Project Prosper Lead, Stephen Sverchek, gives us an update on our latest project and how it has been impacted by COVID-19. Stephen joined Youth Opportunities earlier in the year, after working as a program facilitator with a women’s development organisation. He has a background in rural development and health, living and working in Zambia, Africa and South Korea for several years after leaving his homeland of the United States.
What is Project Prosper?
Prosper is a new and exciting Youth Opportunities project that focuses on working with graduates of the Personal Leadership Program to bring their lived experience into our program designs in the future, all made possible due to the support and generosity of the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation and other donors in the community.
It came about as we wanted to improve our graduate engagement, and better support our students in achieving their goals by addressing some of the challenges students face after they graduate, while also helping them sustain the positive changes they made while completing their Personal Leadership Program.
1. A young person-centred approach
Young people are at the heart of everything that we do here at Youth Opportunities, and Prosper has a strong focus on co-design, and youth consultation, to ensure our programs are relevant and able to meet young people’s needs. This has meant empowering young people, and listening to their input, to help improve our services. Our project is moving forward with the advice, support, and integration of young people at every step. Our Prosper Lead and staff have consulted with several groups of graduates to collect ideas and recommendations to inform best practice in program development.
2. Development of Prosper Leaders
Following several consultation groups, we brainstormed with graduates and staff around the idea of having student innovators and facilitators dubbed ‘Prosper Leaders’. The students expressed enthusiasm and excitement to take part in the project. We have identified seven schools we will be working with in 2020. In each of these schools, we will develop approximately six students to be our participation leaders. Interviews have been conducted with students from three schools so far and the first meeting of Prosper has taken place over Zoom!
3. Workshop consultation and creation
With the development of our Prosper Leaders, a primary task is to now identify several themes which are at the forefront of concerns for young people today. Through our consultation groups, and past Graduate Engagement Evaluation Report, we have collected a great deal of information around issues young people are facing including exam stress, relationships, communication, and self-care.
Through working with our Prosper Leaders and empowering them to co-facilitate, we are investing in our young people, creating sustainability as they continue to lead within their communities.
Our outcomes & impact so far
Students have responded very positively to Prosper and increased graduate engagement students commented they thought Prosper was a good way to further the program and support Youth Opportunities graduates.
Students reported they learned new skills, were happy with their involvement, and think they can apply some new concepts in everyday life. Many students commented that they wished the workshops were longer.
We have identified, interviewed, and appointed 18 students with the position of Prosper Leader. These students have started to show their incredible abilities to foster change. The sustainable nature of this project, due to knowledge transfer and upskilling of these leaders, has the potential to generate a continued and significant impact in our schools and communities.
The road ahead
With the challenges of COVID-19, we have taken an adaptive approach to continue serving our young people. We have developed enhanced policies and procedures to work in the digital space. As we move into term two, we are increasing our graduate engagement by developing refresher workshops, implementing face-to-face coaching, and working to create a community space for all graduates to interact and share. We will continue to develop our Prosper Leaders in a collaborative online environment. We will utilise the extensive knowledge base of our graduates to build programs and workshops designed to address the issues young people face today. Our leaders will bring their own lived experience and innovative ideas to further the aims of Youth Opportunities. Our leaders will be the first of their kind in our organisation; ambassadors representing their generation with their voices, knowledge, and leadership skills.