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Youth Development

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MAEC provides youth leadership development through our 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) project which focuses on academics, enrichment, character education, college/career readiness, STEM, Math, English and Language Arts, and mentorship. The 21st CCLCs enables youth to work collaboratively with families, school staff, and community leaders to increase academic achievement and address challenges they face in their daily lives. Youth participate in project based learning, mentorship opportunities, and civic engagement to provide a platform for their concerns and highlight solutions within the communities they reside.


Achievement Linking Innovation, Vision, and Engagement  (ALIVE)

MAEC works with secondary schools to develop proposals for a 21st CCLC grants to fund out-of-school time programs. Our programs deliver academics, enrichment, STEM, mentoring, character education, arts, and family engagement to high-need students in a culturally responsive and supportive environment.

Community Resource Mapping

Since best solutions and ideas often arise within the communities in which our schools are located, our key stakeholders include: districts, schools, communities, and families. Together they are seeking to increase student achievement while building a cadre of future leaders.  Using a strengths-based approach for asset mapping, MAEC conducts community walks and community resource mapping to identify potential strategic partners for effective and efficient delivery of services. This process includes attention to alignment between district and school priorities so, together, partners can build the social and human capital that will help students and staff thrive.

Educational/Cultural Field Trips for Youth and Families

MAEC works with schools to develop educational/cultural field trips for youth and families that promote college and career readiness, STEM and civic responsibility. Past examples of previous trips include: visits to colleges/universities such as Bowie State University, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University; the Congressional Black Caucus,  the Apollo Theatre, the National College Fair and the Independence Seaport Museum of Philadelphia.

ALIVE @ Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School (Montgomery County Public Schools)

ALIVE @ Lee MS provides 25 sixth-graders with academic support in English Language Arts and Math as well as enrichment activities that include: chess and  a variety of strategic games, character education, mentoring, and arts in a project based environment. Families of ALIVE students are also offered opportunities to learn about community resources and provide service learning to the community. ALIVE builds strong partnerships with parents and other family members to support their children's education. ALIVE proudly partners with organizations including Spilling Ink to provide a robust variety of enrichment opportunities for students and families. ALIVE is a 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) funded by the Maryland State Department of Education.

ALIVE @ Dunbar High School (Baltimore City Public Schools)

ALIVE @ Dunbar High School provides 75 students in grades 9-12 with the opportunity to participate in Math and English academic tutoring, STEM, college and career readiness, character education, service learning, youth development, hands-on job training, and other enrichment activities. Families are engaged through author talks, parent/child cultural field trips resource fairs, and workshops designed to meet the needs of the community. ALIVE @ Dunbar proudly partners with: African American Tourism Council, Empowerment Temple Church, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Nursing, Junior Achievement, Kiamsha/Pen or Pencil, and Science Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace (SEMAA) at Morgan State University to provide a dynamic program for our students. This 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) is funded by the Maryland State Department of Education.

ALIVE @ Thurgood Marshall Middle School (Prince George’s County Public Schools)

ALIVE @ TMMS provides 100 students in grades 6-8 with academic support, STEM, chess, character education, mentoring, arts, college/career readiness, health and fitness, and academic tutoring in a project based environment. Families of ALIVE students are also offered opportunities to learn about community resources, financial literacy, receive free GED/ESOL classes, and build strong partnerships with ALIVE and TMMS staff to support their children's education. ALIVE proudly partners with District Heights Family & Student Services, Kiamsha/Pen or Pencil, St. Stephen's Church, Community of Hope Church, Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, Glassmanor/Oxon Hill Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative, and Prince George's Community college to provide a robust variety of enrichment opportunities for students and families. This 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) is funded by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Post Image Building Relationships for Student Success

Part of CEE’s Exploring Equity Issues series, this paper discusses the importance of building relationships with students in schools, classrooms, and out-of-time school programs. It also provides principles and practices that educators have used to build positive relationships and school cultures.  

