Podcast 240 square promo

Student Leaders Surprise Teachers – Podcast Episode 240 | Classnotes Podcast 240

Ana Luna and Beatriz Nunez YLNClassnotes Podcast (January 19, 2024). Many programs in public schools take a while to bear fruit. This is not surprising since schools are systems, and positive change requires systemic change. But we have also seen change occur quickly when adults shift their perspective about students, particularly students who don’t fit a certain mold.

IDRA is testing such a process through our new Youth Leadership Now project. This field-initiated, research-based program that is federally funded is examining how the program can transform not just participating students but also whole school communities.

We are partnering with the Texas Education Service Center Region 19 to pilot this program in several schools in Texas. Youth Leadership Now combines three key strategies. First, it takes key elements from IDRA’s highly successful Valued Youth Partnership program and adds mentorship of tutors by eighth grade teachers, who help them prepare to transition into high school. And it incorporates IDRA’s family leadership model, Education CAFE, to engage families and tutors in equity action projects.

In this podcast episode, Hector Bojorquez, IDRA’s director of operations and educational practice, who conceptualized this project, had a nice conversation with two guests from Fabens Middle School. Ana Luna is the YLN teacher coordinator who has worked 18 years in the districts as a math and technology teacher. Her assistant, Beatriz Nuñez, joins the discussion as they talk about what they have seen in the students’ first four weeks as tutors. Christie L. Goodman, APR, Fellow PRSA, provides an introduction and overview of Youth Leadership Now.

Show length: 12:07 min


IDRA Youth Leadership Now

Clint ISD & Youth Leadership Now: 23/24 School Year – IDRA Pilot Program Update

IDRA Valued Youth Partnership

Flier: How VYP transforms student socio-emotional learning and relationships with school

IDRA Education CAFE

Listen to every episode!

To ensure you don’t miss a single episode of IDRA Classnotes, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, (download iTunes free if you don’t have it) or sign up to receive an e-mail alert as soon as a new show is published.


Show Notes

  • CHRISTIE: Hello, I am Christie Goodman, IDRA's Director of Communications. Let me first wish you a Happy New Year. And in line with that, we have a Happy Class Notes episode for you today. My colleague, Hector Bojorquez, IDRA's Director of Operations and Educational Practice, had a nice conversation recently with two guests from Fabin's Middle School about students in IDRA's new Youth Leadership Now Project. For context, this project is a field-initiated research-based program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. We are partnering with the Texas Education Service Center in Region 19 to pilot this program in several schools in West Texas. Hector himself first conceived this idea that is already having an impact.

    Youth Leadership Now combines three strategies. First, it takes key elements from our highly successful Valued Youth Partnership Program that will be familiar to our longtime listeners. In VYP, middle and high school students who are deemed at risk of dropping out are placed as tutors of elementary students, their tutees.

    Four days a week they tutor, and on the fifth day, they meet together to develop tutoring and leadership skills. More than 98% of tutors stay in school. Their grades improve. They have fewer disciplinary referrals and fewer absences because some for the first time, someone is not only looking forward to them being at school; someone is counting on them. The other two strategies in Youth Leadership Now are tutors being mentored by eighth grade teachers who help them prepare to transition into high school and IDRA's family leadership model, Education CAFE to engage families and tutors in equity action projects for their school community. Youth Leadership Now is an asset-based program that focuses on eighth-grade students who are struggling in school in some way. They may be seen as troublemakers, as disengaged, as passive, as on the way out. But like you, we know they are valuable. With support, they are college capable, and they are leaders today.

    In this episode, Hector talks with Anna Luna, who is the teacher coordinator for the project at Fabin's Middle School and with her assistant, Beatriz Nuñez. They talk about what they have seen in the students' first four weeks as tutors. Enjoy.

  • HECTOR: Could you tell me about Youth Leadership Now, and what your involvement is in?

  • ANA: Well, I'm the teacher coordinator for the class, and I've been working with them since the school year started. I take them to the elementary school to tutor little kids. And Miss B helps me a lot, so go ahead.

    I just go with Miss Luna. We walk the kids to the elementary, and we make sure that they go to the classrooms and pick them up, walk back.
    Can you describe your impressions of the students when you first met them and when you first had them before they started this tutoring process?
    Oh my god. I'm just going to be honest. When I had them all together, I was like, "No, I can’t do this." Once we started taking them to the elementary, that's when we saw the changes happening. Some of them don't want to get in trouble anymore because they don't want to miss going to the kids. Some of them know what they're capable of, and they say things like, "You know what, Miss, I don't want to get in trouble. Can I please stay. I'm upset today. I don't want my kids to see me upset. We've seen a lot of good changes, and Miss Beatriz saw some of the changes too in one of our girls, right?

  • BEATRIZ: One of our girls-- she had a really bad attitude. I was in the rotunda, and she was having a discussion with one of the girls and she was really upset. I went up to her and I asked: "What's going on?" "Well, they're talking about me." And I told her, "Well, first of all, what's going on with you?" She's like, "Miss, I do not want to get in trouble because I have those kids that I go to. They're going to wait for me, and I don't want to get in trouble." I said, "Well, then you need to go about having this discussion with the girls in a different way." And so, I have seen a lot of change in her. Good change.

  • HECTOR: And how have the kids told you about how they feel about the work that they do there?

