The basic skills that once drove a manufacturing industry are quickly being replaced by non-routine, creative, and collaborative problem-solving tasks (Ledward, Hirata, 2011). The question is, how do we prepare our students for success in these tasks? How can they begin to assess their own approach to learning? How do we engender an authentic respect for others so they may engage in a meaningful collaborative process? And better yet, how can they direct or redirect their path to deeper learning strategies and better learning outcomes?
While building social skills, which both increase self-esteem and remedy low self-esteem, YLA seeks to improve accountability in our participants’ learning process, her or his self-concept and conceptions of learning. In the modules that teach self-control and respect for others, we move them towards a deeper approach to learning as we guide them to identify their motives for learning, process of learning, and respect for others’ talents and contributions. The participants build autonomy and initiative as they plan how they can achieve their academic and life goals; they both affirm their strengths and the unique talents of others in the class while exploring what it means to be a learner. Participants’ goals become part of their personal portfolios and are revisited throughout the program.
YLA’s social skills and leadership building program has been recognized for excellence by: Kellogg Foundation (1997), PBS (1999), The Ford Foundation (2000), Harvard University (2000, Innovation Award), NYC Department of Education – Region 8 (2004), Verizon Foundation (2005), NYC Department of Education (2005, 2011), and the U.S. Department of Justice (2011).