Fall 2014 Street Scholars Hits the Ground Running!

4 Oct

It’s been a successful start of the Fall semester for the Street Scholars Team.  After three weeks of recruiting students throughout the Merritt College campus, on September 9 we had our open house.  Twenty-five students stopped by the Street Scholars office to learn more about the program, enjoy some snacks, and participate in a raffle for four text book vouchers and two bags of school supplies.  Funding for the book vouchers was donated by Merritt College Student Services and the Cal Armed Forces Alumni Association. On September 16, the Street Scholars Peer Mentoring Program started in earnest and we have twelve students regularly attending our group sessions and participating in one-to-one peer mentoring.  Not too shabby!  Watch this blog for more exciting updates from the Street Scholars.

Hakeem, Yema, and Earthy ready to greet our new scholars.

Hakeem, Yema, and Earthy ready to greet our new scholars.

 

Scholars, Maharwart and Tony

Scholars, Maharwart and Tony

Hakeem and Lorenzo

Hakeem and Lorenzo

Earthy and Stephanie

Earthy and Stephanie

Ron, Teresa, and Jonathan

Ron, Teresa, and Jonathan

Thanks the Cal Armed Forces Alumni Association and the NAACP!

21 Aug
From left to right: George Holland, Sr., of Holland and Associates; Raymond Banks of the Cal Armed Forces Alumni Association; and Ron Moss, Street Scholars Team Leader and Cal Student.

From left to right: George Holland, Sr., of Holland and Associates; Raymond Banks of the Cal Armed Forces Alumni Association; and Ron Moss, Street Scholars Team Leader and Cal Student.

This month TGI’s Street Scholars program was pleased to receive a $1000 contribution from the Cal Armed Forces Alumni Association and the NAACP.  The funds will be used to provide stipends to the six street scholars enrolled in our leadership training program and who are working towards transferring to UC Berkeley. This funding is important because it supports our hard working scholars. It also expands our capacity serve more students and encourage their transfer to UCB.

Thank you Ray and George!  We are so grateful for your support. It is making a real difference in the lives of TGI’s Street Scholars!

Today’s Summer Scholars are Tomorrow’s Leaders!

20 Aug
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Our Summer Scholars, now TGI Leaders-in-Training, from left to right: Hakeem Holmes, George McGhee, Lajuana Prince, Tony Thomas, Jonathan Roach, and Derrick Foster

As Summer 2014 comes to a close, TGI celebrates the six stalwart scholars who participated in our Summer Scholars program.  These fabulous individuals worked hard all summer long and created the fantastic student information guide, “Everything You Wanted To Know About Becoming a Peralta College Student But Were Afraid to Ask!”.  This guide provides information all students need to know about enrolling in classes, financial aid, and student services.  This information is often presented at the front of the college catalogue in confusing language and very small print.  The Summer Scholars re-wrote this information in clear and simple language in a larger print and included wonderful photos making this guide both useful and easy on the eyes.  The guide they created is important because much of the information included is critical to a student’s successful matriculation into college.  It is also a fantastic promotional piece to raise awareness about the Street Scholars program. We are distributing the guide to any student that would like one.  A special thanks to Dr. Love of Merritt College for underwriting the first 400 copies!

What’s next for our Summer Scholars?  We are keeping them, of course!  They are our “leaders-in-training” and are learning about program development, peer mentoring processes, and research. We are excited to be able to work with them over the Fall semester.  Thanks to a generous contribution from the Cal Armed Forces Alumni Association, we are able to provide stipends to each scholar for their efforts and participation in the Street Scholars program.

 

Street Scholars Summer: Fun (and productivity) in the Sun!

23 Jul

It has been quite some time since our last blog post! Since September 2013 Street Scholars has continued to progress and grow.  The Street Scholars Peer Mentoring Team finished its first semester at Merritt College. We had 19 students enroll in the program and 11 (57%) of our students completed the semester with no failing grades, no drug or alcohol relapses, and rearrests or reincarcerations. Congratulations to the Street Scholars team and the wonderful students who participated in our first semester!

