Part of the requirements for the 2. semester of the MAPP program has been a 4-month service-learning project. To this effect, my beautiful “cohort” members Patricia De La Torre, Charles Cycon, Harold Hanul Lee, Guang Zeng, and my humble self had the great pleasure to work with Philly-based NFP Youth Mentoring Partnership (YMP) and their truly inspiring Director Chris Major.
YMP is committed to “helping kids overcome formidable challenges to be successful today and in the future”. YMP programs have five main components: mentoring, intense physical fitness, focused goal-setting and achievement, earned recognition, and positive feedback. The organization’s signature intervention is the Friend Fitness Program (FFP). Offered year-round in select locations, the FFP is free of charge to students in grades 6 – 12.
The FFP aims to instill beneficial traits in its students by designing a challenging mix of intense strengths-training workouts, super-slow manual resistance routines, and cardio exercises. Upon entering the program, students are matched with a personal mentor that gives them undivided attention, guides them through strength training exercises, monitors their progress, helps set and track their goals, celebrates their achievements, acts as a positive role model, and becomes a supportive caring friend. Over the course of a year, students learn to take care of their bodies, set goals and achieve them, take responsibility for their actions, develop resiliency in the face of adversity, value effort and perseverance, and to ultimately develop Grit – which is defined “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” and has been shown to be associated with a variety of desirable outcomes such as a high GPA in college (beyond the explanatory power of general intelligence).
The “secret sauce” of FFP is creating regular “moments of choice” which basically means giving the kids a (physical) adversity to overcome and thereby the opportunity to grow by choosing to persevere in the face of that challenge – aided by the support from the personal mentor. The general idea is that those experiences of success via being gritty will then spill over to other domains of life, such as school work. Below, you’ll see a photo displaying Chris leading Harold through one of the super-slow resistance routines (and the rest cheering for them) as part of our final project presentation.
In short, we helped YMP by enhancing their onboarding process for new mentors. Among others things, we´ve created the outline and a demo for an online course and several infographics on relevant Positive Psychology concepts such as active-constructive responding.
And this is also where you, gentle reader, may come into play:
If you love kids, sports, and fun (plus: doing “good”), YMP might be the place for you (even outside of Philly – they´d really like to expand…). If your are thinking about volunteering, donating, or helping YMP in any way you see fit, please go to their website and contact Chris.
Chris – you´re an awesome individual!