Much of my work surrounding the “teacher-as-ally” badge as focused around what that looks like in a traditional school setting. However, there are other ways people can be educators and allies to the youth beyond the classroom. One such example can be found in the two podcasts I listened to; people in the medical profession educated the youth on puberty and became an ally that they could trust. I searched for more organizations that act as allies to children outside of a traditional educational setting in order to gain a better understanding of what an ally can be.
Youth Radio, is one example of an organization that acts as an ally to the youth beyond a traditional school setting. Their mission is fairly simple: to set youths on the paths to successful careers and educational goals through work-based opportunities that foster personal growth in creative and academic settings. I enjoyed that the organization targeting kids in low-income and inner-city areas of the bay area and teaches them valuable skills in technology, art, journalism, etc. Better still, the kids learn these skills through hands-on experience rather than a uninvolved,, and typically, unengaging, lecture setting. This one on one learning experience with the children Youth Radio works with, allows kids to receive the education that works best for themselves. Moreover, it is teaching kids to help themselves, shown through the paid internships, jobs, etc. given to the children through this organization. The very centralized focus on the individual is likely to struggle to be reproduced in the traditional school setting. Beyond that, too, students are generally expected to learn the same things as others their age within the traditional school setting; Youth Radio allows kids to focus on a few specific skills rather than a broad scope of general information.
It is this one-on-one approach that really shows what an ally is, beyond the traditional school setting.
Another example of an organization like Youth Radio, is DAVA, the Downtown Aurora Visual Arts. This organization focuses on the youth of Aurora, Colorado, and teaches them valuable life and social skills through an education in the visual arts in order to strengthen the community as a whole. The organization uses volunteers to help teach these children how visual art, or art in general, can invoke social change and inspire personal achievement, all while positively impacting the youth. This approach to youth learning allows young children and adolescences to feel as though they have a voice in a world that seems to ignore them. I think this method is wonderful because the arts, and all things related to them, are often ignored and/or seen as lesser than things related to STEM concentrations. I believe that using the arts to educate to youth allows for more self-expression and an easier discovery of their own voice. This discovery of themselves and the understanding that they can invoke change doesn’t happen as easily within the traditional schooling system for the same reason I mentioned earlier: all students are expected to learn the same things as one another. At DAVA, the dreaded idea of being ‘standardized’ doesn’t exists, which is something I greatly appreciate.
Both of these organizations have shown me what it can mean to be an ally outside of the traditional school setting. While they are located miles away from one another, and provide vastly different services, both organizations focus on the youth finding their voices and becoming successful individuals later in life.