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PA is for coaches, too

July 29, 2010

Back row: Alonte King, DAngelo Bowdry, Elijah Lewis, Isaac (youth worker), Marshanna Johnson, and Kenyatta Deyton. Front row: Samaje King, Lilliah Hampton, and Kendra Fischer.

The benefits of Public Achievement to the young people who participate as team members have been well documented.  But Public Achievement  is as much about developing the confidence and power to act of Public Achievement coaches as it is for the rest of the team.

Take Kendra Fischer as an example. Last spring as a freshman at the University of Minnesota, she learned the philosophy of Public Achievement in Community Organizing Skills for Public Action, a course co-taught by Dennis Donovan and Public Achievement creator Harry Boyte.

“I wish Public Achievement was something I had learned in school,” says Kendra. “The community organizing class helped me more than any other class with developing confidence and skills I can take with me, no matter what profession I choose.”

For a class assignment, Kendra and some other students researched the history of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center and its place in the historically African-American Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul, Minn. Later they went back and made a presentation and showed a video about Public Achievement to kids enrolled in an after-school program.

“Some kids were really excited, and started talking about things they would change if they could, like cleaning up the bathrooms at their school and improving lunchroom food,” says Kendra. “I didn’t feel like I could just walk away. I said ‘If I come back, do you guys want to do this?’ And they said yes.”

Kendra strategized with Dennis Donovan about how she could coach Public Achievement at Hallie Q. Brown during the summer, and eventually had a meeting with Jonathan Palmer, the executive director and a former Public Achievement coach himself.

“I said I’d do anything to support Public Achievement here at the center,” says Jonathan.

This summer, Kendra is coaching a group of 9 to 12 year olds as part of a five-week program that meets twice a week. She relies on the Public Achievement handbook, occasional guidance from Dennis Donovan, and her own gut as she learns how to be most effective as a coach.

“It’s hard to keep rolling with it when kids come in and out,” she says, and she wishes she had more time with them.  But she is enthusiastic about what she is learning and committed to working with kids at Hallie Q. Brown in the fall, when there will be more consistent attendance. She has done one-to-one relational meetings with staff of the center and is looking forward to talking with other coaches to learn from their experience.

“I try not to lose the philosophy and teach without being too much of a teacher,” says Kendra.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dave Schuelke permalink
    August 16, 2010 1:25 pm

    I think that meeting with 9 to 12 year olds and introducing them to the basics of democracy is extremely important. Whatever you can say and do to provide an example for young people to be interested in their neighborhood and be willing to envision how their future could be improved by working together for change is great! There is no better place to learn than in Public Achievement.

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