How the Community Leadership Development and Training Program Hopes to Inspire BIPOC Young Adults to Pursue a Career That Gives Back to Their Community
Kc Gammage is the supervisor leading the Community Leadership Development and Training (CLDT) project and has extensive experience working with Black youth and young adults, both in mentoring and offering direct therapeutic services/social emotional supports. As a member of the Twin Cities’ Black community and a mental health professional, she has lived experience and a unique insight into how best to convey the experiences of Black youth through data practices.
Community Leadership Development and Training is a 12-week, 135-hour, paid internship experience for BIPOC young adults 18 to 24 years old who are interested in becoming positive role models in their own communities, including progressing in their education, learning success skills, exploring careers in community building, and gaining cultural self-knowledge.
Two cohorts of 10 participants each are chosen through a rigorous application and interview process. The program begins with individualized assessment and goal setting. Following the completion of the program, individualized job placement and support is provided. Each participant is paid $18 per hour over the course of the program, with additional wraparound supports also being provided (such as laptops, gas cards, bus passes, drivers license costs, etc.)
Kc began as an intern with Change Inc. in 2015. Over the years, she has taken on her own therapy caseload and worked her way up in the ranks to become a supervisor for the Community & School Collaborative and a leader in the highly successful Crossroads mentoring program. She approaches that work with a lens of how we can share the experiences of Black youth and young adults in the Twin Cites as they connect to their African heritage.
As Kc describes, “CLDT is an intense curriculum to train the participants in topics such as mental toughness, keys to the streets/build your own vision, selfcare for people of color, family conflict and trauma, and wisdom.” The trainings that the curriculum is built around are presented by other members of Change Inc., including Corey Byrd, Jay Slaughter, Steve Floyd, Karina Kromah, and Jennifer Duran de Macario. There is also an independent study component to CLDT which enables participants to become certified in different programs and trainings though the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA). Other partners involved with CLDT include Agape Movement, the Council for Black Male Success, Turning Point, and the Cultural Wellness Center.
The idea for CLDT has been in the works for quite awhile. When The City, Inc. was still in existence, leaders came up with the idea for a workforce career pathway program. This idea came about because those working for The City, Inc. at the time noticed how few people of color were serving in disenfranchised communities. Kc says “They had a ‘you gotta go there to know there’ model. So, the thing that really sparked it was the idea that we work with these youth who are in these really transformative years. And if we pour into them and give them tools to change their family history, then one would hope that they come back and serve the community that they're from.”
Funded by the MN Office of Justice Programs, the Community Leadership Development and Training (CLDT) program kicked off with its first cohort in October and will wrap up at the end of December. A second cohort is set to begin in the new year. Taking place at Change Inc.’s office and community mental health clinic location in Northeast Minneapolis, the CLDT program builds upon the foundation we have built over the decades serving Minneapolis youth and young adults.
Building a program such as this, however, doesn’t come without its own unique set of challenges. Transportation is one of the hurdles many participants face. Not all individuals have a driver’s license, leaving them to rely on buses and brave the Minnesota winter weather while doing so. It’s also sometimes easy to forget our world has been living in a pandemic state for nearly three years. Our young people have suffered a lot with virtual schooling and motivation in general. Coming back in-person after the strange times we’ve lived through the past few years can be challenging, but very necessary at the same time.
There are also participants who are young parents that are taking part in CLDT. This poses a whole other world of challenges for them, namely, childcare. While talking with Kc about the program, a participant knocked on the door to ask KC to speak with her childcare provider to verify she was working and qualified for the daycare services. This is a first-hand example of hoops the participants are jumping through to be a part of this life-changing opportunity.
The biggest barrier, however, is time. “Ten weeks is not enough time. If we could train and pay them for six months or a year, these participants could do some serious damage — in a good way,” says Kc. She goes on to state how she wishes a program like this had existed when she was younger and says “It's such a delicate age group at 18 to 24, because you're too old to still be a kid, but you're too irresponsible and broke to be a full-on adult.”
The overall goal of the CLDT program is to both motivate young adults to pursue careers related to violence prevention, but also to involve their experiences in the overall policing/violence prevention efforts. Any member of a community that is experiencing persistent violence needs to be directly involved in collaborating in both short-term de-escalations and strategies for long-term systemic strategies. By encouraging BIPOC young adults to pursue and train in violence prevention career pathways, led by our staff that have been engaged in those activities for decades, this will help achieve lasting systemic change.
