Project Rousseau Carleton College & Prairie Island Reservation

A Peacemaking Project by Alistair S.

What is the injustice we are solving?

This project will address educational disadvantage in a marginalized Native American community.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of educational disadvantage among communities of color
we will address a lack of access to higher educational opportunities and mentorship
by providing mentoring to Native American students and access to our college prep program.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • Provide continued mentorship to the 15 Native American students who are currently working with our mentors.
  • Work with students to build their academic performance, college applications, extracurricular activities, and standardized test preparation, resulting in marked progress in the next semester.
  • Launch community service program with students at an assisted living home near their high school.
  • Give students at least 2 opportunities each semester to participate in out-of-state and international field trips.

We will increase my / our compassion by...

By reaching out to as many Red Wing students as possible, we will seek to support those students who are hardest to reach by recruiting those most in need for our mentorship program. We will ensure mentors are well-equipped to be compassionate and capable supporters of our students. We will establish an excellent relationship with the staff of Red Wing High School to help us understand students' needs from those who know them best. We will ensure that students have regular opportunities to give feedback to their mentors, to help us better understand their needs, and to inform more productive training. We will also research and explore the benefits of multicultural mentorship and education, to ensure that our mentoring and academic programs are conducted in a culturally responsive way.

How will you show courage?

We will make sure we are available to students at Red Wing High School whenever they need our support. This includes making frequent trips to Red Wing from Carleton for in-person mentoring and support sessions, alongside ensuring that mentors reach out to their mentees every week, making themselves available as peer resources. Mentors will commit to at least 2 hours per week as a Project Rousseau volunteer, showing courage by going above and beyond to ensure that Red Wing students feel supported in achieving their goals. From academic tutoring over Skype, to advice over Facebook, through to in-person discussions and college prep, Project Rousseau mentors will be courageous, consistent and committed in developing a holistic mentoring approach with our students.

How will you collaborate with others?

We will engage with a number of community stakeholders in order to facilitate effective mentoring in collaboration with the local organizations who know our students best. Working with the administration of Red Wing High School, we will hold an auditing session at the school to get a sense of the school environment and the everyday student experience. As part of this partnership we will connect with students’ parents through field trips and other school-based events to ensure real buy-in for the local community. Carleton's Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE) will support Project Rousseau's Carleton Chapter in this work. As we increase our engagement in the local community, we will partner with CBOs to give our students community service and volunteering opportunities.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

To build on our existing diverse contingent of volunteers, we will use various methods of outreach within Carleton College, to recruit 7-10 new mentors in the next semester. We will assess students' academic performance by tracking changes in their high school GPA, with the goal of increasing students' performance by 10% each year. In addition, we aim to increase students' school attendance rates by 20% through structured academic support to allow students to access class content and stay engaged. We will also engage students in surveys, to provide qualitative data about their experience.

Key Steps

  • Organise bi-weekly transport for mentors to Red Wing High School
  • Communicate expectations and program structure with mentors
  • Recruit a further 15 students from Red Wing High School to our program
  • Continue to recruit a diverse cohort of college-student mentors and train them effectively
  • Work with campus offices and CBOs to coordinate mentoring program and trips, and to advocate for this important cause
  • Gather materials to support students with their school work, college applications and personal development
  • Plan 2 Broadening Horizons field trips for selected students this semester.
  • Plan and develop a community service program for students alongside community organisations
  • Conduct evaluation surveys for students to assess their mentors

Reflection:

How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

Through applying the Peace First grant and ensuing mentoring work, mentors have acquired a better understanding of the historical injustices that continue to affect students on the reservation near Red Wing today. By helping students with their coursework, mentors have come to realize that educational resources are not evenly distributed, and minority students, such as these that we serve at Red Wing High School, can easily fall between the gaps in the system.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

The students at Red Wing reflected that mentors have helped them through many academic challenges and improved their motivation for schoolwork. Mentors often encourage students to pursue higher education through working with them on test preparation. Many of the students are willing to share their daily stories with mentors, thereby establishing a close mentee-mentor relationship.

How many people were impacted by your project?

11

Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

Currently around 7 students actively involved with the program. The three mentors who regularly work with them are also benefiting from the project by gaining experience working with youths. In addition, the counselor who works directly with these students receives extra support from the project as well.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

We learned through directing working with the students at Red Wing High School, a public, predominantly white school located in a Midwestern rural area.

What did your team learn?

Mentors learned that the challenges faced by these students are multifaceted: they are not only disdvantaged by injustices against racial minority, but also on gender and class. For instance, students who are more financially well-off often have access to better college-prep resources, while those who are less apt financially are more limited in their options. Recongizing systemic barrier that these students face is essential in helping them learn and acquire new skills.

What challenges did your team overcome?