Building Relationships for Student Success

PART I: RELATIONSHIPS WITH STUDENTS MATTER As the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child concluded in a 2004 report, “relationships engage children in the human  community in ways that help them define who they are, what they become, and how and why they are important to other people.” Or as researchers Junlei Li and Megan Julian have argued, interventions that don’t focus on relationships are as effective as toothpaste without fluoride (Li & Julian, in press). How do you build positive relationships with students in schools, classrooms, and out-of-time school programs? How do these relationships contribute to the overall culture of the learning environment in schools? Why is this particularly important for students who have to overcome challenging childhood experiences? Data show the more positive relationships that students have, the more likely they are to be successful in school and in their lives (Roehlkepartian & Pekel et. al, Science Research, 2017). Again, this is particularly true for our more vulnerable students who may face challenging situations outside of school and need adults at school who can engage and motivate them. Schools are small societies. These small societies are usually under considerable stress because they must perform in the context of many internal and external demands. All too often a sense of siege results and a garrison mentality can arise. One of the pioneers in the sociology of education, Willard Waller, characterized school culture as “a despotism in a state of perilous equilibrium.” But Waller’s vision is too bleak. Schools can be joyful and exciting places to learn if attention is paid to ensuring and promoting healthy relationships among students, teachers, administrators, staff,  families, and the community. The sum total of these relationships is a school’s culture and building them must be a priority. Harvard educator Roland Barth (2002, p.6) once observed, “A school’s culture has far more influence on life and learning in the school house than the president of the country, state department of education, the superintendent, the school board, and even the principal, teachers and parents can ever have.” According to the Great Schools Partnership, the term “school culture”generally refers to the beliefs,perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions. The term also encompasses more concrete issues such as the physical and emotional safety of students, the orderliness of classrooms and public spaces, or the degree to which a school embraces and celebrates racial, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural diversity. The importance of a positive school culture based on health and productive relationships for student success is supported by research. James Coleman and his associates, in particular, brought to public attention the power of positive relationships and school cultures in shaping student achievement. Since their 1981 publication, High School Achievement: Public, Catholic, and Private Schools Compared, the study of school cultures has grown to include the work of other scholars such as Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider (2004), whose study of trust makes it clear that healthy relationships build trust which in turn leads to inclusive and productive learning environments. A school’s culture reveals its underlying ethos and its unspoken assumptions about the value of relationships. These characteristics matter to young people seeking to find themselves and envision a positive future. Capturing this organizational magic in a bottle is not an easy task, but to ignore the cultural DNA of schools is to overlook their potential power to transform lives. Positive relationships which help to build positive school cultures, however, are not ends in themselves. The goal is to create great schools and school systems that unleash human talent by becoming genuine learning communities. As Adams, Ford, and Forsyth (2015) write: Teachers learn and grow from personal and shared reflections of teaching practice. Principals leverage trust and commitment to bring transformative visions to life. Students are motivated and engaged when they relate to instructional materials and find meaning in academic tasks. Learning opportunities expand when schools, families and communities establish relational cohesion. Today the issue of building relationships for student success is critically important. Roughly half the country’s public school students are eligible for free or reduced priced meals. Less than half the students enrolling in public schools today are white. We are a multicultural, multiracial, and multilingual society. We must learn to celebrate differences and work together for the common good. These positive relationships begin at the school house door. What can we do on a practical basis to ensure that we build positive relationships and school cultures so all students