This goal related to violence prevention aims to help develop these young leaders, and give them skills to be able to navigate the trials and tribulations of their communities. In the midst of looking at their own selves retrospectively and their own trauma, they're also looking at the community trauma that's taking place, neighborhood trauma, inter-partner violence, and family trauma and violence. CLDT is focused on helping them advocate for ways to resolve the cognitive dissonance that exists in their lives and communities.
Where does Kc hope for participants to be when the first cohort of the program comes to an end in a few weeks?
“I hope they're connected to us [Change Inc.] somehow. I hope we deposit enough into them, inspire them enough. I hope we can get funding to put them in the community. I hope that they learn skills that they didn't have. I hope they grow in ways they didn't know that they could, and I hope they start to become the leaders that they are meant to be. Each and every one of those participants, they are so amazing and their potential is limitless.”
Near the end of talking with Kc, another participant knocked on the door. He asks Kc if he’s allowed to do the program again next year and shares how much he’s enjoyed it and learned from it so far. This touched Kc and made her very proud of what the program has become so far. It’s a testament to Kc’s, and all of the trainers involved with the program, work and care they’ve poured into CLDT. We believe that as participants in the CLDT program become community leaders themselves, the positive impact of the program will grow through the relationships they continue to form.
Staff Spotlight: Adalinda Sanchez and How She Is Bringing Reflective Consultation to Infant and Child Caretakers
Adalinda Sanchez, M.A., LMFT, is a therapist with Change Inc., and is trained in reflective consultation. Adalinda graduated from Argosy University in 2014 with a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and became fully licensed in April 2018. She has been working with Change Inc. since 2014. Adalinda is also bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English. In practice, she places her focus on the neurobiology of trauma. She provides clients with an opportunity to explore the roots of some of the problematic patterns in their lives, find compassion and gentleness even with wounded or undesirable parts, and appreciates the complexity of the choices we make as humans so that they can move forward in treatment from a place of strength, rather than a place of shame.
She applies this same method to those she facilitates reflective consultation for as well. Adalinda started training in reflective consultation in August of 2021 and has been practicing ever since. In order to practice reflective consultation, she went through trainings including those on the topics of cultural awareness and early childhood brain development. Adalinda specifically focuses on early childhood mental health, but shared that the general training for reflective consultation focuses on the FAN (Facilitating Attuned Interactions) approach.
Reflective Consultation and Its’ Importance in Early Childhood Mental Health
Mental health is crucial to the developing brain of infants and children. From birth to age five, a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in life, meaning that the experiences in the beginning of their life, both positive and negative, greatly impact how their brain develops. A child’s relationships with their adult caretakers can be the most prominent influence on their brain development. And this essential brain development is why it is so important for caretakers of children zero to five to have support in how they’re caring for them.
As Adalinda describes, reflective consultation in early childhood mental health can be defined as “a facilitator working with a caretaker and holding space for that person. The facilitator is trained in certain techniques to support and offer reflective capacities so that the caretaker participant can look at how situations are being impacted by themself and other factors, and finding solutions.” She also notes that “We believe that through reflective consultation, providers can grow and examine emotions and situations through psychoeducation and exploration.” She says that reflective consultation can look different for everyone and that there is no one right way for a session to play out.
Caretakers of infants and children could include early childhood educators and staff, daycare workers, social workers, speech and occupational therapists, or Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) childcare providers, among others. Family, Friend, and Neighbor childcare providers offer legal, unlicensed child care to families across the state and nation. FFN providers are a common type of care for parents of infants and toddlers, parents in diverse ethnic and cultural communities, and parents working non-standard hour jobs. Family, Friend, and Neighbor caregiving is a community-based format of childcare that many rely on, and at Change Inc., we work to provide support to these caregivers.
While it may not always appear in an obvious way, trauma plays a major role in the developing brain of infants and children zero to five. In general, however, most children don’t start therapy until much later in their life, if at all. It’s strange to think, if brain development and mental wellness practices are most actively occurring at a very young age, that we don’t invest more into mental health services during this period in a child’s life. Caretakers are extremely important in a child’s development and young life, so it’s important that time and help is invested into the support of caretakers. Reflective consultation aims to do just that.
Another topic in early childhood mental health that is important to highlight is that children of color are almost always at a disadvantage in infant and early childhood development and are more likely to experience trauma at a young age. Adalinda says this is extremely important to take into consideration and that caretakers of these children are almost like second parents who are essential to supporting their mental health and wellness. This is just another reason why reflective consultation is so valuable to caretakers, even more so to those who provide care or teach children of color.
