National Impact Community: Albuquerque, NM
Identity, Development, and Relationships
Since embarking on its journey as an MBK Alliance Community, NISN has been devoted to working with youth and community stakeholders to identify and document SEL practices that most benefit boys and young men of color. Black Elk explained that “when we talk about SEL, we take the CASEL Opens in a new tab model’s five competencies and different layers and embed our holistic wellness approach. We also place more of a focus on identity development, and relationships.” NISN worked with partners to scale the NISN model and encourage safe, equitable, and culturally-relevant learning environments, especially focused on engaging boys and young men of color specific to attendance, persistence, and graduation goals. NISN worked individually with all of their partner organizations, with a focus on incorporating more content connected to identity development. The community of practice included a kick-off that highlighted youth participants who shared their experiences with SEL and highlighted the MBK Albuquerque team’s best practices to promote positive holistic health outcomes, including physical, social, and healthy relationships.
Data-Driven Community Engagement
NACA Inspired Schools Network also worked with young people to get their input as they designed questions for their annual survey, The Quad. The Quad survey Opens in a new tab helps gauge the experiences of youth across the partner organizations by capturing student and stakeholder feedback on indicators of identity and holistic wellbeing through a culturally relevant lens. The survey documents student connection with culture, language, wellness practices, community service, trusted relationships, and adult and peer support. Black Elk noted that the organizations also use the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, and incorporate Albuquerque Public School Demographics Data Opens in a new tab, but also “get into the more nitty gritty understanding of youth experiences at the different programs and schools.” Black Elk also explained that the school network utilizes the quad survey and is administered every year. “The Quad Survey goes to all of our schools. We developed these survey questions with our youth partners.” He further noted that youth participants of partner organizations would take the survey, and based on the data, NISN worked with each organization on their needs and provided support and certain types of training. The focus on data helped the network differentiate support to organizations and helped shape the development of training and resources that would be housed in the virtual resource hub.
According to their community data during COVID-19, NISN communities faced added stressors with 40% of New Mexican adults with children in the home feeling anxious, stressed, or on edge nearly every day, with increased anxiety due to school and child-care closures. Black Elk noted that “when the shutdown first happened [there was] lots of disengagement from youth, especially within our schools, it was a huge challenge.” NISN and partners took on the challenge by using best practices from past initiatives like #NativeMBK Opens in a new tab and existing youth development models with a virtual twist. Black Elk noted that Together for Brothers Opens in a new tab, switched their model to working online, calling it BRO (Brothers Reaching Online). BRO included online wellness sessions that were created and facilitated by young men of color. Together for Brothers (T4B) is a community organization led by young men of color, community & love, with partners and allies across NM to build power, demand justice & create change. Speaking to other popular initiatives Black Elk mentioned online poetry sessions and the INDIGItal Storytellers program that equips young people with the skills and resources to capture stories with cameras, capturing and creating videos of their own lived experience that could help tell a better story than most data does.