By Jaleesa Hall
My community project is the formation of a 501(c)3 organization, the Raising A Village Foundation and the education initiative the Let's Make a Difference Project. The Let’s Make a Difference Project is a specialized curriculum as part of the Driven 2 Succeed program that offers support and educational opportunities for 9th grade students that will increase college access and workforce readiness, bolster personal growth, enhance academic success, and increase civic engagement through the completion of community projects.
This semester, we planned to launch our program at Friendship Collegiate Academy, located in the Ward 7 corridor of Northeast Washington, D.C. At the beginning of the summer, we created an advisory board to develop a series of recommendations designed to improve the implementation of the project and to inform all partners on the ways to work collaboratively. The committee was created with the help of the Principal and Academic Director of Friendship Collegiate Academy, the Founder of Raising A Village Foundation, and the Interim Director of the Institute for Community Engagement. This committee initiated an asset-mapping approach to do three things: (1) a preliminary search to understand the landscape of the surrounding neighborhood of the school, (2) staff interviews to assess the needs and wants of all partners, (3) school interviews to round out conversations directly with Friendship Collegiate Academy teachers and administrators in order to gather information about immediate classroom needs. However, due to administration changes at the beginning of the school year, we had to put the program on hold after the second week of program implementation because the school did not submit our proposal to Central Office in time for final approval. In spite of this, we are in the process of securing another partnership school in Ward 7 entitled H.D. Woodson High School starting in Spring 2019 through Fall 2019.
The good news is with the help of my staff, the Let’s Make a Difference Project was able to establish systems and processes to administer the in-school program for spring 2019. The systems and processes include task trackers, meeting schedules, and program deadlines for program staff, the completion of volunteer training tools and recruitment materials, and the 9th grade curriculum for student participants. Also, we were awarded in-kind consulting from George Washington University’s Community Engagement Consulting (CEC) firm to help Raising A Village Foundation update internal archiving and records systems, new payment and donation platforms, and the creation of an innovative fee for service model to increase revenue accounts and to scale the organization for future growth.
This additional time to build out the program and the organization has been valuable because it has helped us establish Raising A Village as a small enterprise that can produce high-quality work at our current capacity for future clients and partners of the organization. On the other hand, what has not worked was the ability to maintain a school partner for the fall 2018 semester. My initial approach was to speak directly to school administrators to pitch the Let’s Make a Difference Project to become an institutional partner. Although that has worked in previous partnerships like Calvary Christian Academy, one thing that I did not realize is that a private school operates much differently than a public charter school, which operates in a much larger system. That is to say, there is a different protocol required for Friendship Collegiate Academy that I did not think about, especially because the method I was taking was seemingly working at the beginning of the relationship.
If I was to work with a charter school system again, I would contact Central Office to find out how to become an institutional community partner. Are their forms that need to be completed? A request for proposal that needs to be submitted? Background checks required? Speaking with Central Office first could have saved me a lot of headache in the end.