Example of Westside Place
(Les histoires de vie de "Fremont Time" -2- L’exemple de "Westside place")
07 / 1998
The students at the Westside Place School in Wallingford know what it’s like to be the problem. They know what it’s like to feel out-of-place and to have big needs. Educator/ Fremont Time member Shannon Markley decided to help them to see what it’s like to be part of the solution instead of the problem.
The Westside Place is a private school whose mission is to serve at-risk students - kids with learning and behavior disorders, histories of failure or an inability to fit into conventional school routine. In the last few years Shannon has been working to develop a model for Service Learning at Westside Place. She’s also been an enthusiastic member of Fremont Time for its first half-year of existence. In the winter of 1995 it occured to her that she could bring the two concepts together. Explains Shannon, " I thought we could bring diversity to Fremont Time by adding youth to the membership, and in return the students would get the opportunity te receive services. It would be a whole new concept in Service Learning and would really open up a lot of opportunities for mentorships and internships ". Shannon wrote a proposal to fund the program through money made available by the Federal Corporation for Community Service. She then recruit what she describes as ten " extremely high- risk kids " between the ages of 10 and 18. Sun Merlyn Mcelderry of the Fremont Time staff became an active partner in the project, and they signed the kids up as members in good standing of Fremont Time and put them through the standard orientation all new Fremont Timers get.
That was just the beginning, though. " These guys have a really hard time with consistency and focus ", says Shannon of the Westside Place students. She explains that the students have be taught the basic skills of formal social interactions, phone etiquette, the importance of making and keeping appointments. In short, they had to be introduced to the countless habits and considerations that go naturally with being contributing community members. It was an entirely new experience for most of them. Sun remembers Joe, an 11 year old who had to be taught manners practically from scratch. When Sun asked him why he was having such a hard time getting the hang of things, Joe replied " Well, no one ever cared what I said before ". Sun put Joe on notice that from now on someone cares. " Joe does much better now " says Sun. As full-fledged Fremont Timers, the Westside kids were entitled to find their own individual service arrangements, but according to Shannon the program worked best with group activities. She and Sun set up opportunities for Westside students to tutor smaller kids at B. F. Day Elementary in Fremont. They arranged trash sweeps through Woodland Park (rewarded with free zoo passes)and recycling efforts. They also had students working at the Fremont Food Bank, and this, according to Shannon, produced some of the most meaningful interactions for the kids. " Ben was a kid who made an important discovery at the Food Bank ", she says. " Ben has major learning problems He got kicked out of his old school, and he can really get crazy sometimes. Anyway, he likes to strike up conversations, and in watching him we saw that he really has a talent for relating to older people. We got him a placement at a retirement/nursing home, and he’s continued there on his own all summer ". The way Ben describes it, his rapport with elders was something he was already aware of. The home where he volunteers on Capital Hill had been his late grandfather’s residence for many years, and the residents there already knew him. What never occured to Ben was that a formal organization of adults would view that as a valuable gift ti the community, support the activity and help him use it as a base to build on. " For us (at Westside Place), Fremont Time is about getting to the next step in life ", says Ben. " It’s showing me how to deal with the future, put together real-world skills. They tell you, ’go for it’ - whatever it is you want - then they show you how ". When asked what he might want in return for his Fremont Time credits, Ben takes the suggestion as a mild affront. " I love old people. I have this thing for them. My reward is that they talk to me about how it was in the old days, the history of the early 1900s. I have this friend, Nick. No one wants to talk to him, but we have three-hour conversations. He has no family, but he has me. I’ll never stop going there ".
Fremont Time is a volunteer skills coordinating center based on the conviction that everyone has an ability of value to other members of the community. Fremont Time recruits participants, helps them identify and catalogue their skills, creates matches and keeps records of participation wihth points. Anyone is eligible to give and receive services through Fremont Time, and everyone’s contribution is valued equally. It’s tempting to view Fremont Time as a simple service barter scheme. However, the real goal is to "foster positive, enriching relationships". That means the practical exchanges made possible by Fremont Time are intended to be jumping off points for changes in attitudes about what and who is a ressource.
The file was written at the occasion of the participation at the 23 congress "Neighbourhoods USA" in Portland (May ’98).
Texte original ; Compte rendu de colloque, conférence, séminaire,…