The Princeton Family YMCA receives Princeton Area Community Foundation’s All Kids Thrive Grant to battle chronic absenteeism.
The Princeton Family YMCA’s ACE (Accept. Complete. Excel.) Project Director Mike Roseborough joined the Y’s team in December 2018, and has been focused on rolling out the program to reduce chronic absenteeism at Princeton High School.
PRINCETON - The Princeton Family YMCA officially launched its new ACE (Accept. Compete. Excel.) Program on Wednesday evening, June 19 at Triumph Brewery with its organizational collaborators including Corner House Behavioral Health, The Corella & Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, and the Princeton Public Schools. Participating students, family members, and volunteers also attended.
The Princeton Family YMCA and Princeton Public Schools were one of 10 nonprofit and school partnerships selected by the Princeton Area Community Foundation to receive support through its strategic initiative “All Kids Thrive” which is focused on reducing chronic absenteeism in the Mercer County region. Each partnership was awarded a grant up to $300,000 over a five-year period; it is hoped that the long-term commitment will reduce administrative burdens on schools and nonprofits, allowing them to focus on impact.
This partnership between the school district and the YMCA aligns with the Princeton Public Schools strong commitment to equity and the recommendations outlined in its 2017-2018 Educational Equity Culture and Curriculum Audit. Superintendent Steve Cochrane enthusiastically supported the initiative when the YMCA proposed it. “Chronic absenteeism is often about removing barriers – barriers that may prevent access to clean clothes, access to academic supports, and even access to bias-free learning,” Cochrane stated. “Our staff have enthusiastically embraced this opportunity to work with volunteers, with our community partners, and with our students to identify, overcome and eliminate those barriers.”
The YMCA and the school district social workers and administrators work closely to identify participating students, based on attendance, academic records and other factors. Each school year, cohorts of students (5-7 students) are identified and rolled out, one in the early winter and one in June, with an expectation that the group will grow every year. Based on the program’s success, girls may be added in the third year. Activities are also planned to keep students engaged over the summer months. YMCA CEO Kate Bech added, “the Y is deeply committed to equity and fairness and to supporting and nurturing youth of all backgrounds in Princeton. We are truly honored to have been selected by PACF for this grant. The ACE program adds another dimension to our rich and diverse portfolio of programs including Princeton Young Achievers, Latinos en Progreso, Y Scholars, and the new Youth Forum. It’s exciting to see our progress in connecting to children and youth who need the YMCA in their lives the most.”
For the first years of the ACE initiative, the Y is focused on engaging boys of color, largely from economically-disadvantaged circumstances, who frequently face a myriad of barriers and obstacles in their daily lives and consequently miss school and classes. The ACE program model is inspired by THREAD, a Baltimore-based team-mentoring program that has been very successful in supporting students who are at most risk of failing or dropping out of school. THREAD matches teams of volunteer community mentors who weave together support networks for students, broadening their social networks, academic opportunities and enrichment activities to make sure each ACE student has equitable opportunities and resources available to them.
Mike Roseborough, the YMCA’s Project Director who leads the program, has worked in the youth services sector for over 13 years. Mike’s passion and commitment for the work was sparked at the age of 17 after working as a counselor at the New York Mission Society’s Camp Minisink, a sleepaway camp for inner-city youth. After graduating from Northeastern University with a Bachelor’s Degree in African American Studies and Communications, he served as the High School Area Manager for Boston Partners in Education (BPE). A former college athlete, he graduated with First Team All-Conference honors as a member of the varsity football team.
Mike joined the Princeton Family YMCA from the Newark and Vicinity YMCA where he served as the Program Director of the 21st Century Learning Center grant, a program that focuses on daily academic support and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) for students. Mike shared, “This is an exciting opportunity for us to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our students. Already I’ve enjoyed working side by side with professional colleagues here in town, and the dedicated volunteers who are eager to be part of a solution. Our students, while challenged in many ways, are wonderful young people who are excited to have caring adults in their lives.”
The YMCA is recruiting volunteers on a rolling basis. Volunteers are expected to complete a rigorous recruitment and training process, which includes a personal interview, full background check with finger printing and comprehensive training in youth safety and cultural competencies. Volunteers must attend five in-person training courses facilitated by Corner House, and complete assigned online Redwoods Institute trainings before interacting with ACE students. If you are interested in learning more about the ACE program or about becoming an ACE mentor, please contact Mike Roseborough directly at email@example.com.
About the All Kids Thrive Initiative and Chronic Absenteeism in Mercer County from the Princeton Area Community Foundation: All Kids Thrive is the Community Foundation’s bold new initiative to transform the lives of young people living in poverty, which is among the risk factors for chronic absenteeism. In Mercer County, more than 1 in 10 students are chronically absent from school – they miss an average of two days a month or about 10 percent of the school year. Those absences dramatically lower their chance of success throughout their lives. The 10 partnerships will work in four communities: Trenton and Hamilton, which have the highest levels of chronic absenteeism in the county, and in Lawrence and Princeton, whose district rates fall below 10 percent, but have rates among certain student groups that are well above 10 percent.