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  • Writer's pictureLaura Leeson

Sharing and building community: Partner School Symposium 2018

In November, Projet Jeune Leader held our first partner school symposium.

The symposium gathered representatives from Projet Jeune Leader’s 16 partner schools in the same place for the FIRST time in the organization’s five-year history. Together, participants -- which included the director and a teacher from each school -- reflected on the past five years of work as well as explored avenues for successful and strengthened collaboration into the future.

To facilitate peer sharing and gather feedback, the day-long symposium consisted of numerous participatory and interactive activities, including stands and booths, storytelling sessions, creative drawing activities , and opportunities for collective brainstorming.

Through a range of stands and booths, our team showcased data, testimonials, and pictures on different components of Projet Jeune Leader’s programming (courses, counseling, after-school, parents’ workshops, and more). As school directors and teachers visited each stand, they were able to share their reflections and provide feedback to staff on the program activities.

During the storytelling session, school directors were invited to share a memorable moment or general reflections of Projet Jeune Leader. The stories were overwhelmingly positive and heartfelt, highlighting the diverse ways that Projet Jeune Leader makes an impact in every school it works in.

A handful of school directors mentioned how Projet Jeune Leader had improved conditions for all teachers as students have become more behaved, motivated, and open to learning. They mentioned how students are also taking more active roles in their education. For example, the director of one of our newly-added schools shared a personal anecdote of how their own child transformed from once being unbearably shy, to outspoken in class and a student leader after participating in Projet Jeune Leader’s programming.

Several noted how the school environment has improved because of our Youth Spaces, which not only provide access to books and games, but also mentorship and a safe community thanks to the hard work of our dynamic Youth Educators. As it turns out, the Youth Educators’ influence extends further than we realized… met with a room full of laughter, one school principal exclaimed, "Since Projet Jeune Leader, the teachers at our school have really improved their dancing skills!

The day continued with a visual activity during which participants drew their impressions of their school before Projet Jeune Leader began, how it has changed since, and what hopes they have for the future.

Many described schools where students would once skip class and loiter off school grounds when not in class. Several also commented on the lack of sanitation and hygiene. Nearly all lamented on poor test scores and high dropout rates, too often consequences of student pregnancies.

In contrast, they then illustrated how students’ hygiene and school sanitation had drastically improved since the start of their partnership with Projet Jeune Leader. Nearly all depicted how students now use Projet Jeune Leader’s Youth Spaces for  productive hobbies instead of skipping out of the school grounds and engaging in risky behaviors. Perhaps most strikingly, about a third of the participants highlighted an increase in test scores, decrease in dropout rates, and absence of student pregnancies since Projet Jeune Leader started working in their schools.

As drawings of their future aspirations showed, the participants hope to see these improvements in educational achievement and student health continue. They want ALL students in their schools to participate regularly in Projet Jeune Leader’s activities. They share a hope of continued improvements to their schools’ infrastructure (e.g. bigger Youth Spaces and classrooms, improved gardens and fences) and environment (e.g. school lunches, trained teachers).

The remainder of the symposium focused on strengthening future collaboration between partner school representatives and the Projet Jeune Leader team. Together, participants brainstormed and decided on new feedback mechanisms that will allow the ever-growing Projet Jeune Leader staff to more regularly and systematically gather feedback from school administrators in ways that are streamlined and convenient.

Our team has already begun integrating these mechanisms into our organization’s processes as we continue to analyze and respond to other feedback gathered throughout the symposium. The event proved to be an invaluable (and fun!) way to build community among some of our most important partners, foster shared learning, and challenge Projet Jeune Leader to continually improve our programming -- not to mention, celebrate five years of tremendous growth and impact.

Here’s to another successful school year!

With deep appreciation, we would like to thank AmplifyChange for their continued support which made this event possible.


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