"Project BOLT programming touches all aspects of the community from youth, and teens to adults and community support."
Project BOLT is motivated to shift the narrative within the Charlotte community by offering programming that meets individuals where they are, and places an emphasis on listening, building relationships, and cultivating their voices. In doing so, Project BOLT believes individuals will become hopeful, develop trust for the community, and ultimately see their worth. And when individuals feel hope, trust, and worth, neighborhoods and communities grow to feel and believe that, too, creating momentum for much-needed change.
Youth Programming to Build the Future
Project BOLT’s Youth Programming offers a robust, comprehensive, and holistic prevention program addressing the mental, physical and psychological needs of our youth in a safe and supportive environment. By focusing on traditionally subjugated neighborhoods, we seek to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline through the development of meaningful, supportive relationships and youth empowerment activities focused on promoting confidence, self-worth, achievement, and hope.
There are three key offerings provided to K-12 children within black, low-income communities:
Programs that shift the narrative
Peer Mentor Program for Middle and High School Youth
The overall purpose of the Peer Mentoring Program is to build community and form a brotherhood between peers so that they no longer target and harm one another. By allowing time and activities to create caring relationships between mentors, mentees, and adult staff, the Peer Mentor Program helps middle and high school youth develop the skills that help them develop healthy relationships. Providing them with a social time allows them to have meaningful discussions about issues and concerns that are important to them. Time to engage in activities with one another that build community and relationships.
Youth Organizing Program for High School Youth
“Change comes from power and power comes from the organization” (Alinsky, 1972). In recent years, there has been a growing awareness about the large numbers of American youth who are growing up in communities that have been subjugated due to structural barriers in place within our society. Highly segregated, inequitable communities and schools have led to increased anger, alienation, pain, and disengagement (Funders’ Collaborative on Community Organizing, 2003). Youth organizing has become an increasingly visible strategy for developing
community engagement and empowering youth to shift the narrative for themselves and their neighbors. According to Christens and Dolan (2011), “Youth organizing is a process that brings young people together to talk about the most pressing problems in their communities, conduct research on these problems and possible solutions, and follow through with social action to create community-level change” (p. 530).
The focus of the Project BOLT Youth Organizing program will be to train a base of young people in community organizing and provide them with the skills needed to alter the power relations and create meaningful change within their communities. Ongoing training will ensure that youth participants are able to define issues, create strategies for addressing the problem, implement activities, and evaluate their efforts in bringing about change. Youth organizing efforts create companionship, structure, and a framework for analyzing the world around them.
These kinds of youth organizing efforts promote collaboration, build on the strengths of individuals, enhance self-confidence, inspire change, build collective power within communities, and reinforce the notion that power does not have to be redistributed – it must be grown (Beck & Eichler, 2000; Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing, 2003; Maton, 2008).
After School Program for K-12 Youth
The Project BOLT After School program is intended to build social-emotional skills and increase the academic achievement of K-12 children through group-based and individualized activities. The goal of the After School program, in combination with the Middle and High School programming, is to provide holistic cradle-to-career services that promote the long-term success of children and families and is intended to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Each day, children will participate in both group-based social-emotional skill-building activities as well as receive intensive, individualized instruction focused on improving their academic performance. The group-based activities will be structured according to age group. For example, K-2 children will participate in specific programming while children enrolled in grades 3-5/middle and high school will engage in different activities intended to promote their mental health and well-being.
In their report, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Taskforce found that trauma, or toxic stress, is a critical factor that needs to be addressed to create more positive outcomes for children and families living in poverty within Charlotte. Although it is not often included in formal definitions of trauma, poverty is also considered a traumatic event because low-income families are more likely to experience greater levels of prolonged stress which can contribute to difficulties in later adjustment (Blair et al. 2011; Jiang, Granja, and Koboll 2017; Wadsworth and
Santiago 2008). Although a large proportion of children experience trauma at some point in their lives, Black
children living in high-poverty neighborhoods are disproportionately exposed to traumatic events. In addition, Black children living in low-income, urban neighborhoods are particularly at risk for experiencing complex trauma that (a) begins early in a child’s life; (b) is severe and pervasive; (c) takes different forms; and (d) involves harmful behavior by a primary caregiver is most related to negative outcomes (Perry, 2006). Recent research indicates that complex trauma (i.e., exposure to multiple traumatic events) is particularly harmful to children’s long-term academic and mental health outcomes. As such, a key focus of the Project BOLT After School program will be on addressing the
complex social-emotional needs of enrolled children. Participants of the program will engage in 40-minute-long group-based activities that include teaching mindfulness, yoga, and social-emotional skills. Each day, group-based activities will devote 20 minutes to each of these
Academic Instruction Programming
The goal of the academic instruction programming is to increase the academic achievement of children through intensive 1:1 reading and math instruction. Each day, children will work with a Project BOLT tutor for one hour to ensure that all children are on grade level by Grade 3, 8, and 12, which are key timepoint markers of future academic and life success. An additional goal of the After School Academic Instruction programming to promote the resiliency and self-esteem of trauma-exposed children has not been developed due to environmental circumstances.