This summer we are particularly excited because six students who took part in our Spring 2014 program are now involved in the Summer 2014 program.  These fabulous students, Derrick Foster, Hakeem Holmes, George McGhee, Lajuana Prince, Jonathan Roach, and Tony Thomas, are working hard on an information guide for new Merritt College students.  The guide has information on everything an incoming student needs to know about enrollment, registration, fees, and financial aid.  AND, it’s in plain and easy-to-read English!  The Summer Scholars are also evaluating the Street Scholars program and helping us refine and improve it for the Fall 2014 semester.  Once school begins, they will start mentoring students as well.  Wow! We are so thrilled to have these fantastic, intelligent individuals as part of the Street Scholars team! Thank you Summer Scholars!

At our last meeting on July 22, we were happy to have The Gamble Institute (TGI) Board Member, Carolee Gearhart, come for a visit. Carolee has served on TGI’s Board of Directors since 2012 and has helped guide and grow the organization.  During her visit the team shared with Carolee the work they have been doing over the summer and their hopes for the Street Scholars program going forward. Carolee graciously offered to be available to the Street Scholars team for resume reviews, mock interviews, and career advice.  Carolee’s expertise will help us grow the “workplace readiness” aspect of our program which is important for helping students use their education to their best advantage.

We want to thank the faculty and staff of the Land Horticulture site at Merritt for allowing us to hold our meetings there. It is a lovely spot, perfect for enjoying the summer weather and getting  work done and everyone there is so welcoming! Thank you!

This summer has been so rewarding and the fall promises to be even more so!

 

tony marcus lajuana george yema

Summer Scholars, Tony, Lajuana and George, with Marcus and Yema

 

 

TGI Board Member, Carolee Gearhart, pays us a visit. From left to right: Ron Moss, Michaela Simmons, Derrick Foster, Hakeem Holmes, Carolee Gearhart

TGI Board Member, Carolee Gearhart, pays us a visit. From left to right: Ron Moss, Michaela Simmons, Derrick Foster, Hakeem Holmes, Carolee Gearhart

A grape vine. One of the many fruits and vegetables grown at Merritt's Land Horticulture Site.

A grape vine. One of the many fruits and vegetables grown at Merritt’s Land Horticulture Site.

STREET SCHOLARS GETS FUNDED!

7 Oct

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The Streets Scholars Leadership was thrilled to receive a $130,118 grant from the Alameda County Innovations in Reentry program.  The funds will be used for an 18-month pilot study of our Street Scholars Peer Mentoring Program for formerly incarcerated students enrolled in Merritt College.  There were 48 applicants and only nine programs chosen so The Gamble Institute is both honored and ecstatic that Street Scholars was chosen for funding. 

During the next three months we will be busy ramping up for the project which will start January 2014.  We intend to enroll 25 students and will work with them over the 2014 academic year.  Our outcomes include: 1) completion of two semesters with no failing grades or incomplete courses; 2) regular participation in recovery-related activities; and 3) decreased recidivism.  We will also be examining the process of how these students manage the challenges of school and how higher education impacts drug and alcohol recovery and reintegration.

We began our preparation for January 2014 with a fabulous training by Stefani DeVito, LCSW and Director of Merritt College’s Student Health Services.  Stefani educated us on the basics of counseling, e.g. listen more than you talk and it’s not about you, it’s about the student (excellent advice!), and we soaked it up.  We were inspired by Stefani’s warmth, intelligence, and compassion. Stefani will be meeting with the Street Scholars Leadership Team regularly to discuss the challenges and successes of working as peer mentors.  We are looking forward to more time with Stefani!

Below are some pics from our training.

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Three Months of Productivity!

16 Jun

Since our last post, the Street Scholars Leadership Team has been busy, productive, and successful.  Let’s start with the most recent news.

DATA COLLECTION IS COMPLETE!

During the months of April and May, the Street Scholar Leaders conducted four focus groups and six individual interviews with current and former Merritt College students.  The Street Scholar Leaders asked participants about their experiences entering college after being incarcerated and how school impacted their drug and alcohol use and reintegration. The focus group and interview participants shared their challenges and successes as well as how peer support helped them through school and with establishing a healthy and peaceful life for themselves in the community.