succeed? PART II: WHAT CAN WE DO? The elements that contribute to positive relationships and school culture include: building trust, conveying care, stimulating growth, sharing decision making, increasing possibilities (Search Institute, 2017), a safe and supportive environment, effective school leadership, culturally responsive pedagogy and practice, high quality teachers, rigorous instruction, numerous extracurricular activities, staff collaboration, and college and career readiness. The bedrock quality of a positive school culture is the inclusion of family and community. Community is a big concept; inclusion means everyone. Below are some principles and practices that educators have used to build positive relationships and school cultures: ADHERE TO AND INTERNALIZE BASIC PRINCIPLES The first step is a commitment to basic principles including: Relationships with students matter. First and foremost, time, effort, and caring can result in increased student engagement and higher academic achievement. Professional learning opportunities to develop relational skills are vital to creating a positive learning environment. A school’s vision and mission should be based on a co-constructed approach between schools, diverse families, and communities where all cultures are elevated and respected. Differences in culture and language should be seen as assets and funds of knowledge. Policies and practices should be aligned with specific needs of students. It is imperative that program offerings are aligned to teach and assess diverse students, including English Learners, African American, Latino children, and other populations whose academic achievement needs to be addressed to reduce and eliminate the achievement gap. School leaders must set the tone and demonstrate consistent commitment to inclusion and mutual respect. Leadership is essential to the success of building a positive school culture. Successful school leadership requires both modeling and implementing practices that include the whole community in decision making. Teachers need embedded professional learning opportunities to empower them to act as agents of change. On-going culturally competent professional development enables teachers to learn skills and receive support as needed. POSITIVE SCHOOL CULTURES INCLUDE FAMILY AND COMMUNITY We know there are certain policies and practices which increase learning for all students and promote inclusive and supportive school cultures. Here are some suggestions: Communicate regularly with families, community, and the public. All positive relationships are based on open and honest communication. No one in a school should feel silenced.  Communicate positive information about students to their families. Build on identified family resources and their funds of knowledge. This will help create authentic engagement to increase and sustain academic achievement (e.g. home visiting programs). Revise or refine the school’s discipline code with student and family input Emphasize understanding and reconciliation rather than punishment. Reflection is critically important for creating positive relationships. By embracing diversity and, by recognizing the worth of all people, schools can change from the inside-out in a genuine organic way and become nurturing environments where positive relationships develop and thrive. And students develop and thrive. Written by Peter W. Cookson, Jr. - Principal Researcher, American Institutes for Research. Edited by Susan Shaffer - President, MAEC REFERENCES Adams, C., Ford T. & Forsyth P. (2015). Next generation school accountability: A report commissioned by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Tulsa, OK: The Oklahoma Center for Education Policy & the Center for Educational Research and Evaluation. Bryk, A. S. & Schneider, B. (2004). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York: The Russell Sage Foundation. Barth, R. S. (2002). The culture builder. Educational Leadership, 59 (8), 6–11. Coleman, J. S., Hoffer, T., & Kilgore, S. (1981). High school achievement: Public, Catholic and private schools compared. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center. Li, J., & Julian, M. M. (2012). Developmental relationships as the active ingredient: A unifying working hypothesis of “what works” across intervention settings. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82(2), 157–166. doi10.1111/J.1939-0025.2012.01151.X National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2004). Young children develop in an environment of relationships. Working Paper No. 1. Cambridge, MA: National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Retrieved from Roehlkepartain, E. C., Pekel, K., Syvertsen, A. K., Sethi, J., Sullivan, T. K., & Scales, P. C. (2017). Relationships First: Creating Connections that Help Young People Thrive. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute. Search Institute. (2017, May). The developmental relationships framework. Retrieved from  

