For over fifteen years, Horace R. Hall, DePaul associate professor of educational policy studies and research, has led the Chicago-based R.E.A.L. Youth Program as they partnered with local area schools, youth programs, and literacy and social justice organizations. “The ultimate goal of the R.E.A.L. Youth Program is to help young people move past adversity,” Hall explains. Aiming for an organic approach to mentoring, the program leaders are called facilitators. These facilitators work side-by-side with the youth to identify issues in their lives, pinpoint underlying causes and brainstorm actions for individual and community transformation. Using the concepts of Respect, Excellence, Attitude and Leadership, the program’s teamwork approach is designed to offer youth a safe space to express themselves in creative projects ranging from art, writing, and digital media and to learn important life skills such as resisting peer pressure, breaking cycles of domestic and community violence, career planning and challenging cultural stereotypes.
While the benefits to the R.E.A.L. participants are myriad, the benefits to the facilitators in the program are just as numerous. Recruited from DePaul College of Education students, many of these future educators have expressed a desire for employment in the Chicago Public Schools.
Working with the R.E.A.L. program gives these undergraduate and graduate students an experience connecting with young people and a community they would otherwise be missing. “Many of them haven’t been in a high school since they graduated and, even then, they were not in a situation to engage with students that were suffering socially or financially,” says Hall. “Through their work, they learn that to be successful is to create an equitable space.” Involvement with these youth, many of whom are in the process of losing their affinity with education, allows the facilitators to assist in practical change. “They can see it happening. That it is
possible" Hall explains. "It’s a pedagogy of possibility, opportunity, liberation.”
Horace R. Hall
is an associate professor of educational policy studies and research at DePaul University’s College of Education. For more information about the R.E.A.L. program, please visit their website at realprogram.org