One of the major challenges that mentors initially faced was transportation to and from the school. Since we received the grant, we are now able to provide more transportation opportunities. Also, we have just started to communicated with our students regularly through online means, such as Facebook and Skype. Students are welcome to reach out to their mentors anytime during the week, and mentoring is not bounded by the time limit of the mentors.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

Staff at the Project Rousseau headquarter has played an integral role in helping me advance the project, including poster-design, grant application, etc. In addition, I am now reaching out to the CCCE office (a volunteering center) to see if they can help recruit more mentors for the project in the future.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

Starting your project on something concrete with people who are equally passionate about the project is super important. Keeping up with checking in with each other and keep pushing yourself to do better in the project is also crucial!

Comments:

Fish S. Peace First Staff
6 June 2018 14:18

Hi Alistair!

Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share about your work.

Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:

What I really appreciate about your project is the time, effort, and care you invested in doing deep work with a small number of students - this is often what creates the best change. And I appreciate, too, the ways you overcame and worked around challenges in order to serve your students.

I'd love to hear more about the impact on the students. What kind of growth have you seen - academically, in their confidence, etc? Sometimes even changes that seem small on the surface can mark a powerful difference in a kid's life - and mentoring has the power to bring these about.

One thing that I think is really exciting about your project is the way that you've started to identify the structural injustices that affect the students you work with. Do you have ideas for how those injustices can be solved? Is that something you want to take on?

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change! Whether it's this project or any other - we're here to help.

Fish  

Alistair S.
23 February 2018 12:50

Thanks! That's great news to hear that we have been awarded a mini-grant. We will take your suggestions into account and will keep you updated about our progress.
Many thanks,
Alistair  

Tom B.
23 February 2018 5:55

Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

Strengths:
This is a great, well thought-out project. I particularly like the fact that it is so focussed on a finite group of people (15 Native American students). You have limited resources (money, influence, etc) so you have really focussed on a particularly group of people and worked out how best to serve their particular needs. By doing this, your grant and activities will have a greater impact.

I also like the fact that you plan to engage a wide range of community stakeholders and establish relationships with parents and school staff. Doing this will give you a good, broad perspective of the student’s needs. Also, by forming new relationships, you will increase your own influence.

Finally, I love the fact that you will hold an auditing session at the school. It is really important to get a good understanding of your situation/context (the issues you are trying to address / the opportunities / etc) - the more you know, the better decisions you can make.


Things to Consider:
You could develop your compassion further by increasing your consideration for the needs of your mentors. They are required to commit at least 2 hours per week to each mentee and (if my understanding of the plan is correct: 7-10 mentors for 15 students) they will each have two mentees. This is a significant commitment so you need to consider:
-Targeting: who will have the spare time to commit to this?
-Recruitment: what will motivate them to sign up?
-Feedback: what systems will you put in place to measure mentors’ satisfaction, ongoing commitment and feedback? (you have mentioned surveys for the students so you could consider these for the mentors)
Training: how will you ensure that mentors are able to provide the most appropriate guidance and support?

Another important area for development is around your key steps and indicators of success. You have listed key steps and indicators for the whole academic year but this grant is for a three month period. We would really like to see your plan for the three months and the indicators of change/momentum during this period.

One final thing to consider is that if your adult mentors are meeting child students face-to-face, then you need to have a procedure to ensure the safeguarding of the students.

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!
 

RaulPF C.
12 February 2018 14:13

Excellent. I look forward to hearing more. We also just fixed a small issue that Charlotte was experiencing and now she should be able to see this project in her profile.  

Alistair S.
12 February 2018 5:17

Hi Raul,
Thank you for this feedback. I will provide more detail about the mentoring approach as Charlotte and I finish the application today.
Many thanks,
Alistair  

RaulPF C.
9 February 2018 9:08

Hi Alistair,
I am part of the Peace First team and I wanted to provide feedback on this project. First of all, it has been great to see several projects from Project Rousseau continuing to use the platform to receive additional support.
I found this insight really strong and it was easy to understand the connection between the root cause that this team wants to address and the suggested solution. The only question I had was related to the mentoring approach you will use, will you use an existing approach or will you try to develop a new framework for the mentoring? I know there are many organizations across the US that provide resources to support mentoring programs.
Looking forward to seeing how this project evolves!
Raul
 

Amy T.
1 August 2018 15:37

Hi Alistair!

Amy here--I'm a member of the Peace First team, and I wanted to let you know that I really like how your project supported 15 Native American students by providing them with a long-lasting mentor relationship. I'm happy to hear that the mentors were also impacted by this initiative as they learned a little more about the inequities some of the students may be facing. I hope that you'll submit an application to tell your story at the first-ever Peace First Summit on 9/16!

Applications are due today, August 1--you should have more information in your email inbox. Here's the application link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd6X9fTrSTC6PoXjLpVUtNlJgZHbd5QdB6-hgxlC-d7DBlK_g/viewform Please let me know if you have any questions--I hope you'll apply!

Warmly,
Amy