Youth mentorship Programs
Twi language, Ghana, Africa
Translation: "Go back and get"
Project Optimism created and directs free mentorship programs for 4th-12th grade students in Sacramento neighborhoods. In the program youth have access to mentors who are college students and young professionals of color. The program includes character building workshops, outings, and days of service. The term Sankofa is the basis for all programs, so that youth receive support and direction they need from older generations to develop into individuals ready to contribute to the world.
The Project Optimism founders started creating youth programs because they saw a need in Sacramento communities of color. Within Sacramento County, 35% of children under the age of 18 come from single parent homes, and 25% of families are designated as low income. This means that 1 in four children is growing up without the necessary support; financially, emotionally, and physically. Additionally, half of all low-income families and more than half of all single-parent households are found among ethnic minorities.
The lack of financial resources paired with the institutionalized opportunity gaps for ethnic minorities produces communities that are stagnant. The solution, to provide these children and families access to valuable services and opportunities that will allow them to construct a life, and larger community that is flourishing.
Once again, a unique characteristic of Project Optimism's youth programs, is its emphasis on providing youth of color access to college students and young professionals of color. There is nothing more impactful than seeing someone who looks like you accomplishing goals, excelling at life, and coming back to the community to lift others up. The workshop curriculum is based in the SEARCH Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets framework. These developmental assets have been proven, through wide and extensive research, to be the key components that determine positive youth development in adolescents (Benson et al., 2011, p.201-202). Therefore mentorship workshops focus on the following 8 categories:
Anticipated Outcomes for the Project Optimism Mentees:
• Improved self-awareness
• Improved problem-solving, anger management, and resilience.
• Decrease in out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, chronic truancy and absence, and high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse and gang affiliation