Afternoon connects students to communities »WDET 101.9 FM

Tia Graham

The Youth Empowerment Solutions Program, also known as “YES,” was established in 2004 through a partnership with Flint community leaders and researchers from the University of Michigan.

From 2012 to 2016, 418 middle school students in Genesis County learned leadership skills, Community planning and strong social tools through after-school group sessions.

“So during the first meetings, we think a lot about denying historical rights and what that means for current communities.” Eliza Thulin, University of Michigan Medicine

The content of the first set of sessions focuses on historical and community identity and the last sessions focused on ways to apply the skills they learned as part of a project to make a difference in their community.

Eliza Thulin is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan School of Medicine. She says it is important to help facilitate a young person’s growing communication skills.

“The reason it’s important to develop these skills at this age is because these are still pre-adolescents,” Says Thulin. “they [in] An important developmental stage in which they understand who they are going to be in their early adult lives. “

One year after completing these sessions, the researchers examined those students to determine if the after-school program improved their social interactions with their peers and with the community. The results showed that black students earned more than their peers while participating in the program.

“Every meeting usually has historical or cultural aspects. So during the first few meetings, we think a lot about denying historical rights and what that means for current communities,” Thulin says.

For example, one of the sessions focused on names. When African ancestors were brought to the U.S., slave owners wanted them to lose their cultural identity, Thulin says. “One of the first things slave owners did was take away the African name, then force slaves to take on white European names. … so to celebrate African-American history and renewed heritage, learning about African names and thinking about the meanings of those names can be very helpful [contextualize] That within the traditional rites in which names are often used … because it provided part of the communal and social harmony. “

According to her, based on what the data shows, changing perspectives and systems will not be easy but necessary. “We have great communities, but we also have a lot of dysfunction within communities. And a lot of that is based on unequal structures, which, you know, are rooted in historical and contemporary inequality and denial of rights. And changing those structures is not a simple thing.”


Listen: Eliza Thulin talks about after-school meetings and how it helped improve social interactions.



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  • Tia Graham is the reporter and host of the weekend edition for 101.9 WDET. She graduated from Michigan State University, where she had the unique privilege of surveying former President Barack Obama and his 2014 trip to Lansing.

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