Download: Exploring Equity - Building Relationships with Students

Post Image Identity and African American Youth

This piece, part of the Addressing Critical Equity Issues series, discusses the importance of sustaining positive influences during the adolescence of African American and provides best practices on how this can be done.

Identity and African American Youth

From the standpoint of child development, adolescence is a time when children begin to discover and define themselves. Expectations based on “mainstream norms” can have a dichotomous impact on this stage of self‐ development in African American children and youth (Gullan et al, 2011). Influences on identity development in African American children can be positively mediated through a strong family foundation and community ties. African American parents and extended family members are instrumental in helping children to develop a positive self‐concept and racial identity through racial socialization, and preparation of children to grow into adult roles and responsibilities (Gullan et al, 2011;Hill & Chao, 2009; Hughes et al., 2006). However, as children become adolescents, they inevitably spend more hours of the day and week in a variety of environments away from such positive influences (DeCuir‐ Gunby, 2009).This can affect the degree to which such positive influences are internalized and sustained. As girls and boys transition to and from their home and community environments, they are exposed to a variety of factors that impact their identity development. Such factors include: (1) interactions with female and male peers (Tatum, 1997); (2) the ways in which they relate to their parents and family members as they grapple with simultaneous needs for independence and dependence; (3) exposure to the plethora of African American male and female images portrayed in print material and the media (Gooding, 2010); and (4) the underlying context of race relations based on the history of racial groups in this country (Bonner, et al, 2009 Thomas, Hoxha, & Hacker, 2012). The intersection of these factors can have a profound effect on how children and youth see themselves or experience their sense of self. Boys and girls growing up African American in 21st century society face the covert reality that they live in a nation entrenched in a long history that has marginalized the race into which they were born (Singleton, 2006, Tatum, 1997). Integration of a positive adult identity can be a unique challenge for African American teenagers because they learn from a young age, that at different times in American history, their race has carried a negative social stigma based on the color of their skin (Takaki, 1989; Tatum, 1997).  Racism remains a powerful presence in American society. Although overt acts of racism have shifted since the early decades of this country’s history, the impact of privilege based on one’s race persists as a prevailing construct in American society (Helms, 1990; Lindsey, Martinez, & Lindsey 2009; Singleton, 2006; Takaki, 1989). The residue from this socio‐political reality can impede African American youth from experiencing identity development free of misconceived self‐perceptions (Irving &  Hudley 2008; Nieto & Bode, 2011; Singleton 2007). The pressure of challenging the predominant societal myth of being an African American male or female can result in a range of paths to identity development. African American adolescents may opt to choose a ‘race less’ identity (Harris & Marsh, 2010), suppress the desire to achieve because being smart is associated with ‘being white’ (Toldson & Owens, 2010), exhibit oppositional behavior (Ogbu, 2003), isolate themselves socially and/or find it hard to focus on achieving in school (Bonner, 2009; Coakley, et al., 2011). These counterproductive indicators should not be ignored, but rather recognized, understood and balanced with alternative outlooks and role models whose experience and background they can relate to (Derek et al, 2009). African American youth who have a more balanced sense of self are more likely to stay grounded, confident and resilient. It is essential for educators and parents to become authentically attuned to this generation’s experience of what it is like to ‘come into being’ as an African American male or female adolescent. This calls for adult awareness of and sensibility to the scope and significance that identity development holds for 21st century African American youth (Cooper, 2002; Steen, 2009.) All children have a right to come into their own surrounded, in each of their environments, by adults who acknowledge, affirm and encourage identity development that is positive, balanced and healthy. (Boykin, Noguera, 2011; Gullan et al, 2011). Such capacity positions adults to evolve as reliable advocates in the lives of African American youth. As a result, their process of identity development will enable them to take advantage of opportunities for productive growth and lead them to high quality life choices PROMISING PRACTICES
  • Boiana, J.; Munwah, L.(2009). If These Halls Could Talk‐ Workshop Series; If These Halls Could Talk is a groundbreaking program developed by John Boiano and Lee Mun Wah, where students gather in small groups to discuss their personal concerns about their identity development, emotional outlook and physical safety as they deal with bullying as it relates to classism, racism, sexism, heterosexism and violence in school. The workshops focus on positive social skills and role modeling, personal accountability, and the exploration of how our biases, and stereotypes affect our perceptions and relationships with each other.
