The City School develops and strengthens youth to become effective leaders for social justice. For twenty-one years the Summer Leadership Program, its signature program, has helped young people become social justice leaders. Intentionally selected across lines of race, class, gender, and neighborhood, its teenagers engage in a powerfully fun summer of community building, self-rediscovery, leadership skills, action projects, internships at local nonprofits, and challenging seminars to transform themselves into powerful voices for change.
By using Capacity Institute tools, The City School increased their long-term youth outcomes success rate from 11% in 2011 to 51% in 2016!! Now every year 17 more young people are sustainably engaged in social justice work in their communities after completing the two-year program.
Sam Casseus, The City School board member and program graduate
The improvement process builds on itself, with the first round of learning and improvement leading to greater opportunities for future improvement:
- First-level program improvements come from simply agreeing together on mission-centric decisions. In 2011, The City School’s (TCS) program staff agreed to clarify their intended intermediate and long-term outcomes.
- Second-level improvements follow, as staff measure participant progress and initiate course corrections at the programmatic levels. In 2012, TCS staff increased their program duration from 8 weeks to 2 years, to provide the dosage needed to achieve these outcomes.
- Third-level improvements happen as the organization focuses its strategic commitments in new ways, for example, narrowing its target population or clarifying its intermediate outcomes. Starting in 2013, TCS staff began to recruit their target youth earlier and more intentionally, and to retain and place youth in 7 new partner placements.
- Fourth-level improvements occur after staff regularly analyze key data sets, seeking to make improvements at the program and organizational levels. Finally, to increase program quality, they added training for TCS staff and partners on the year-round program model.
Nonprofits tell us it takes 3 to 10 years to incorporate all these practices and the resulting learning and improvement.
The City School now regularly tracks student learning and youth leadership behaviors, using the data to drive their improvement. In the words of Co-executive director Seth, “Now no one leaves The City School without a long term plan. More of our youth are reaching the outcomes we want.”