Raising the Bar – Together
“Summer Shakedown” is an effort of the Mary Black Foundation to expand access to quality summer programs. In its third year, a quality bar that had been put in place with partners in the Foundation’s “Connect” adolescent health initiative has risen– with many hands joining the effort. This is one more sign that Spartanburg County is willing to do whatever it takes to nurture the success of its youth.
Shakedown participants, providers of summer programs designed for youth, must now be formally trained through USC Upstate’s Child Protection Training Center before being eligible for the Shakedown website listing, free marketing support, and scholarship funds from a pool of over $16,000 made available by the Mary Black Foundation’s Connect initiative, funded by the Office of Adolescent Health.
“We are looking for organizations and programs that say “Yes, I want to be trauma informed,” and “Yes, I want to participate in the training,” explained Savannah Ray, Director of Education and Outreach for the Spartanburg Academic Movement.
“The training offered by the Child Protection Training Center builds the responsiveness providers need address situations they may never have known existed, such as the social impact of adverse childhood experiences (also known as ACES). By requiring this to be a part of the process for inclusion in the Summer Shakedown, we are transforming the ways systems across our County are engaged in serving youth,” added Ray.
Of the 40 plus attendees at an informational meeting held at the Spartanburg County Headquarters Library in February, some who would be first-time Shakedown participants, none batted an eye at the training requirement. In fact, before leaving the meeting, more than 30 had committed to participate. ”Setting this high standard for those providing services to youth is essential to improving outcomes for them,” explained Ray.
“This training initiative is also part of a broader effort to strengthen systems that support youth development year-round,” Ray explained during the meeting, announcing that an Out-of-School-Time Collaborative has been launched recently by the Mary Black Foundation and SAM to create the infrastructure needed to improve access to and quality measures programs serving youth during the more than 5000 hours of “free time” they have away from school each year, including summer programs.
Ray’s personal journey served as an example for the value of out-of-school-time activities. Being able to list cheerleading on her resume had been a key to getting an early professional internship. “What that activity said I could do made an impact and broadened the scope of the interview.”
“Education comes in many forms. It is our responsibility, as a community, to ensure that our youth have access to quality programs that can meet their needs,” she added.
Many summer program providers also serve youth year-round, merging the interests of the new collaborative, the Shakedown, and Connect.
Connect: Meeting the needs of older youth
“Our youth are asking for opportunities to explore, to do things they’d never done before,” explained Polly Edwards-Padgett, Adolescent Health Program Director for the Mary Black Foundation.
Connect develops community initiatives directly from its youth listening campaigns and Community Advisory Board. Connect partners share a commitment to increasing support to “prevent disparities among teens and young adults by increasing access to services and supports that result in holistically healthier individuals.”
“Connect does not provide services to youth. Our job is to ensure youth serving agencies have the capacity and resources needed to be successful in improving youth outcomes and youth have the services, supports and opportunities needed to thrive,” explained Padgett.
Meeting “adolescent friendly” guidelines is a best practice standard for Connect partners. Edwards-Padgett extends screening further, directly asking potential partners, “Are you trauma informed?” before listing any on the Connect website or referral system.
Ensuring that organizations offering programs to youth have the knowledge to ensure quality is not just about offering funding or asking pointed questions. It’s about ensuring that training, support materials and technical assistance are available to those wishing to be a part of the Connect network. There is even a time-window within which a partner agency must meet training qualifications. The standard for Connect inclusion has always been high.
Funding, program quality, and organizational capacity can be barriers to connecting youth to positively impactful experiences. Through Connect, the Mary Black Foundation is removing those barriers while also closing the opportunity gap for families who cannot afford out-of-school-time programs that support learning.
In the previous two years of “Shakedown,” nearly 200 scholarships were offered. “We are expecting to provide around 100 scholarships to the programs committed to meeting these high standards for this summer,” said Edwards-Padgett. Previous Shakedown participants have tapped into a wide array of interest areas from STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Music) themes to sports, outdoor/nature, academic, and leadership development and have summer activity sites throughout the county.
Year 3 Changes
“For this third year of the Shakedown, we are looking for organizations and programs that say “Yes, I want to be trauma informed,” and “Yes, I want to participate in the training,” explained Ray.
Another first for the 2019 “Summer Shakedown” is a literacy building effort sponsored by the Spartanburg County Library. Susan Myers, Director of Teen Services, shared that all youth participating in activities supported through the “Shakedown” will receive a free book.
“We know that having a personal library is important for encouraging teens to read – to maintain and build their literacy skills through books written with their unique interests in mind. We are thrilled to be partnering with this effort to add personal literacy to summer programs committed to the highest level of quality for the youth they serve,” Myers said.
Covering the cost of training is part of the Mary Black Foundation’s service to community agencies willing to raise the quality bar for their programs. On Friday, April 26, 2019, those registered will cover Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s), Recognizing Signs of Abuse, Handling Disclosures, Mandated Reporting, Building Resiliency, and more. A second training date, Wednesday, May 8, 2019 has been added to accommodate additional participants.
Improved quality through free training, scholarships to increase access, and adding literacy benefits for summer programs are building Spartanburg county through our youth.
“This is another win-win for Spartanburg,” said Edwards-Padgett.