  • ANA: Well, I have a specific student and I had issues with him at the beginning of the school year. He was defiant. He doesn’t want to be anything. And he even told me that he wanted to be out of the class. And I said, "No, you're staying." And he even said, and I'm going to quote it-- he's like, "I'm going to give you hell." And I said, "And I'm going to make you a leader." So, he looked at me like, "What?" He's like, "I want out of this class." I'm like, "No, you're not." But now he's one of our good kids that actually enjoys going over there. He had issues with another kid in the same class. And one day he approached me. He's like, "Can I please stay?" I'm like, "Why?" He's like, "Because so and so and so are going to tell me something and I don't want to lose my temper and then my kids actually are going to see me acting bad in front of them." I was like, "Oh my God." So, he stayed here and then we came back and he was okay after that. But that specific student-- he doesn't do that. Trust me. So, he was like, "You know what? My kids are going to see me react in a bad way, so I don't want that." So, they're just being really careful the way they react. So, they avoid not going over there.

    And this has only been four weeks - Four weeks since we started taking them, And then some of my kids are familiar with PVIS, Positive Behavior Intervention System. We have prices that they earn with their own points. Some of our kids buy little braces and stuff like that to take to the kids to elementary school as prizes for them too.

  • HECTOR: What would you like to add to this?

  • BEATRIZ: Pretty much what she said. it's really nice to see the little kids looking at our kids with a lot of excitement. They run up to them and they hug them, and they say their name. They call them out. Today, one of the teachers was telling us that the student walks in, and they forget about the teacher. They go straight to him and start yelling his name. And it's amazing to see our kids react the way they are reacting, to see the positive change in them. Because I honestly never would have seen the change in the little boy that she was telling you about.

  • ANA: It blows your mind. It really does. Because he is aggressive, really defiant, He's very defiant. So, for him to actually approach me and say, "You know what? I want to avoid this before my kids--" and then he said, "My kids. Before they see me acting bad."

  • BEATRIZ: And I think that took a lot for him say ‘Oh, that's a lot for him to come and say something like that.’

  • HECTOR: And these are eighth grade students. That's a lot of self-awareness.

  • ANA: Which this student did not have before. Trust me, before he's like, "I'm going to be out of your class." I'm like, "No, you're not." He's like, "I am." I'm like, "Oh, no, you're not."

  • HECTOR: And academically, those students-- I imagine that those behavior issues had gotten in the way of their academics. This is just four weeks into the tutoring.

  • ANA: And as a matter of fact, the other day I had one of the teachers approach me because one of my students-- he saw her carrying a lot of stuff coming in in the morning, and he's like, "Can I help you take it to your classroom?” I was like, "Oh my God, who did that?" So yes, little things like that, that teachers have told me. They still struggle in class because it's different. Staying in a class, 90 minutes, math. And I hear the teachers are like, "Oh, so and so and so." But those little changes-- those are the ones that matter to us.

  • HECTOR: And this is just the beginning. And now they're four weeks and they're about to start where they're going to be mentored by other teachers. What would you say to other teachers who are going to mentor the students? What would you say to them about this process, what you're seeing?

  • ANA: I guess a lot of us have the perspective that they're troublemakers, but If you get to know them as a person and respect them because a lot of them mention that a lot, like, "Will you respect me? You listen to me," just listen to them and see what they have to tell them. Don't approach them like, "I'm the teacher, you are the student." More like, "Just talk to me. How do you feel about it?" I mean, "How's your day going?" Yes.

  • BEATRIZ: Move that label aside because they are labeled as troublemakers. They are. And that stigma that they're the bad kids. But you really get to see them in a different light. And they're amazing kids.

  • ANA: When you see them and they are with a little one, you're like, "What? Who are you?" Like they switched, they changed. They're this soft human being with little kids. They walk like them. Today we saw them walking with their hands behind us because they were doing a project. I even took a picture. It's so cute. And even to listen to the teachers from the elementary, they're like, "Oh, no, he's so quiet. Oh my God, no, he's so helpful. It is amazing to see that.

  • BEATRIZ: That hard shell just melts off when they walk into that classroom.

  • HECTOR: And you're describing the students who you see the most obvious change because of their behavior. What about other students who may have had or have different situations who may not have that?

  • ANA: Arlene, she's really quiet. She doesn't want to talk to anybody, but when she's in the classroom, she's teaching and then helping the kids and talking to them so that even though she's not labeled troublemaker, but she's quiet, she's coming out of her shelf, helping the kids. So, it's helping her.

  • HECTOR: So, you have students like that as well who are really quiet, and they just want to be left alone. Like, "Don't talk to me. I'll do my stuff." And then that's it. But yeah, she's one of them, too. You also mentioned that other students that-- some people may hear this and think that it's all boys, but do you have girls.

  • ANA: Yes. This older girl that we're talking about, her attitude, my lord. Her mom came in last week, and she said she saw changes in her. And then we have Arlene, who's quiet on the other hand, but she's coming out of her shelf, talking more to the kids, being more open.

  • HECTOR: Yeah. We've heard a lot that after COVID, the students have come back with a lot more emotional situation. Do you think that this sort of project helps with those issues?

  • ANA: Yes, because they feel important. They know they matter to those kids. They don't want to miss the kids and they want to present themselves as role models, if you want to call it. I think for this class, this specific class, they think now, "Okay, I matter to someone. Somebody's waiting for me. I have to make the effort." So, I think it's helping them with their self-esteem. Like, "I'm important, so I'm going to make it happen. therefore, I'm going to give it my best."

  • HECTOR: What advice would you give to people trying to start this sort of project?

  • ANA: Just give it a chance. I know at the beginning it was hard because having all those kids together in class, guiding them and telling them what the class is all about, it is going to be hard. But trust me, once you start the process, you're going to see the end results. And we've seen it in four weeks, so I just can't imagine by the end of school year what's going to happen.

  • HECTOR: Thank you very much.