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There’s No “I” in Team.. Exception - there is “Me”!

A Note On Team Service Projects (TSPs)…


Yesterday, I sat in a Conflict Mediation meeting with members of the Team Service Project (TSP) that I coach. As I sat there and listened to these individuals speak about their personal struggles and challenges, I was given the space to provide my personal insight, feedback and support. I gave out my hugs to these individuals, thanked my Program Manager for the support, and walked to my car. As I drove away, I reflected on the entire meeting and the TSP process in general. At once point, this statement passed through my thoughts:


I was a hot mess last year. Who am I to give advice to these individuals when I faced the same issues, if not at a heightened degree?


However, as a 2nd Year TSP coach, my insight and responsibilities to the team are completely different. In general, the Team Service Project is an opportunity for allies to learn and strengthen team building skills, understand our personal influence and power, see a project from start to finish and hone communication skills. Sounds good on paper, but this is not a perfected process. Members are unable to communicate their needs, accountability sometimes comes in the form of passive aggressive emails and not showing up to meetings and at some point, the community may not be benefiting from the project.


For myself, I am personally more invested in the process of the Team Service Project rather than the end product. As stated, effective leaders know how to identify assets & opportunities and how to implement solutions in collaboration with the community. The same mantra goes for the team; the hope for the TSP is that members are able to identify assets within themselves and one another and expand upon such gifts. You are matched with peers who may have different interests, perspectives and passions. However, these peers are able to provide feedback about your progress and leadership style that no one else can recognize.


Having gone through the TSP last year, I have a lens to the program as a supportive ally and an objective observer. 2nd Year TSP Coaches have a number of responsibilities that stem from their first year experience and expectation of heightened capabilities. 2nd Year TSP Coaches should do the following:


  • Be prepared (available to attend meetings and all functions)
  • Facilitate (the process in reaching TSP milestones/outcomes)
  • Serve as a reference (point the team in the right direction of resources without doing it for them)
  • Advocate (be vocal in the best interest of the TSP)
  • Provide Clarity when possible
  • Mediate conflict (interpersonally and towards project goals)
  • Advise & Provide Feedback (regarding the process, direction, focus, etc)
  • Challenge 1st Year Allies (in ally personal growth and towards being critical about the work)

Do I do all of these things right? Maybe not. Do I ask my team for support in understanding that I am also learning? Definitely. I am blessed to work with a team who are understanding and willing to engage with one another at personal and professional levels. The TSP process is in conjunction with their placement responsibilities, attending classes and all other ally responsibilities. These allies are pulling sixty (60) hours or so a week, and they are still available and ready to engage each week.


My team has been through a lot this year, yet I am proud of the progress they have made thus far. Below is a peak at what they are doing at Thomas Jefferson with a group of 9th Grade Students.


Project Title: PUSH HOPE (Holistic, Optimistic, Pedagogical Empowerment)
Members: Berlis Alvarado, Janitzia Villalobos, Rafael Lum, Sara Martin  


Vision:


Our vision is that 9th grade students at TJHS will gain an awareness of the push out rate and understand that they can challenge/change the statistics that exist at their school. Students will use various forms of expression as a way to start dialogue/discussions to raise the consciousness about the push out rate in other students.


Mission:


Our TSP will empower youth by providing popular education based workshops that critically engage students through dialogue and utilize various art forms as mediums to initiate discussions about the push out rate at TJHS. PURPOSE: Jefferson High school has a push out rate of 58%, compared to LAUSD drop out rate of 38%. The academic achievement of students at Jefferson High School is far below the standard set for the state of California. The community that Thomas Jefferson students reside in is the Vernon Central area, which is a predominately black and brown working class community. The Vernon Central community has a high rate of low educational attainment and high poverty indicators. However, Vernon Central has a rich Black cultural history that manifested in the jazz movement in the 1930s through the 1950s. Now, the Vernon-Central community has become increasingly Latino a trend through out South Los Angeles due to economic affordability for lower income recent migrants.


PROPOSING Goals:

  • To bring awareness of the push out rate through by presenting on eight issues that were identified by the survey through creative activities.
  • To create a safe space where students can share/dialogue about their experiences on the issues relevant to the push out rate.
  • For youth to build confidence to express themselves through multiple art forms.
  • For the final art products created by the youth to be relevant and critically reflective about their experiences in dealing with he push out rate.
  • For the students to present their art form & articulate their reflective process to others.

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The process towards implementation has definitely been a stressful one. I believe that Public Allies LA dedicates an entire eight out of ten months to the Team Service Projects because they are aware of the impact it can cause. In the past, our Team Service Projects have lead to the development of nonprofit organizations that are currently serving the community. Things don’t always pan out the way we expect, but the essence comes in working out those glitches. The passion comes from meeting twice a week to plan the bi-weekly workshops that my team is dedicated to delivering. The heart comes through when they sit in front of those students and ask them what their idea of community looks like. The dedication comes through when teammates are challenging their own assumptions and perspective as it comes to delivering a curriculum that is dear to their heart. The drive comes from a team who is willing to persevere when the current school situation is set up so not only do the students not trust them, they do not understand why the TSP even cares to teach to their class.


Get it, PushHope :)