  • Gooding, F., (2011). You Mean There’s Race in My Movie? The Complete Instructor’s Guide for Understanding Race in Hollywood. Fredrick Gooding Jr., founder of The Minority Reporter website, asserts that mainstream movies can have a strong cultural impact, particularly regarding the perpetuation of racial imagery and how Americans relate around notions of race. This interactive multi‐media discussion goes “behind the scenes” to explore the ways in which minority images are consciously created, manipulated, and distributed to audiences around the globe.
  • Munwah, L.(2009). If These Halls Could Talk: Part One and Part Two – The Educational Film Series; In the summers of 2010 and 2011, Director, Lee Mun Wah brought together eleven racially diverse college students from around the country to answer questions about their identity development and the challenges of coping with racism on a college campus. In the process of sharing their stories and different life experiences with each other, they discover and expose the complexity and anguish that accompany those experiences, while trying to be understood and validated in a predominantly white environment.
  • Gullan, R.L., College, G.M., Hoffman, B.N. et al. (2011). I Do, But I Don’t: The Search for Identity in Urban African Americans. Perspectives on Urban Education, Spring 2011.
  • Derek M.; Ward, N.; Potts, R.; Boyd, E. (2009) Mentoring Urban Black Middle School Male Students: Implications for Academic Achievement. Journal of Negro Education, 78(3).
  •  Floyd, N.E. (2009). Identity and Achievement: A Depth Psychology Approach to Student Development. Small Group Research 2010 41: 71.
  •  Steen, S. (2009) Group Counseling for African American Elementary Students: An Exploratory Study. The Journal of Specialists for Group Work 34(2) 101–117.
  • Bonner II, F.A.; Lewis, C.A.; Bowman‐Perrott, L.; Hill‐Jackson, V.; James, M.(2009). Definition, Identification, Identity, and Culture: A Unique Alchemy Impacting the Success of Gifted African American Millennial Males in School. Journal for the Education of the Gifted. 33:176–202.
  • Brittian, A.S. (2012) Understanding Adolescents’ Identity Development: A Relational Developmental Systems Perspective. Journal of Black Psychology 38(2) 172‐ 200.
  •  Cokley, K.; McClain, S.; Jones, M.; Johnson, S. (2011). A Preliminary Investigation of Academic Disidentification, Racial Identity, and Academic Achievement among African American Adolescents. The University of North Carolina Press 54‐68.  DeCuir‐Gunby, J.T. (2009) A Review of the Racial Identity Development of African American Adolescents: The Role of Education. Review of Educational Research, 79(1) 103–124  Harris, A.L., Marsh, K. (2010). Is a Raceless Identity an Effective Strategy for Academic Success Among Blacks? Social Science Quarterly, 91(5), 1242‐1263
  •  Hughes, D.; Rodriguez, J. ; Smith. E.; Johnson, D.; Stevenson,H.; Spicer, P.(2006). Parents’ Ethnic– Racial Socialization Practices: A Review of Research and Directions for Future Study. Developmental Psychology 42 (5), 747–770.
  •  Irving, M.A., Hudley, C. (2008). Cultural Identification and Academic Achievement among African American Males. Journal of Advanced Academics, 19(4): 676‐698.
  • Thomas, A.; Hoxha, D.; Hacker, D. (2012). Contextual Influences on Gendered Racial Identity Development of African American Young Women. Journal of Black Psychology, XX(X) 1–14.
  • Toldson, I.A., Owens, D. (2010). Editor’s Comment: "Acting Black": What Black Kids Think About Being Smart and Other School‐related Experiences. The Journal of Negro Education 79 (2), 91 ‐96
  • Boykin, A. W. and Noguera, P. (2011) Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving from Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  •  Cooper, P. (2002). Does race matter? A Comparison of Effective Black and White Teachers of African American Students. In J. Jordan Irvine (Ed.), In Search of Wholeness: African American Teachers and their Specific Classroom Practices. (pp. 47‐63). New York: Palgrave.
  • Helms, J.E.(Ed.)(1990) Black and White Racial Identity: Theory Research and Practice. Westport CT. Greenwood.
  • Hill, N. E. and Chao, R. K (Eds.) (2009). Families, Schools, and the Adolescent: Connecting Research, Policy, and Practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Lindsey, D. B.; Martinez, R.S.; Lindsey, R.B. (2007). Culturally Proficient Coaching: Supporting Educators to Create Equitable Schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  • Nieto, S.; Bode, P. (2011). Affirming Diversity: The Socio‐Political Context of Multicultural Education‐6th Edition, Allyn & Bacon.
  • Ogbu, J. U. (2003). Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A study of academic Disengagement. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  •  Singleton, G.E.; Linton, C. (2006). Courageous conversations about race: a field guide to achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oakes, CA: Corwin Press.
  •  Takaki, R. (1989). A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. Boston: Little Brown.  Tatum, B.D. (1997) “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And other conversations about race. New York: Harper Collins.

Download: Identity and African American Youth

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