CPDC and Communities Together. Growing and Thriving (2011 – Present)
Tribute# 17 – Our New Community Building Model: Encouraging Positive Educational Outcomes for School-Aged Children
Michael was a loud, seemingly disrespectful, and disruptive 5th grader who was always getting into trouble and picking fights with the other kids in his neighborhood. Michael lives in a community in Southeast, Washington, DC, where there are high rates of crime and drug activity and where negative behavior is glorified by many who live in and hang around his block. In some regards, Michael could be described as a product of his environment. Far too often, children like Michael – if not given the proper guidance, attention, and resources – grow up perpetuating many of the bad habits and behaviors they see around them. CPDC helped Michael by providing him and his family with access to the resources they needed to encourage positive educational and other outcomes in his life.
Through initiatives like the Backpack Buddies Mentoring Program, CPDC is bringing a range of age-appropriate resources directly to its communities. Backpack Buddies is a summer mentoring program offered at CPDC’s Cedar Heights community, among other sites. The program is administered through The Backpack Project, Inc., a local non-profit devoted to addressing the educational supply needs of children by providing new backpacks, school supplies, school uniforms, reading books, writing journals, and mentoring programs for children in the District of Columbia. The Backpack Project, Inc. concentrates on three key areas of focus: 1) increasing reading and writing skills; 2) exposing children to cultural, educational, and recreational events outside of their neighborhoods; and 3) providing a community of support for entire family units.
While backpacks are an entrée into the program, the organization’s founder understands that getting parents to access these supplies allows program staff to have deeper conversations that get at the heart of the barriers facing both the parents and their children.
“The Backpack Project, Inc. allows me to positively influence children in need of encouragement and support,” said Cassandra Jackson, founder of The Backpack Project, Inc. “We show them a bigger world, a world in which they too can live and thrive regardless of where they come from. I started The Backpack Project, Inc. to make a difference in the lives of children.”
In the case of Michael, programs like these make all the difference.
“Michael was a real challenge for us. However, by actively listening to what he was going through and by providing one-to-one coaching, we realized that Michael was a natural born leader waiting for an opportunity and an outlet to express himself,” explained Jackson.
Throughout the program, Michael and the other 25 children learned about etiquette; took part in interactive discussions on anti-bullying; participated in field trips; and had exposure to a range of activities and lessons that challenged them intellectually, physically, and emotionally.
Before exposure to the mentoring program, consultant and Life Coach Cynthia Wynn described many of the children as “boxed” thinkers.
“They couldn’t see past their immediate circle or their neighborhood,” said Wynn. “They viewed the world from the small ‘box’ in which they lived, played, and grew up.”
By the end of the program, Michael was described by both founder and coach as inquisitive, yet well-behaved. In fact, he was using his leadership and persuasive skills to positively influence other kids in the program. Michael walked away from the experience with school supplies, a uniform, and a “toolbox” of resources he needed to support his academic and personal success. CPDC continues to support Michael and other youth in its communities through ongoing initiatives that encourage them to grow and thrive.
Michael is a fictitious name that was given to one of the program participants to protect his identify.