Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oasis Center Partnerships Build Healthy Youth and Healthy Communities

The Oasis Center is in the middle of their first summer housed in the Youth Opportunity Center. Look at this sampling of awesome asset-building programs youth can explore:

· Summer of Ali: Summer of Ali will explore masculinity and male identity with African American middle school boys, with a focus on fitness and college and career exploration. Participants will spend time researching and analyzing the life and significant contributions of Muhammad Ali to our culture. Youth will also reflect on their definition of what a man is, how a man should act, and what is socially expected of men via guided discussion and journaling. Activities include a trip to the Ali Center in Louisville, KY; research on components of being a warrior; addressing oppression nonviolently; developing media literacy; exploring historical perspectives of positive black images of masculinity and implementing community service projects. Each day will also have a health component, with an emphasis on exercise and nutrition. The program will run for two 3-week sessions (5 days a week) in June and July and will serve 20 boys in a highly personalized training environment.

· Youth United: Youth United engages youth from neighborhoods and schools strongly impacted by violence. Youth United was created by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control in collaboration with Meharry Medical College, and its purpose is to help Nashville reject violence and promote peace through youth organizing and community involvement. The summer portion of Youth United focuses on team building; community projects, leadership and community organizing; increasing their understanding of race, class, and intergenerational dynamics that influence the work they will be doing during the school year. The program will run for one 8-week session (4 days a week) in June and July and will serve 20 youth.

· Your Story Continues: This program works with refugee and immigrant youth, helping them to find their own identity and place in a new culture. Your Story Continues is the summer version of Oasis Center’s International Teen Outreach Program (ITOP), Nashville’s largest outreach program for international and immigrant youth. Each youth is given a camera and a week to assemble their “story” in words and pictures. They then share that story with their peers. Participants also explore college and career options at local colleges and businesses, engage in service learning projects, and participate in recreational and athletic activities. . An emphasis is given to the health careers through our collaboration with Vanderbilt Nursing and Meharry Medical College. Also, we are working with Andee Rudloff of the Frist Center on an art piece to be done by Your Story Continues for World Refugee Day on June 19th. This program runs for four weeks in June and will serve 17 international students.

· YES (Youth Empowerment Services): YES is a summer program working with students of Bailey Middle School. The program is a continuation of school year prevention program at Bailey, providing year-round involvement for youth living in poverty. Participants explore college and career options at local colleges and businesses, engage in service learning projects, and participate in recreational, personal improvement, and athletic activities. Typical activities include a low-ropes team building exercise; exploring the public library and securing personal library cards; working with seniors and being reading buddies to pre-K children; experiential tour through a Kroger Supermarket with sampling, butchering, cash register trials, and nutritional education; recreational trips to a wave pool, zoo, and bowling alley. This program runs for 3 weeks (5 days a week) in June and will serve 14 youth.

· Oasis Community Impact: We have 10 youth mobilizers for this program which runs for 8 weeks (4.5 days per week) in June and July. Typical summer training of OCI youth includes but is not limited to: teambuilding, messaging the work, researching the issues, issue networks, local political context, power and oppression, creating and delivering presentations, public speaking, and office skills and etiquette. The youth also spend much of the summer researching, writing, educating, and advocating on issues related to a Student Bill of Rights that emphasizes the importance of youth voice and participation in schools, along with financial literacy and predatory lending.

· Tennessee Youth Advisory Council: TYAC is a group of current and former foster youth working to improve the lives and experiences of youth in the foster care system through youth voice. The TYAC summer program will employ 8 young people (ages 14-17) with foster care experience to develop workforce preparedness skills. These students will focus on interviewing skills (i.e. personal grooming, attire, public speaking), developing a resume, career exploration, and negotiating conflict. We anticipate that many students will have limited job skills and we will use service-learning projects to develop different skill sets that can strengthen a resume.

· IMPACT: Infant Mortality Public Awareness Campaign Tennessee (IMPACT) is a statewide youth-led media messaging initiative to reduce the number of infants that die before their first birthday. Oasis IMPACT interns have created three public service announcements and are presently working on an educational video and companion curriculum that youth will implement in at-risk communities. Youth are working with a local filmmaker and a program coordinator to develop a storyboard, script, and visual content; as well as writing the training curriculum. This non-traditional approach to addressing a medical issue includes targeted youth as social change agents.

· Halcyon Bike Workshop: This initiative is designed to address three major concerns for young people from low-wealth communities in Nashville: a lack of affordable transportation; limited opportunities to integrate physical activity into their daily routines; and few truly meaningful youth leadership opportunities. Oasis Center is partnering with local business Halcyon Bike Shop to create the Halcyon Bike Workshop, a project that will train youth to refurbish, maintain and customize their own bicycle, selected from an inventory of over 100 recycled bicycles donated on Earth Day. All participants will learn about bicycle safety and maintenance, bicycle mechanics, and the importance of bicycle lanes and greenways and how to navigate them. They will have access to supervised rides that explore cycling as recreation, physical activity, and an environmentally-friendly means of transportation that can increase access to community events, service projects, and resources that reduce isolation and boredom.

· Video Project: The video project is being funded by America's Promise, with the goal of capturing youth voice on the high school dropout issue in Nashville. Nine youth interns will research and explore what factors lead to students dropping out of high school and what factors help students stay and finish. Once completed, their video will be used to kick-off discussion at the Nashville Drop Out Summit in October and will be sent to government officials to help recommend policy change. The video will be directed by Molly Secours and a team of youth from Oasis’ International Teen Outreach Program, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and students from Metro School’s leadership classes. They will work together 3 days a week (12:30 – 4:30) over June and July.

Article written by Anderson Williams, Director of New Initiatives at the Oasis Center. For more information, call 327.4455 or visit