Young Men’s Initiative – IMPACT
Empowering New Yorkers to successfully transition from prisons and jails to community life benefits the entire community. OHCD administered the final phase of $1.8 million of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds via the Transition to Post-Secondary or Vocational Education for Formerly Incarcerated Adults initiative from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Originally secured under the former Mayor’s Office of Adult Education (now part of OHCD), the grant period ran from July 2010 to March 2013. During that 2½ year period, over 2,551 incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women were served.
The goals of this grant were to:
- Strengthen connections between jail and reentry education and training programs (so that more formerly incarcerated people are in the education-to-career pipeline)
- Prepare adult education participants for college and/or specific vocational training and assisting them to enroll (so that formerly incarcerated people do better in these programs)
- Make other kinds of interventions, linkages, partnerships, and networks to improve education and training outcomes for formerly incarcerated adults (so that formerly incarcerated people achieve mainstream credentials more often)
The majority of these funds were awarded to four community-based organizations to provide direct services to further these goals:
A Reentry Education Transition Specialist was also hired to work with the Educational Services Unit of the NYC Department of Correction to support the grantees’ work as well as to enhance the development of the New York Reentry Education Network (NYREN). OHCD helped found the NYREN, which includes fifteen reentry education organizations, four city government partners and two academic policy partners.
On February 27, 2013, in collaboration with NYREN, OHCD co-sponsored and helped to organize a conference, Pathways of Possibility: Transforming Education’s Role. More than 180 participants attended across sectors. This was the culminating event of the multi-year grant on elevating education’s pivotal role in helping individuals transition out of incarceration and back into the community.
Some of the most powerful motivation to go to or back to college, to complete a training program, to overcome the obstacles that may line our journeys comes from people who have been there. This insight inspired an entire campaign, launched by the New York City Council and the former Mayor’s Office of Adult Education (now part of OHCD) in fall 2011, to help adult learners achieve their educational and career goals, whether they want to learn English, earn a High School Equivalency diploma by passing the GED®, or advance in their careers. It’s called YouCanToo!
Through a website and curriculum for adult education classes, YouCanToo! lifts up the voices of New Yorkers to encourage others who have similar dreams for their education and work lives. YouCanToo! provides an online network and resource hub for adult learners to share their stories, connect to one another, and get the tools they need to succeed. The site features over 40 New Yorkers to provide tips and motivation. It is all based on the premise, "If I did it, you can too! Here's how." YouCanToo! also engages New Yorkers through NYC Service to get involved offline by volunteering with an adult education class or mentoring adults pursuing their goals.
In 2013, OHCD finalized the dynamic classroom-based curriculum; offered free training to 50 adult education teachers to familiarize them with the website and the curriculum; and placed more than 600 DVDs in the hands of adult education program coordinators.
YOUNG MEN'S INITIATIVE – IMPACT
In New York City, black and Latino young men graduate high school less often than their White and Asian peers do. Many who do graduate are not ready to succeed in college or the workforce. Under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City launched the Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) in August 2011 to help find ways to tackle the crisis affecting boys and young adults of color in our communities.
With funds from YMI, the Improving My Progress At College Today (IMPACT) Peer Mentoring project was developed in 2011. It is one of the many YMI efforts to increase the educational, employment, health, and life outcomes for young males, ages 16-24.
IMPACT is a promising peer mentoring model developed by Future Now, a High School Equivalency diploma and college success program located at Bronx Community College. Future Now/ IMPACT trains High School Equivalency diploma graduates (alumni) who are enrolled in college as mentors to help their peers pass the High School Equivalency diploma and then go on to complete college. IMPACT Mentors are program partners as well as powerful models of success that inspire their peers with the message, “If I did it, you can too!”
For the YMI pilot, two CUNY campus-based GED® programs – one in the South Bronx at Hostos Community College and the other in the Brooklyn at Medgar Evers College – were selected as partners. The start-up phase and pilot launch began under the former Mayor’s Office of Adult Education and then transitioned to OHCD. Hostos and Medgar Evers worked with OHCD and CUNY to create their own IMPACT peer mentoring program. With the technical assistance and coaching provided by Future Now, IMPACT Peer Mentors at Hostos and Medgar Evers tutor GED® students, teach college prep classes, help with college registration and financial aid applications, and provide ‘college knowledge’ and support to their peers every day as they achieve their educational goals.
With a team of IMPACT Peer Mentors serving more than 1,200 GED® students and graduates over the three years of the grant, the goals of the IMPACT pilot were to:
- Help more students pass the GED®;
- Improve college preparation, transition, and retention in college for GED® graduates and
- Develop a peer-support community of GED® alumni that builds leadership and sustains positive social networks for young men in college.
In March 2013, CUNY agreed to assume the primary lead from OHCD on overseeing and administering the IMPACT pilot going forward. If the pilot is successful, the intent is to expand the program to other GED® programs across the City.