What Do You Need? Partnering with Your Local School - Reframeyouth

What Do You Need? Partnering with Your Local School

One of the questions urban youth workers are (or should be) asking is: "How do I make a meaningful connection with my local school?" This is a question that led us on a journey with the school we support at Aim Right Ministries, Garfield Elementary School. This was a journey that not only allowed us to support the school in a unique way but also taught us invaluable lessons about community engagement and partnership. This has opened our eyes to the beauty of genuine collaboration and has lessons for all of us engaged in urban youth work.

Several months ago, motivated by a desire to continue the longstanding relationship with the school, we initiated a conversation with the principal of Garfield Elementary. But, we took a different approach. Rather than coming to the table with our own agenda, we started with a simple yet pivotal question: "What does your school need?" The response we received paved the way for an unexpected yet rewarding project—Guitar Club. This idea was born out of our connection with another nonprofit organization, Free Guitars for Kid and the stated needs of Garfield’s administration.

This initiative wasn't about imposing our solutions on the school. It was about understanding, about stepping back and letting the needs of the school community guide our actions. This approach not only led to the successful launch of the Guitar Club but also strengthened our relationship with the school, building on the ongoing partnership based on mutual respect and shared goals.

So, how can you, as an urban youth worker, start building these kinds of partnerships with schools in your area, especially with school administration? Here are a couple of simple and practical ways to begin:

1. Start with a Conversation: Reach out to school administrators not with a proposal but with an open-ended question about their needs. This could be as simple as, "I'm here to help. What challenges are your students facing that we might be able to assist with?" This kind of dialogue signals that you're there to support, not to take over.
2. Attend School Board or PTA Meetings: Being present at these meetings can provide invaluable insight into the priorities and concerns of the school community. It's also a great way to introduce yourself and your organization as allies in education and youth development.
3. Offer to Host Workshops or Events: Sometimes, offering to organize an event—like a career day, an arts workshop, or a health and wellness fair—can be a great way to demonstrate your commitment and provide tangible benefits to the school community.
4. Volunteer: Encourage your team to volunteer for school events. This shows your genuine interest in the school's wellbeing and can pave the way for deeper conversations about potential collaborations.

Through our work with Garfield Elementary, we've learned that the most impactful partnerships are those built on listening, understanding, and mutual respect. It's not about what we think the community needs; it's about responding to the expressed needs of those we aim to serve.

As urban youth workers, we have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people by partnering with local schools. By approaching these partnerships with humility and a willingness to listen, we can create initiatives that are not only meaningful but also sustainable and create a ripple effect of transformation.

IG :@aimrightministries & @jeffchuppaz 

Website: aimright.org

Jeff Chupp is the Executive Director at Aim Right Ministries in Phoenix, AZ, where he passionately works with at-risk students. Married to Trisha, they have three children, juggling the hustle of family life with urban youth work. As an ultrarunner, he finds peace and challenge out on the desert trails. An avid reader, Jeff is always eager to explore new ideas and viewpoints. 

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