When I applied for a travel assistance grant to attend the Take A Stand conference in October 2015, my interest lay in attending the tracks dedicated to developing peer-mentoring skills and programs within an El Sistema site. Little did I know that closer to the conference date, I would be asked to help lead one, but I am happy to share the development of that session with Monique Van Willingh [Sistema Fellow ‘13], Music Director of YOLA@HOLA and the materials that resulted from our collaboration.
Through the planning process, Monique and I centered our presentation on Lerner’s Positive Youth Development Model (PYD) called the Five C’s: Competence, Confidence, Character, Connection, and Caring. Through the development of these strengths, youth not only form a more hopeful outlook toward their future, but also are motivated to sustain and contribute to the environment that benefitted them. This bidirectional relationship between context and individual create the sixth C of Lerner’s model: contribution. “When youth believe that they should contribute to self and context and when they act on these beliefs, they will both reflect and promote further advances in their own positive development and, also, the health of their social world (Lerner et al., 2005, p. 23). The work of El Sistema is founded on this same belief.
To help foster these 5 C’s, Monique and I shared the work by Dweck (2010) on Growth Mindset. Students who come from a growth mindset believe that intelligence can develop over time through effort, whereas a person with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence is inborn. To help empower students, programs can center their language on character strengths that foster a growth mindset. They are grit, curiosity, social skills, zest, gratitude, hope, and self-control. Teachers can embed examples of these strengths in preparation for the rehearsal of a piece by telling a story about the composer demonstrating how he or she exemplified grit, hope, etc. Beethoven is a perfect example. I call him our Grit Guy because he was able to persevere and compose one of the most celebrated symphonies in the world when he was deaf.
Monique shared some of the structures that YOLA@HOLA put into place to support youth development through their leadership, mentorship and volunteer programs. Based upon relationship-building and linked to HOLA’s Core Values of Responsibility, Support, Positive Communication, and Respect, these program place youth in leadership roles by:
- Leadership: (Team building, teams who represent the program and plan events)
- Mentorship: (Peer-to-peer teaching, older students playing in younger ensembles, older students leading team building activities)
- Volunteering: (receiving or choosing a job to do such as setup crew, admin, assisting teaching artists). Excitement around clocking hours, and giving back to the program.
I am thankful to NEC and the Sistema Fellowship Resource Center for funding this trip. Even though much of the conference centered on the forming of a national Sistema orchestra and convening, I came away with ideas from colleagues that I can apply to JAMM, which currently serves students in the elementary school setting. I also appreciate having this opportunity to co-lead a session with Monique. In preparing for the session, I learned many strategies that support peer mentoring in El Sistema-inspired programs. Thank you, Monique!
Lorrie Heagy, Sistema Fellow '10
Download Lorrie and Monique's presentation here.