Mi Casa’s Youth & Family programs are designed on a trajectory: helping students move from academic achievement and career exploration/readiness to ultimately, success in post-secondary education and employment. An important component of realizing this goal is Mi Casa Neighborhood Center’s Ladder of Leadership, offered to past participants of the middle school program, along with other high school students. This unique program allows high school students to further develop their own leadership and workplace skills, while also providing much-needed support and assistance for Mi Casa’s Youth & Family Development programs.
The Mi Casa Neighborhood Center is based on the Beacon model, an evidence-based practice in which a public school is transformed into a community center for youth and their families during out-of-school time. The Ladder of Leadership is an extension of this model, allowing past participants to continue engaging with the school and their community, while developing important leadership and workplace skills to be used during high school and beyond.
There are three positions within Mi Casa’s Ladder of Leadership program: Youth Volunteer, Youth Aide, and Youth Leader, designed in a sequence. A high school student may hold each of these positions for one year. While the program is open to any interested high school student, it is planned particularly for past participants of the middle school program, with the ultimate goal of assisting these high school students in reaching their educational and employment goals following graduation. While in the program, participants receive career development and post-secondary education support and coaching to realize these goals.
Ladder of Leadership participants assist with Mi Casa afterschool programs in a range of ways, including acting as role models and mentors for middle school participants, assisting with afterschool activities and administrative tasks, and planning and leading activities for Family Night and other special events. They are also mentored by Mi Casa staff, in order to ensure they are reaching their goals and developing important skills.
“My experience at Mi Casa has definitely helped my resume, but it also helped my confidence,” says Cherivona, a past participant of the Ladder of Leadership program. “Leadership is about community engagement and helping youth realize they are valuable and contributing members to this society. I recognize that in myself and want to help other kids recognize it too.”