The team is hard at work analyzing the data but so far the results from this study show that school helps recovery, reduces criminal behavior, and enhances self-esteem. Our findings also suggest that the challenges to academic success are both practical, e.g. poor study habits, and emotional, e.g. feelings of failure at not being able to meet the demands of school, but, support from peers encourages academic success.  To tempt you further about our exciting forthcoming results, here are two narratives that demonstrate the impact of school on criminal behavior and the importance of peer mentoring!

Narrative 1. Really, I just came up here [to Merritt College] just to have something else to do…and then once I started, I start liking what I was doing…school helped me because, right now, I could be in the streets grinding, selling dope, but I choose not to because I want to stay in school and finish what I started…I’m majoring in Community Social Service…school really helped me, because I’m a in-the-streets type of cat, you know?  And…it keeps me out of the street.

Narrative 2. When I first came here [to Merritt] — lost — I was sitting at the computer in the career center trying to pick my classes, and I can’t even remember the last time I sat in front of a computer. It had to be at least 12 years. And this dude walked up to me and said, “What you trying to do, get your life together?” “Yeah, I am really!” And that’s what I said! At first, it kind of shocked me, because this dude kind of big…And he gave me the game…And now it’s like you wouldn’t believe — in 18 months…now it’s like I’ve got my home here. And that dude was Ron [one of the Street Scholars Leadership Team]. That’s what peer mentoring is.

We are excited about what is coming from this data and plan to be finished with our analysis by the end of the summer. Below are some pics of the Street Scholars Leaderhship Team in analytic action!

Marcus hard at work.

Marcus hard at work.

Victoria and Earthy have a cerebral moment.

Victoria and Earthy have a cerebral moment.

Ron deep in thought.

Ron deep in thought.

OUR NEXT STEPS

On June 14, 2013 we a had fantastic meeting at the beautiful Merritt College Landhorticultural Site.  We continued our analytic work and later two of The Gamble Institute’s (TGI) Board of Directors, Peter Small and Thomas Tartaro, joined the meeting to discuss the development of the Street Scholars model and program.  Peter and Thomas gave valuable input into the process of developing an “Owner’s Manual” that will be used as our guide for providing mentoring and training future Street Scholars mentors in how to do the work.  TGI is fortunate to have a hands-on board of directors that is committed to seeing TGI and the Street Scholars program grow.  We will be working on the “Street Scholars Owner’s Manual” over the summer and plan to have a complete version by the end of the summer.

In addition to some heavy discussion about the Street Scholars program, we also celebrated Ron Moss’s acceptance into UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare WITH a full scholarship no less!  Way to go, Ron! We are so proud of you! We love you!

TGI board members, Peter Small (on left) and Thomas Tartaro (on right) in discussion with the Street Scholars.

TGI board members, Peter Small (on left) and Thomas Tartaro (on right) in discussion with the Street Scholars.

Celebrating Ron's success!

Celebrating Ron’s success!

Earthy blowing his heart out!

Earthy blowing his heart out!

Victoria's in a celebrating kind of way!

Victoria’s in a celebrating kind of way!

THE GAMBLE INSTITUTE AND THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF MERRITT COLLEGE HOST “HERMAN’S HOUSE”

On April 24, 2013, thanks to the tireless efforts of Ron Moss, TGI and the Associated Students of Merritt College (ASMC) hosted a free screening of the documentary, “Herman’s House”, about Herman Wallace who has been in solitary confinement in Angola Prison for more than 40 years.  The film follows the relationship between Herman Wallace, a man who founded a Black Panther Party chapter in Angola Prison (a true feat of activism), and Jackie Sumell, an artist who wanted to help Herman build his “dream house”.  The film addresses the injustices Herman faced and continues to face in solitary confinement, the importance of creative social action, and the transformative nature of friendship even in the most henious conditions.

More than 200 students and teachers were in attendance and the film was followed by a panel of educators, artists, and activists (including TGI!) who took questions from the audience about the inhumanity of the prison industrial complex and how education, social action, and creative action can create necessary and positive change – though, panelists and audience members alike agreed, we need A LOT MORE education and action, if we are to topple the correctional industry.

Ron Moss, the event's planner, and Dr. William Love, Merritt College Professor

Ron Moss, the event’s planner, and Dr. William Love, Merritt College Professor

Victoria speaks to the audience about Street Scholars.

Victoria speaks to the audience about Street Scholars.

