THE RISING: Elevating Education, Expectations and Self-Esteem
The Rising is our signature initiative, designed to prepare children in high-poverty families to succeed in school and life. The pioneering, community-mobilization movement, created by subject-matter experts, aims to propel Black children from impoverishment to independence.
The overall goal of The Rising is to transform the lives of young people by encircling them with caring adults who are trained to deliver a transformational healing curriculum that challenges and affirms, encourages and inspires. The curriculum is rooted in prevention and teaches principles, practices and other support efforts that provide coping and other mechanisms needed to mitigate the impact of the disparities and dysfunction ruining young lives. Integral to the program is the cultivation of cultural pride and high self-esteem, the development of critical-thinking and literacy skills, workforce development and soft “power” skills, and a love for learning and high achievement among our young who are losing social, emotional and academic ground. In addition to working directly with students, the program works to indirectly change the landscape of the schools they are embedded in, by improving the overall school culture and relationships between students and the staff of the school.
The Rising is currently at a range of public schools and juvenile detention centers, which speaks to the transformative nature, adaptability and effectiveness of the program. Currently The Rising is embedded at four exceedingly challenged high schools: one on the Southside of Chicago which is seeing unprecedented and alarming rates of gang violence and poverty, one in Detroit which serves teen parents, and two in Fort Lauderdale, serving primarily pregnant teens and teen mothers, as well as young people who have had encounters with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, in Florida, The Rising has also expanded to serve children in an elementary school, and in juvenile detention facilities through a partnership with AMI Kids and the Broward County Detention Centers. South Florida also serves additional children in Miami Gardens through a partnership with the Starbucks Foundation and their Community Retail Stores Initiative.
The children The Rising serves are among the most harmed youngsters in the nation, living in some of our country’s most blighted communities. They would be all but written off in our society but for The Rising and its dedicated volunteer army of mentors who are determined to write them in. The program leverages our volunteer affiliate network in each city, which is dedicated to recruiting, training, and deploying Black mentors to youth-serving organizations, and to our Rising program. We also rely on our program and affiliate leaders to maintain strong relationships with community organizations that provide our students and families needed wraparound support, such as access to safe housing, health services, food pantries, addiction-recovery support and more.
Since the inception of the program in 2012, demand for these restorative services has exponentially grown. Administrators and teachers herald profound changes in the overall school climate and calm among students, as well as a reduction in truancy. Many students who completed The Rising program request re-enrollment year after year, and during the summertime when school is not in session, some have created their own circles of support.
Over the last three years The Rising has undergone a rigorous, multi-year evaluations conducted by the nationally reputed firm, McClanahan Associates Inc. In the process, implementation and outcomes studies, researchers confirm the positive, life-transforming impacts that The Rising has on participants. Youngsters who participated in the program have statistically significant gains in social skills, school engagement, more positive feelings about themselves, and, above all, hope for their future. Additionally, qualitative data demonstrate that the program is exponentially building what psychologists refer to as “performance character strengths,” critical non-cognitive skills such as self-discipline, resilience and curiosity, attributes which are proven to improve success in adulthood and in educational outcomes and upward mobility. The program has also proven meaningful to the teachers and staff of the school. For example, evaluators consistently document how the program forges stronger relationships, especially during disagreements. One study captures how, after a dispute between a student and a teacher, the student recommended bringing the teacher into a healing circle where they were able to discuss the issue in a positive context, affecting an overall higher level of trust between adults and students.
Integral to The Rising’s success is the community support that the program leverages, both through building bridges between adult mentors and the students, and also through local and national-level collaborations that CARES deliberately fosters. Evaluators found that the program “utilizes a tri-generational approach, with an elder population reinforcing the curriculum that younger (not quite middle-aged) facilitators, our CARES-trained psychologists and social workers, provide to teenage students. This is gravely needed in that many Rising students do not have a consistent presence of a parent or guardian in their lives. This triad of perspectives affords robust exploration of Rising topics and supports students in a variety of ways. Furthermore, it encourages students to respond positively to their older mentors; interviews reveal that some students even use terms of endearment and personalized nicknames such as ‘Pops.’ These inter-generational connections between Rising stakeholders make strides towards the long-term outcomes of stronger ties to the community and especially older generations.”