Evergreen provides 31 elementary-aged children with a safe, fun, and nurturing environment in which to work on homework, develop their artistic gifts, and participate in recreational activities. Children are paired with an adult volunteer, a "Study Buddy," who helps them with homework and develops a mentoring relationship with them. Each Study Buddy works with the same children each week, allowing them to develop a close relationship and establish consistency in the kids' lives, usually in a 2:1 youth-to-adult ratio. Students also learn through innovative, hands-on math games, and increase their reading comprehension abilities using the nationally-recognized KidzLit literacy program. On Fridays, the children participate in volunteer-led workshops such as art, violin, cooking and baking, scientific investigation using microscopes, sports skills, and sewing. Workshop experiences stimulate their creativity, boost their self-confidence, and help them discover their gifts and talents.
Evergreen works with a population of children that are 85% English Language Learners (ELL) from Latino, Slavic. and South Asian communities. A majority of our youth come to us several years behind grade level, and many of our youth have undiagnosed learning disabilities. We operate in partnership with local schools and parents as an 'academic triage' unit to help get struggling students back on track academically.
Successes in last 3 years: Tangible improvements in the number of youth working at academic proficiency and grade-level performance. Major strides in improve parent-teacher communication as we help facilitate home-school interactions. Several students receiving Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) where our staff have worked alongside parents and school officials to assess action plans for students with learning disabilities. Fifteen of our long-term students graduated from high school and are now attending 2-yr and 4-yr colleges over the last three years.
R4 provides a safe, nurturing after-school environment where students in 7th through 12th grade can improve their academics, prepare for college, and learn new skills. The four Rs in R4 stand for: Relationships (building positive relationships with peers and mentors), Reading/ Writing/ Arithmetic (achieving greater competency in academic skills), Resources (accessing resources needed to achieve future success), and Realizing (developing their full potential). Teens are paired with an adult volunteer who helps them with homework and develops a mentoring relationship with them. R4 students also build their vocabularies through the 'Take Aim!' curriculum, and develop reading comprehension through group discussions of short stories, poetry, and spoken word pieces. Weekly workshops like guitar, photography, physics, scrap-booking, biology, which help teens develop 'soft skills'. Students also take field trips to local colleges to tour facilities and learn about entrance requirements.
In the last three years, our 'R4' teen after-school program has grown by 400% in youth attendance and volunteer tutors. Teens are now able to receive specialized academic support from UC Davis and CSU Sacramento student in subjects ranging from basic math skills, to Spanish, biology, language comprehension, and even calculus! In recent years, several GreenHouse graduates of our R4 program have been accepted into 4-year colleges, including CSU East Bay, CSU Sacramento, and UC Irvine. As an extension of our R4 program, we also started a regular support group for 8 of our 'GreenHouse graduates' who are still in the area. Some are working, some attending community colleges, and some are attending Sacramento State. This group is led by former GreenHouse staff and several of our board members, and comes together every 6 weeks for personal check-in's, troubleshooting relationship issues, setting personal and career goals, and accountability towards those goals.
Our Leaders in Training (LIT) program gives young people from the neighborhood an opportunity to develop their leadership potential by working as a team, and with regional partners, to make a practical impact on their community. A small team of youth (grades 7-12) is selected to serve on the team for one year. The team initially focuses on learning about team-work and team-building, service opportunities, and their leadership strengths and gifts. Guest speakers from the community share personal stories about how they have used their gifts in order to create positive change in their communities. During the second half of the year, LIT members plan and implement mini-service projects that address issues that the community has expressed concerns about, or that the teens care about personally. At the end of their term, LIT members take a special field trip to the Bay Area or Tahoe with staff and adult volunteers as a reward for their hard-work and determination.
Since 2011 our LIT team has worked on the dual issues of safety and youth opportunity. Through a community-wide survey, LIT members identified places in the neighborhood where young people and families do not feel safe. Chief among those were the vacant lots surrounding their apartments, which were filled with illegal dumping, litter, graffiti, and homeless camps. The teens worked with City Councilman Steve Cohn and Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby to pressure the lot owner to set a regular maintenance schedule. They also worked in partnership with teens and parents from Sacramento Waldorf School to pave the walkway to the 99 Cents store with gravel, install new benches and a picnic table, paint murals on the repaired fence, and clean up the trash-filled areas. In order to make the local Ninos Park more family and youth friendly, new drinking fountains and picnic benches have been installed and a new soccer field is planned for construction in mid-2014, due to the advocacy of LIT youth.