An important aspect of the work Change Inc. is doing through reflective consultation includes providing consultation sessions to Spanish and Hmong-speaking caretakers. Adalinda provides reflective consultation to caretakers such as those in Spanish-immersion daycare centers or schools. In addition, Change Clinic therapist, Mai Yia Her, is also being trained in reflective consultation to be able to provide sessions to Hmong-speaking caretakers.
More than anything, Adalinda says that reflective consultation is about holding space for the caretaker and making them feel seen so that change can be welcomed and feel less threatening to everyone involved, especially the children. She plans to carry on with her training in reflective consultation to continue helping caretakers that have the most impact in early childhood mental health.
Vaccine equity means fair and just access to vaccines, including flu vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. In an effort to provide a convenient way for more people to access to the vaccines, GAP School, in partnership with M Health Fairview and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), hosted a vaccine clinic in October.
Change Inc.’s Social Work Lead, Gabriela Hernandez, along with our social work interns from Metro State University, and Change Inc.’s Cultural Community Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator, Adriana Galván, worked to coordinate the vaccine clinic. Between the bunch, they utilized our grants with the Minnesota Department of Health and the CDC to come together and put on this event for the community.
M Health Fairview provided nursing staff and other health care professionals to come and administer the vaccine to students, staff, and community members. M Health Fairview has a contract as a COVID-19 vaccine, testing and treatment provider for the community.
There are nearly 20 students who are a part of GAP School’s Healthcare Career Pathway who were actively involved in the event. Erika Thurston, Healthcare Pathway Manager at GAP School, organized the students and prepped them to help work at the vaccine clinic event. She said some of the goals for involved students were learning what happens at a vaccine clinic, what consent paperwork is needed from those receiving vaccines, and who the people are that administer the vaccines.
The vaccine clinic was also a good opportunity for students to practice basic jobs skills such as communicating with a supervisor and time management. Students helped by being greeters and time keepers, among other communications and leadership roles throughout the day. Erika explained that she has been helping to instruct students in the Healthcare Career Pathway program to be the spokespeople for public health this school year. Her hope is that these students can encourage their fellow students and family members to go get vaccinated, and to not be afraid, as there is still a lot of resistance towards vaccines in younger students that have recently immigrated to the United States.
One student from the Healthcare Career Pathway program who took part in the vaccine clinic event, Foziya Jara, said “It was very great to be a part of helping the people who came to the clinic to get their COVID vaccine or flu shot. I learned about organizing people and aligning [with others working the event].” Foziya just graduated at the end of October from GAP School and hopes to attend cosmetology or dental assistant schooling in the near future.
Collectively, a total of 38 flu shots and 19 COVID vaccines were administered at the clinic event. Erika is very happy with this turn out and said there were many students who would not have otherwise gotten their shots had it not been for the event. She also stated that “it was nice to see these students so willing to get vaccinated after seeing other students and staff doing it.”
As a part of our contract with the Minnesota Department of Health, Change Inc. assists with COVID-19, Information, Education and Outreach to underserved populations, especially those challenged by language and digital access to reliable information. Through its Cultural, Faith, and Disability team, MDH has created a network of providers and trusted leaders in the different communities that provide support needed through the pandemic.
While language access and technical support challenges are not limited to COVID-19, the pandemic brought light to the disparities in minority communities of access to health and education. At GAP School, the flu vaccine has been offered since 2015 by the Social Services Team. The network and our strong connections with providers have allowed us to sustain the event for a number of years, and longtime partnerships and collaborations allow us to advocate for programs and services to fulfill our commitment of empowering through education and social and mental support services.
The collaboration with MDH and Ramsey, Dakota, and Hennepin counties has given the opportunity for Adult Basic Education (ABE) students to become Community Health Workers, thanks in part to scholarships awarded to these students. Former students that took this route are still a strong support network for events and programing at GAP School.
The saved time and convenience of the clinic being located at their school greatly impacted the number of students who chose to get their shots. Erika also mentioned that the comfort of having their teachers and friends around was important because your first time getting a shot like this can be a nerve-wracking experience.
We’re all in this together, and every shot counts towards a healthier community. Thank you to all of the staff who helped to organize this event, and to our students who worked at the clinic and encouraged others to get vaccinated.