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Senior Capstone Project: Building a Theory of Change Model for the 4-H Act for Change Program

This spring, the PRYDE Senior Scholar Cohort partnered with Melanie Forstrom from Ulster County 4-H to build a theory of change model for the 4-H Act for Change Teen Anti-racism Program. Melanie and Malinda Ware from Sullivan County 4-H started Act for Change to create spaces for teens to engage in meaningful dialogue about race for the purpose of equipping adolescents with the tools to dismantle racist structures in their communities As their capstone project, PRYDE Scholars collaborated with Melanie and Malinda in support of their social justice work with youth. Scholars delivered Act for Change as an 8-week virtual program for a small group of New York State teens. Act for Change covers a range of topics essential to understanding systemic racial oppression in the United States. Scholar facilitators and teens met weekly to discuss concepts such as bias, stereotypes, cultural appropriation, and intersectionality. At the end of the program, youth lead a celebratory showcase to share what they gained from the experience. Melanie and Scholar Lead-Facilitator Sofia Urquiola organized a special showcase in late April in which the teens interviewed Newburgh Mayor and author Torrance Harvey regarding his experiences as an African American community leader, teacher, and politician. Alongside program delivery, the seniors also created evaluative tools to measure the skills and knowledge that teens develop through Act for Change. A Theory of Change Model grounded in 4-H’s developmental context and a Facilitator’s Fieldnote Toolkit was created as additional resources to support plans for widespread implementation of Act for Change in the future. “I really appreciated the opportunity to take part in providing a safe space for youth to discuss all of their identities and to just feel heard. I felt I made a direct impact, and in turn, was impacted through learning from the kids. It left me with so much hope to have conversations about the work that needs to be done for the sake of our futures,” said Sofia in her reflections as a facilitator. Melanie responded by saying, “Graduating scholars, we can’t thank you enough for the time you have put into improving this program for teens and future facilitators of this program! The theory of change model you have created is powerful and will assist us in future planning and scaling. Let’s keep dismantling racist structures, building bridges across racial identity lines, and much, much more!” The Scholars’ Theory of Change and other facilitator resources will be made available for practitioners and other educators on the Act for Change blog. For more information on how to get involved with the work that Act for Change is doing, contact Melanie Forstrom or Malinda Ware.

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