BEACONS ADAPTATION PROJECT
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
More than a year of planning culminated in the hiring of three local non-profits – the Urban League of Metro Denver, Catholic Charities-Mulroy Center and Mi Casa Resource Center – each to operate a community center in one of the selected middle schools. Community advisory
boards guide the programming; the Rose Foundation acts as fiscal officer; a central steering
committee from the City, the District, the foundations and the community oversee the contracts.
A key sticking point in the Denver model was ensuring the school classrooms were ready for the teachers each morning. The City promoted using a half-time teacher on leave from each faculty to be the liaison between the school faculty and the Beacon’s staff. Core components of the program are youth development, parent involvement, school-community linkages, and supportive neighborhoods.
The programs opened July 1998. With the start of school this September, they began true sharing of the facility with the daytime school staff. Each contractor may provide direct services or may bring in subcontractors to run dance classes, drill teams or tutorials or any of the other activities selected by the community advisory boards. The focus of the Beacons project is youth development and educational achievement. The power of the Beacons model is the involvement of community organizations in the use of schools as true neighborhood centers. Therefore, once the model is tested and refined and steady funding is secured, it will be easy to expand middle school after school programming throughout Denver.
2. When was the program created and why?
Beacon’s planning began in October 1996 when a community group was convened to reply to a major national grant. The City and the School District already had made extended day programming in the middle schools a top priority. That move was reflected in DPS’s goal to use the schools as neighborhood centers. It was reflected in the Mayor’s push to provide attractive, constructive programming for youth in the hours from 2:30 –6 p.m., from the end of school until parents returned from work. It was one of the top tenets in his fight against youth crime, started in 1993.
Facing changes under welfare reform, when more and more parents in target neighborhoods would be at work or in training, the need for safe and constructive, affordable and attractive programming near home would skyrocket. Centers such as these serve as developmentally appropriate "child care" for youth too old for babysitters and too young to be left on their own. The Beacons model offered a way to partner with high quality youth serving organizations, not compete with them.
3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?
There will be a national evaluation by the grant organization, the Wallace DeWitt-Reader’s Digest Fund, and a local evaluation of participants, usage, program and environmental factors, management processes and outcomes, such as skills developed, school attendance, community involvement, reduced crime and violence, community approval.
4. How is the program financed?
The City, the Denver Public Schools and two education foundations led a community coalition to win a $1 million grant to adapt the Beacons model, developed in New York City, to Denver. A local cash match of $500,000 over three years includes $150,000 from the Mayor’s Office. DPS contributes $475,000 in-kind for utilities, lost rental fees and staff support. Another $100,000 in redirected programming is coming from the Denver Safe City Office and more than $100,000 in in-kind services from other community organizations.
5. How is the community involved in the program?
The community is the heart of this project, serving as planners, steering committee members, advisory board members, funders, and evaluators. The community, acting through community members, young and old, worked on the research and design of the project, serve on its steering committee and advisory boards, and through the community based organizations, operate it. "School-community linkages" is one of the four programming focuses.
6. Contact person for both programs:
These two projects have a direct youth violence prevention focus. But Denver believes that violence prevention starts with families and neighborhoods: safe streets, good jobs, high quality early childhood care and education, strong schools with low teacher-pupil ratios and well-trained staff, longer school days and summer school for youngsters who need and want it, extended day in the elementary and middle school, youth job opportunities, accessible health care. These two projects are only part of the Mayor’s Office’s comprehensive effort to bring Denver resources to address the needs of Denver children. In Denver, we are charting a middle course – neither taking over the schools nor ignoring the needs of youngsters. This strategy seeks partnerships with schools and other community sectors when they make sense. It pursues independent initiatives when they make sense. We work to complement school district activities, not replace them or control them.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.