The mission of the Teen After-School Program at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs (HLCCTL) is that through the integration of technology, arts and enterprise, we will provide education and employment opportunities for youth so that the entire community will benefit. The goals of the Teen Program include enhancements focused not only on academic goals, but also specifically on college preparation and employment training for neighborhood youth.
The Education Enrichment Specialist works one-on-one with each student to develop their academic goal plan, providing a structured focus for students on planning for college in all the work they do throughout the year.
Students experience a college-like atmosphere through the implementation of learning tracks, which give students an idea of the structure of the college academic system (semesters, major, and transcripts). Learning tracks are simulated college majors infused with arts and technology and are comprised of one to three classes per week. The following tracks and corresponding classes are: 1) VocTech Track (Culinary Arts & Public Speaking); 2) Performing Arts (Drama, Film, and Music Performance); 3) Junior Music Executive (Music Business, Journalism, and Digital Music); 4) Mock Trial (Mock Trial and Public Speaking); 5) Digital Connectors (focusing on hardware and software engineering); 6) Entrepreneurs (creating a record label, recording a CD, collaborating with the film class to create a music video, developing an application course for iPad and iPod; and 7) Cross Bridge Scholars (technology and current events program in conjunction with students from Episcopal Academy).
Student projects include: How can music be used to heal the community? How to create and market a new record label and originally written songs? How to use video to effectively tell a story and portray your view of contemporary issues affecting youth today? How to cook and understand the culture of a variety of nationalities? How can we use photography as a tool to understand where we are now and what we would like to become?
Our project-based learning model taught through these learning tracks strengthen academic skills through the integration of core standards that students must achieve in order to be considered "college ready." Students also strengthen skills through the following supplementary classes/activities: seminars (basic math, reading and writing); tutoring; vocabulary training using word association; study skills sessions, mock SAT sessions; and web-based educational software such as ACHIEVE 3000 and KHAN academy programs.
We create a quarterly Student Showcase of the students' work and invite mentors, teachers, parents and family members to attend. Students present what they learn every ten weeks, providing youth with the opportunity to perform dramatic acts, present court cases, cook meals, screen their film segments, and perform musically. These showcases are a great opportunity to connect the students' families to the community (by being able to serve dinner thanks to this grant), as well as introduce the program to younger siblings. As the Trustees of the Foundation saw at one such showcase in March, there is a wide range of student work - from acting, to cooking, to digital arts (including music, video, and photography), to mock trial, to dance). At the end of the ten week cycle, students receive evaluations/transcripts to let them know how they are progressing.
Students also benefit from a focus on partnering with other groups that focus on healthy lifestyles, such as through a running team (Students Run Philly) and the implementation of the Farmer's Market and the Urban Garden (partnering with Rittenhouse Square, Urban Tree Connection, and Marathon Grill gardeners) to provide produce to this under-served community.
Vital academic and Technology partnerships include: continuation of our partnership with Episcopal Academy in the Cross Bridges Scholars Program; Gwynedd-Mercy College, which provided a Summer Reading program, pairing Reading Specialists with students for 25 hours of one-on-one individual tutoring; a partnership with the Blues Babe Foundation, which provided college and financial aid workshops for students and parents; Digital Connectors, a partnership between One Economy and Comcast, which taught students how to fix computers and assist people in the community with technology issues. Students also became first level Cisco Certified and are now able to effectively revive operating systems, as well as learn basic software development.
Our goal is to build youth employment skills and increase college readiness because these are the keys to a promising future - and the key to preventing homelessness for those most at risk. We know it works when we see our students getting ready to graduate and move on to college.
This year we saw our first student graduate from college. She was a member of our high school Teen Program who entered college in 2008. She lives with her family as a resident in one of our organization's permanent supportive housing shelters for homeless persons. Upon graduation from college she thanked our donors and support staff who made obtaining a college degree possible.