Yema testifies to the inhumanity of the prison industrial complex.

Yema testifies to the inhumanity of the prison industrial complex.

A participant asks a question.

A participant asks a question.

Students in conversation with the panelists.

Students in conversation with the panelists.

STREET SCHOLARS CONTINUES ITS SCHOLARSHIP.

On April 2, 2013, the Street Scholars Leadership Team engaged 20 University of San Francisco Masters in Public Health Students in a Socratic Dialogue about bias and judgment in the health care industry. Their talk focused on how our biases and judgments as health care providers affects the care we provide to formerly incarcerated adults.  Using the Socratic process of shared inquiry, the Street Scholars led the students through clinical vignettes that allowed them explore to their judgments and preconcieved notions of people, particularly the formerly incarcerated. The students felt safe enough to share deeply held beliefs and through the group dialogue could examine those beliefs and come to new understandings of them.  It was an incredibly moving class and many of the students stated it was one the best classes they had had as part of their graduate program (GO TGI!).

Elizabeth was particularly proud of the Street Scholars as they tackled the philosophical components of the program – the Heideggarian Concept of the Person and Shared Inquiry – and made themselves vulnerable about their own histories of incarceration and addiction. This class is part of an educational and research project the Street Scholars are doing in collaboration with Dr. Meera Nosek of University of San Francisco. A paper describing the first phase of this project is currently under review with the journal, ” Nursing Philosophy”. We anticipate publication later this year.

Earthy is phenomenology all the way down!

Earthy is phenomenology all the way down!

Ron is a master of Shared Inquiry.

Ron is a master of Shared Inquiry.

Earthy in conversation with a USF student.

Earthy in conversation with a USF student.

PHEW! That’s a lot of good stuff!  Stay tuned for more later this summer!

Springing into Spring!

16 Mar

The peer mentoring team has sprung into spring with all kinds of productivity!  First, let’s congratulate the group on it’s new, improved, and super cool name: “Street Scholars”.  The name reflects our committment to intellectual development and academic success as pathways out of poverty, incarceration, and substance abuse, that’s the “scholars” part.  Our new name also honors the knowledge and experience that comes from the streets and the communities in which our sisters and brothers live. It’s a powerful combination – the wisdom of the streets with the mind-altering experience of education. So, no more peer mentors! We are Street Scholars on a mission to find, embrace, and support other Street Scholars in their effort to develop intellectually, professionally, and personally. And if that isn’t shared inquiry, we don’t know what is!

The Street Scholars team is now in the second phase of its year-long project to develop an academic support program for formerly incarcerated adults enrolled in Merritt College. We are conducting focus groups with formerly incarcerated Merritt College students to learn about the challenges and facilitating factors to being successful in school. Ron and Earthy completed the first focus group on March 8 and the team will conduct at least 2 more focus groups with students.  We will then analyze the data during the months of April and May and develop a framework for delivering the Street Scholars program to all formerly incarcerated students at Merritt. We are excited about the findings from this program and their potential implications for better serving the formerly incarcerated student body at Merritt and eventually, the other Peralta Colleges.

On February 13, Street Scholars, Yema Lee, Ron Moss, Myron Turner, and Earthy Young, truly were scholars when they presented their work to a group of graduate students in Dr. Heidi Ballard’s Community-Based Participatory Research class at U.C. Davis.  The group discussed the challenges and benefits of building a community-based research project from the ground up.  They shared their insights on the importance of community-based research projects for developing relevant and effective services and as an intervention for community members in and of itself.  We also talked about the role of the academic researcher in the community-based research process and the varied ways that researchers can connect and work meaningfully with community members to tackle and change big problems, like high recidivism rates. The ninety minutes we spent with the U.C. Davis students went far too fast! We are forever grateful to Dr. Ballard for inviting us and for the delicious lunch afterwards!

See the pics from this incredible day below:

Talking with the U.C. Davis students

Talking with the U.C. Davis students

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Earthy making a point.

6 Yema tells it like it is 2 021313

Yema tells it like it is.

7 After the class with Dr. Ballard 021313

After the class with Dr. Ballard.

8 After the class with Dr. Marlow 021313

After the class with Dr. Marlow

1 Academic Surge 021313

The academic star power of the Street Scholars team.