizenship and participated in projects to help their local communities;
  • Successfully developing and implementing our Global Arts After School program, including publishing a formal curriculum that teaches middle school-aged youth the importance of acting with empathy and helping people in their own communities as well as the world at large.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Our community partners include: Boys & Girls Clubs of Los Angeles, After School All Stars, and CoachArt.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Our goal is to teach L. A. youth about the importance of social connectedness & give them concrete skills for civic engagement & volunteerism they can use as adults. Based on that goal, our evaluation measures include:

#1: Measuring Program Participation: We will enroll at least 620 youth annually in our Global Arts After School Program. Evaluation Method: We will use three quantitative measures to meet projected benchmarks: • Enrollment statistics will be kept at each program site, to track total enrollment & compare site-by-site participation; • Attendance records will be kept for each After School Program cycle, to accurately measure how consistently students attend the program & what percentage complete the entire program; • Percentage increase in community partnerships will be tracked, to help us meet benchmarks for our goal of increasing partnerships by 50% in 2013.

#2: Measuring increases in students’ knowledge & engagement. Our objectives are to increase students’ knowledge of empathy, positive social skills, volunteerism and global citizenship. We also want to make sure that they have ongoing chances to actively practice what they learned. Lastly, we want students to develop positive feelings about themselves and their communities when they help other people and promote social welfare.

Evaluation Method: We will use both quantitative and qualitative measures to assess students’ learning and engagement: • We will administer pre- and post-participation surveys to students, to assess how their knowledge and attitudes are influenced by project participation. The surveys are a two-part measure that a.) scores responses to questions about program content regarding empathy skills, positive social skills and global citizenship and b.) provides a Likert Scale-based survey of students’ attitudes about the importance of volunteering, helping people in need and whether their own feelings of self-esteem are influenced by helping others; • We will conduct three appreciative inquiry sessions to gain qualitative feedback from our partner organizations about program strengths/weaknesses, logistical considerations, what the most valuable benefits were to students and ways to enhance future outcomes.

Along with encouraging social connectedness, we want our project to increase public safety for youth living in high-risk neighborhoods, and provide them with strong arts learning experiences to fill the increasing gap in public schools’ arts education programs. Our measures of student attendance will inform us about numbers of youth we are able to provide with free, safe and structured activities as an alternative to unsupervised activities on the street. And since we are using the arts as a platform for getting students interested and involved in our programming, we will also use an observational checklist form created by the NEA’s Arts Education Division to measure student engagement in the arts learning process.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

If we want to see long-term, sustained improvements in Los Angeles’ Social Connectedness, then we need to connect with Los Angeles youth at a formative age, so that volunteerism, empathy and community engagement become a routine and expected part of their lives. Here’s how our project will benefit Los Angeles and its citizens: Over the next five years, our project will:

  • Enroll at least 3,100 local youth in a sustained, hands-on educational program that teaches volunteerism, civic engagement, empathy skills and Global Citizenship;
  • Provide those students with meaningful, hands-on volunteer projects that encourage them to keep up to date on current events, “practice” their social activism skills and gain confidence in their ability to effect positive change in their communities;
  • Offer safe and supportive after school environments in neighborhoods currently challenged by drugs and gang violence;
  • Use our social media, marketing and outreach resources to continue promoting the importance of teaching L.A. youth about Global Citizenship and community engagement;
  • Teach cultural appreciation and racial tolerance by integrating many of Los Angeles’ rich, multicultural artistic and cultural traditions into our after school curriculum;
  • Use our public outreach events and High School Advisory Council to bring together youth from diverse neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles, affording them opportunities to work together on youth-based charitable and humanitarian issues.

Our project’s impact on LA 2050 indicators includes: Social Connectedness – Our project directly teaches Social Connectedness (volunteerism, civic engagement, positive social skills and empathy skills) to youth at a formative point in their development. By reaching our goal of enrolling 620 youth annually in our Global Arts After School, we will educate as many as 22,200 students by 2050, helping them develop and solidify their identities as voters, community activists and Global Citizens;

Education – Participating youth will receive quality, in-depth instruction in Global Citizenship, current events and fine arts – subjects only minimally covered in many public school classrooms;

Public Safety – 90% of our programs sites are in neighborhoods where gang activities and youth violence are problematic. Over 550 youth each year will benefit from the safe, structured, off-the-streets programming we provide free of charge.

Arts & Multiculturalism – Through the Global Arts After School Project, two of Los Angeles’ strongest assets – the arts and a richly multicultural population – will be used as powerful teaching tools for building positive social change in local youth.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Children Mending Hearts’ philosophy is that if we teach young people how to have generosity of spirit – how to genuinely care about and help fellow human beings - they will benefit from a sense of self-worth and personal empowerment for the rest of their lives. Here’s what success looks like to us in terms of Social Connectedness in 2050: First, we envision a public education system where all youth receive instruction in civic engagement, global citizenship and even basic emotional literacy along with their core academic classes. We’d like to see classrooms where the three “E”s – empathy, encouragement & empowerment – are taught alongside the traditional three “R”s. Those educational efforts would include supervised, hands-on volunteer projects at every grade level and extracurricular “volunteer teams” at every middle school & high school that are given the same status & recognition as athletic and academic teams.

Secondly, we see a Los Angeles comprised of people who aren’t just Los Angelenos, but Global Citizens. Globalization is a fast-developing reality & Los Angeles is becoming a microcosm of the world at large, in terms of ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as huge socioeconomic disparities. By 2050, we imagine a city of Global Citizens who see beyond those divides when it comes to basic self-worth & are committed to the idea that all people - around the world and at home – are neighbors who deserve self-dignity, respect, safety and health.

<pThird, because L.A.’s citizens will have grown up learning about & practicing civic engagement and global citizenship, they will feel empowered to vote, regardless of their educational or economic attainments. If we can double voting rates – from today’s 36% up to 72% by 2050, then we’re confident that the outcome will be more public policy aimed at social good for everyone.</p>

Lastly, we assume that electronic media will continue to play a huge role in shaping Los Angeles’ perceptions and priorities. A recent study by the Pew Research Center* found that American children now spend an average of 7 ½ hours a day using electronic media such as computers, & iPods. Media can either help or hinder social connectedness – research has proven that positive electronic media use can promote pro-social behaviors such as altruism, cooperation and tolerance. Yet unsupervised media use amongst children fuels social isolation. Children Mending Hearts has a vision of Social Connectedness that includes all citizens – but particularly youth – living with a healthy balance of real human connectedness & an abundance of positive electronic media use that inspires social good. We believe that’s attainable. After all, if you care enough to sit down at your computer, take the time to read over the amazing possibilities presented on the LA 2050 website & vote with your heart, then we can help your fellow Los Angelenos do the same.

*Pew Research Center: Internet & American Life Project, 2010