Girls’ Leadership Development Program Aims to Increase Persistence

The Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers awarded a one-year $25,000 Social Emotional Learning grant to YES Prep to form The Girls’ Leadership Development Project. The Girls’ Leadership Development Program is intended to reduce suspensions and increase persistence for African American girls. As part of the program, the 24 selected girls will learn social emotional skills and become stronger leaders on their campus.

“We studied districtwide discipline data and student survey responses and realized we need to improve preventative supports amongst girls,” said Kawana Coulon, Manager of YES Prep’s Student Support Counseling Program.

CASEL's WheelThe program is being piloted at the White Oak campus for the grant-term and uses the “train-the-trainer” model so that the participants can then teach others what they learned. The following sessions have been offered or will be offered in the spring semester:

  • Self-awareness
    • Students learned about adolescent development, health, and wellness in a session facilitated by Legacy Community Health.
  • Self-management
    • Students learned about restorative justice and practiced restorative circles with girls and administrators from YES Prep Northbrook High School.
  • Responsible decision-making
    • Women’s Resource of Greater Houston will be offering a session on financial literacy and college readiness on February 21st.
  • Relationship skills
    • Students will view and discuss the themes of friendship, female empowerment, and achievement in the Hidden Figures movie on March 7th.
  • Social Awareness
    • The Girls’ Leadership Development Project will host women’s empowerment panel, comprised of African American female community members who are working in professions relevant to the girls’ interests and SEL topic addressed.
  • Culminating Girls’ Conference
    • The participating White Oak girls will host a conference to teach girls from other campuses what they learned throughout the year.

The program demonstrates innovation by including a teacher and parent educational component. Teachers and student support leaders on campus receive information about what the girls are learning and tips for helping to reinforce the skills inside and outside the classroom. Likewise, there will be a session at the culminating conference where parents can learn to support the leadership of their girls and hear about summer leadership opportunities.

“We hope that this will increase the parents’ investment in the campus as well. If they see what is offered to support their students, they are more likely to stay and perhaps get involved,” said Coulon.

The grant’s success will be measured using a combination of student survey results as well as attendance, disciplinary, and persistence data provided by the Analytics team. While the grant only lasts one year and applies to just one campus, Coulon hopes that the program can continue.

“We’re hoping that these young ladies can serve as ambassadors and support the development of sessions for next year. They could possibly co-facilitate with community partners and serve as mentors for girls at other campuses,” said Coulon.

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