Have you ever wondered what a young person is thinking when they walk into an after school program? Putting myself in their shoes, I imagine getting out of 6-7 hours of school, where other than lunch, I have had little exercise or chance to move around and now I am about to begin your after school program. But … this program is YES and its meant to empower youth.
I walk in and the teacher greets me by name with a smile on their face. They are not buried in their phone or computer, but rather are looking into my eyes as they speak to me. I see my friends beginning to congregate around one desk, sharing stories of the day we’ve just completed, who likes who, who got in a fight with who, who got sent to the principal’s office, etc. My friends all greet me and make room for me around the desk.
The teacher comes by with our snack and we eat and talk while kicking back and not straining our brain for the first time today. When we’ve finished our snack we are called to order, sometimes by the teacher, sometimes by the President of our YES group. We begin the lesson with a discussion about what we are going to be doing today. The discussion feels a lot like the conversation we were having before snack because we all get to share and take part.
Our lesson is about team work; being a member of the soccer team I have some ideas about what makes a good team, so I call them out. The teacher writes them on the board and my friends add more things to the list, then all of a sudden we are all silent. The teacher says, “Give me one word about teamwork” and points to the girl closest to her. The teacher then goes around the room asking each of us for one word. We all come up with one and notice that the list has grown much longer.
And so the class goes on everyone is excited because we all get a chance to participate, and we are always right. No one ever feels stupid for what they say. This is the kind of class that I like, we are all part of it and we do lots of activities and we move around the room and don’t just sit in our chairs.
Coming back out of my reverie I decide that one of my favorite TV shows had it right, the Cheers theme song, the model class is a Cheers kind of place … “A place where everybody knows your name and they are always glad you came.”
This is what the YES classes look like… a room full of excited adults and youth sharing in a new adventure.