Second City and YESS focus on Positive Relationships

Francisco is a bright student who performed well on tests but at times was discouraged and did not turn in homework. During class he often talked back to teachers, which isolated him from building positive relationships with them. Francisco had done fairly well academically before joining YESS but had great potential to do better if he improved in these areas. His mother was very interested in having Francisco join YESS and participate in social-emotional activities, as well as receive mentorship from YESS advocates. She felt that Francisco did not have the motivation to do well in school and hoped that YESS would help him find the social and emotional support he needed.

The improvisation group Second City came to teach a set of workshops on communication and team building. The objective was to have students come out of their comfort zone and show the confidence and communication skills needed to engage in the workshop. Because the workshop was challenging for most students, some, including Francisco, started to misbehave a bit (which was very unusual). Because of this behavior the facilitator asked some students, including Francisco, to sit out for a few minutes. At that time, YESS staff saw that his low self-esteem and lack of confidence were keeping him from joining in. An advocate spoke with Francisco about why he was not participating. After the conversation he was able to see that in order for the activity to be fun, he needed to cooperate with the group even if that made him uncomfortable. At the end of the class all students, including Francisco, were participating in the activities and having a good time. But it took work from everyone.

At the end of the year, YESS had a reflection session regarding the highlights of the year. Francisco said one of his highlights was the Second City workshops. He stated that because he was challenged, it helped him understand how essential it was to be self-aware of one’s attitude toward uncomfortable activities and how that affects the team. In this reflection and other moments, YESS staff saw how his emotional self-awareness, self-esteem, social skills and his ability to work in a team had greatly improved. Overall, Francisco improved his GPA, built better relationships with teachers, and improved his communication skills. As an example, Francisco recently volunteered at a very large community festival Family Service held. This included speaking to other students about YESS, thereby displaying his level of confidence in a very social setting.

Francisco’s story shows how workshops like Second City impact students. The students’ improvement in their grades, communication skills, and other areas are linked to the challenges and opportunities the YESS program provides. The funding for programs like the Second City workshops comes from outside foundations and it is funding from United Way that helps us leverage these dollars to provide as enriching an environment as possible for our students!