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Scholars and Coaches Build Bonds of Trust in ALL In Pilot

Scholars and Coaches Build Bonds of Trust, Realize Breakthrough Discoveries in ALL In Pilot 2

“I do think it was positive to talk about these issues and very necessary,” said Alysa, a high school senior and Boys Hope Girls Hope of Cincinnati scholar.  “If we want the change to happen, it starts with us.” 

Originally planned by Boys Hope Girls Hope as an in-person program during the school year, ALL In was moved up to the summer as a virtual experience.  ALL In addressed the immediate need for high quality summer engagement in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced scholar employment and in-person programming opportunitiesThe summer version carried a focus on the impact of the pandemic and systemic racism on communities.  Designed to put scholars in the driver’s seat of their own learning, they worked in teams facilitated by adult and collegian coaches to engage in dialogue and action about the pressing issues of the times.   

ALL In

More than 100 scholars from nine Boys Hope Girls Hope affiliates, including Mexico and Guatemala, heard from impactful leaders, identified community needs and then planned and implemented virtual social justice projects. Coaching the small group teams were 35 team members and volunteers, including nine Boys Hope Girls Hope collegians.

“I do think it was positive to talk about these issues and very necessary,” said Alysa, a high school senior and Boys Hope Girls Hope of Cincinnati scholar.  “If we want the change to happen, it starts with us.” 

For that change to happen, there were bonds of trust that needed to be built.  The scholars noted that it took some time to get to know each other and gain confidence in sharing their voice.  

“I didn’t know if I was the only one who was a little scared,” said Yoshua, a high school freshman in Boys Hope Girls Hope of Mexico. “The more I talked with the members of my group, I realized that we all were going through similar fears and concerns.  Then, I learned to express myself more and to have more trust in myself.”  

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Grace, an 8th grader at Boys Hope Girls Hope of San Francisco, had a similar experience.  

“At first I was really nervous about meeting new people I didn’t know, but I learned to not be so shy about sharing my opinions,” Grace said. “It was really fun getting to know different people in different parts of the world and making new friends.” 

But it wasn’t just the scholars who gained insights.  The coaches noted that being a part of the program was a transformational experience for them, as well. 

“It made me think about social justice issues and how young people experience things on a day-to-day basis,” said Darcy Mouton, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and retired realtor who splits her time between Florida and Chicago, who served as a volunteer coach. 

“The conversations we had with students were very life-changing to me — to hear some of the things that really concern their heart,” said London Johnson, Boys Hope Girls Hope of Detroit’s collegian specialist.  “We really accomplished fellowship during a time when we have all been separated.” 

Boys Hope Girls Hope of Illinois Collegian Coach Vernon Green, a junior this fall at St. Olaf College, echoed those sentiments.

“We had some deep conversations about the racial disparities in America, COVID-19, and how they are related.  We discussed the many impacts upon the marginalized communities.” 

ALL In is designed to be a student-led exercise, and so the coaches admittedly had to resist some of their natural inclinations to take charge.  They commented that the trainings by notable leaders like best-selling author and experiential learning expert Esther Wojcicki and motivational interviewing practitioner Dr. Sam McQuillin, among others, were very helpful in this regard.   

“My tendency is to jump in and fix things, especially with my own nieces and nephews,” Mouton said.  “I found myself holding back intentionally, and the experience caused me to really listen more effectively.”  

Johnson, who teamed up with Boys Hope Girls Hope of Detroit Board Member Rob Hughes as a coach, noted thatboth of us as adults had some challenges letting go of that rigid form of how we expected things to be. Then, we noted that our scholars were communicating more in the chat box, and things went smoother when we leaned into that.”   

Ann Sheehy, residential counselor, Boys Hope Girls Hope of Southern California, normally works with high schoolers but coached a group of middle-schoolers.  The experience taught me a lot of how to meet the scholars on their level — to connect where they are at.”

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the teams were able to conduct about a dozen creative virtual social justice projects.  

Alysa’s team wrote a poem, “Decades of Discrimination,” that focused on racism in the workplace.  “We interviewed family members and close friends, starting with our grandparents and ending with our generation,” Alysa said. “By interviewing my dad, I learned about some of his experiences that I wasn’t aware of before.” 

Green’s group researched a senior home in the Bay Area and got their authorization to accept letters of encouragement to both the elderly residents and healthcare workers.

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“We wanted to acknowledge these are people who may not be able to see their families a lot and let the health care workers know that they are appreciated.”

The project undertaken by Grace’s group delved into issues of food insecurity that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.  “During these hard times, a lot of people are losing their jobs and don’t have enough money to pay for food, much less bills or rent.”  In addition to helping out a local food bank, she and fellow team members, including scholars from Esperanza Juvenil in Guatemala, created an educational slide deck about how COVID has impacted food and nutrition for families around the globe.  

Yoshua and his team members focused on being environmentally conscious at this challenging time.  His team encouraged the use of reusable masks as an alternative to disposable ones that can add to pollution of our oceans.”  Yoshua explained, “Everyone made masks and then did a presentation about it that was compiled into a video.” 

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The scholars and coaches commended the inspirational speakers, who lent their time and talents to ALL In, including: 

  • Bobby Herrera, author of The Gift of Struggle, and co-founder and president of PopulusGroup;
  • Dr. Clarence Lee, Jr., a Christian-Encourager, physician-entrepreneur, nationally celebrated author, international speaker, and CEO of CMLEEJR Companies, LLC 
  • Janice Mirikitani,co-founder and founding president of GLIDE and San Francisco’s second Poet Laureate 
  • Kathleen Kelly Janus, senior advisor on social innovation to California Governor Gavin Newsom,  
  • Daniel Isom II, executive director of the REJIS Commission and retired St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Chief 
  • Tiffany Taylor, vice president, deputy chief people officer, Teach for America
  • Josh Walehwa, director of career services at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Rev. Ronny O’Dwyer S.J., director of the Billiken Teacher Corps at Saint Louis University 

Evaluation and the collection of feedback on ALL In in underway now, with results to inform the fall and future editions of the program that will be virtual and in-person when possible.  Special thanks is due to the Valhalla Charitable Foundation, the Raymond Family Foundation and Yagan Family Fund for their support, along with HPE and Dell for donations of laptops.   

To learn more about ALL In or to become a volunteer, visit https://boyshopegirlshope.org/allin2020/.