The University has been using the concept Experience Amazing! in the past couple of years. The idea is to showcase the incredible experiences and opportunities that students have as part of the university. This year, we had three teams in the Practice with Groups class, and one team called themselves Team Amazing. I don't know if they meant it to have anything to do with the theme of experience amazing, but I thought of the connection immediately. There are 7 students in this group, and I had the pleasure of teaching 5 of them in the fall as well. I have great admiration for these students, and the effort they put into this group project, as well as their performance in the class as a whole.
Regular readers know about our ongoing work in Riverside, and it's that time of semester again when we are doing interventions with the children in this community. Although it is a different group of students each semester, the children look forward to our returning, and within a few minutes after we start setting up, we have a roomful of excited boys and girls ready to experience whatever the students have planned. Team Amazing began the intervention like all good social workers do: engaging the client system: establishing rapport and beginning the relationship.
Our primary goal has been to establish an atmosphere where children receive positive support and encouragement, encourage an appreciation for learning, and enhance the developmental tasks children need to master in each stage of life. Team Amazing was amazing in the data collection and assessment steps of the planning stages. They sought out empirical research articles, researched what other kinds of after-school programs are doing to promote self-esteem and positive self-images, and strengthen the ability of children to be successful in schools that may not--for a variety of reasons--always meet their needs.
Tutoring and help with homework has always been a part of the project. In Team Amazing's assessment, they recognized and discussed the importance of being aware of individual needs, and the fact that children develop at different stages even when they are in the same age group. They planned ways to respond to those needs without singling out children, and seamlessly integrated the children into activities that encouraged interpersonal interaction with others as well as one-on-one time with the tutor.
There is ample evidence in Mississippi that the structural explanation is very real. The Mississippi Education Working Group, a part of Southern Echo, has been very involved in addressing the structural concerns. While I know that the structural explanation is very relevant and explains much--and I reject out of hand that the majority of African American parents and children are at fault in this academic gap, I also know that in the limited time we have in the community that we cannot address the structural issues. So, we do what is also important: provide support and encouragement and try to enhance the coping capacity of individuals, families, and communities--one of the goals of social work.