In partnership with John Muir Charter School, the City of Youth Academy provides participating youth with an enriching high school diploma program, as well as a host of developmental resources. Our student-centered experiential approach actively incorporates student interests into the project-based curricula where the youth are evaluated mainly through projects and activities, as opposed to tests and traditional assignments. Social justice and leadership themes pervade course content to support of COY’s overarching goal of community development.
City of Youth Academy teachers are trained in individualized learning practices to better educate in classroom settings where the young people enroll at various scholastic levels. Lessons are active and engaging in that various forms of media and technology are incorporated. In addition, external community instructors and volunteers are integrated into educational programming in order to expose the youth to a learning experiences in and outside of the classroom.
Leadership is the centerpiece to COY’s programmatic efforts. Beginning with the initial mental toughness training which serves to orient and familiarize the young people with the importance of leadership development and altruism, the youth participate in a host of leadership activities throughout the year to enable themselves, their families, and communities to make positive change.
Service-learning and civic engagement are COY’s primary modes of enabling the youth to exercise their leadership. Students are required to participate in at least two service projects per semester, in addition to engaging in continuous, often daily, service to the COY community and surrounding neighborhood. The youth are the driving force behind COY’s service efforts in that the youth identify community needs, plan activities to combat those needs, and conduct activities with involvement from external volunteers and community residents.
Taking their leadership a step further, COY students have the opportunity to exercise their voice through the Youth Action Group (YAG), as well as with sub-committees supervised by the YAG. YAG members serve as the voice and representatives of the entire student population by collaborating with staff to develop and improve organizational policies and procedures, conduct activities, outreach to partners, fundraise, and lead service initiatives. In addition, YAG members join external coordinating committees and groups to bridge internal efforts with the great community.
Healthy Minds Healthy Lives
As with most of low-income Los Angeles, COY is located in a community labeled as a “food desert” and that has little opportunity for youth to engage in constructive recreational and social activities. This lack impacts the mental and physical conditions of local residents causing increasing apathy toward the current situation. To combat this disadvantage, COY provides students with comprehensive programming to increase their knowledge regarding healthy living through positive interpersonal relationships curricula, gardening and diet practices, and team sports. Building interpersonal relationship skills is realized through the Love Notes curriculum provided by the Dibble Institute where youth explore the challenges and benefits to having healthy relationships. Furthermore, COY facilitates healthy eating practices and will soon be constructing the organizations first community garden to support this effort. Lastly, COY organizes a region wide basketball league through the Charter School Basketball association (CSBA) where youth teams from across the county engage in friendly athletic competition.
Avenues to College and Careers
At COY we view the youth’s participation in our programs as a stepping stone to all that they will accomplish later in their lives. To set our students up for success, COY provides comprehensive support in transitioning graduates from COY to college and careers. College readiness competencies are integrated throughout each program component and begin at the start of the program year. The Fall commences student efforts in identifying and applying to potential institutions where they can continue their education. Once they graduate COY alumni are tracked by the program for the following 2 years to support the students’ challenges and success. For those youth who prefer to enter the workforce after graduation, COY has partnered with the local WIA to offer alumni with priority opportunities for employment.
Life Skills and Supportive Services
Most of the young people that participate in the program endure severe hardships typical of disadvantaged communities. Without the support of family and knowledge of resources, these youth find themselves in destructive predicaments. COY offers participating youth an array of life skill and case management services from internal efforts and from partnerships with external social service agencies. Enrolled youth and alumni are provided the opportunity to benefit from these services as long as they are willing to maintain contact with COY on a consistent basis. Below is a general list of activities that support this subcomponent:
- Drivers Ed
- Financial Aid Workshops
- Character Development
- Library Research
- Parent Workshops
- Drug and Alcohol Intervention
- Time Management & Study Skills Workshop