Post Secondary Student-Leader Program Takes Off!

How we empowered, and entrusted, the next generation of mindful leaders to create legacy at kid-grit. A personal reflection from Mindful Co-Founder, Jeffrey Jordan.

In 2020, while navigating the pandemic, a unique opportunity was presented to kid-grit.

I serve as an Educator and Co-Founder of kid-grit, and concurrently serve as the Sr. Associate Director of Athletics at New Jersey City University (NJCU). This kid-grit blog recaps the work we are doing to positively impact the lives of K12 students and those of the emerging college students of NJCU.

Part of my role at NJCU includes combining two of my most valuable skills sets.

1) Being a mentor, workshop facilitator, and co-creator of trainings for educators in K12 and other youth serving organizations.

2) Developing, coaching, and supporting the university staff in the athletic department. This includes coaches, support employees, and administration.

kid-grit Student Leader Program

During the pandemic, at kid-grit, we quickly went to work to provide the most effective, professional development series to support our NJCU teams during an unprecedented, shelter-in-place time of history. We were in the middle of some unexpected, explosive growth during the pandemic by delivering our Educator Holistic Wellness Workshop Series to NJCU and many other organizations throughout the country.

Many of the NJCU coaches who participated in the kid-grit series responded with a desire to not only continue with the resources/activities that they had experienced, but they wanted us to introduce this work to their students. And we did it! The sessions with the students were very rewarding. Our approach to human development, a mind-body-community/connection and digital consciousness were embraced, and the work stuck! The NJCU students continued with the life skills activities outside of the learning sessions in the same way their coaches did.

Then, an idea was born! Listening to the very positive feedback from the university coaches, we thought… “What if kid-grit provided a professional learning program for the entire NJCU student body (to be coined Student-Leaders), and then built a paid, college internship for them to work with K12 students across the country?” This idea was explosive! What’s better than to have college students deliver vital life skills and social emotional learning (SEL) activities for public school and after school program students across the nation???

At about this same time, divine timing occurred. A school district nearby to NJCU wanted kid-grit to provide SEL content for their summer program. The request was to serve over 300 elementary and middle school students. Thinking creatively, we built out the internship for the Student-Leaders to also include a component on facilitation strategies and classroom management that prepared them to lead the summer workshops for the school district. kid-grit would offer the paid internship experience for the Student-Leaders. The leadership at NJCU continued to support the idea. And BOOM! Just like that, the idea was received with excitement, and a pilot program was born!

kid-grit Student Leader Program

After an additional six weeks of training for the Student-Leaders, they were ready to facilitate kid-grit SEL activities for elementary and middle school youth onsite at Roselle School District. That first summer in 2021, 25 Student-Leaders facilitated inspiring and interactive SEL workshops to over 300 students! The response was incredible! Since 2021, kid-grit has been invited back to Roselle every summer. It was so successful that we were also invited to partner with Roselle School District throughout the school year. Now, kid-grit Student-Leaders are providing SEL experiences for their entire student body.

Since then, 28 kid-grit Student-Leaders have facilitated workshops for over 2,000 students across the nation in New Jersey, Nevada, and Alaska. The Student-Leader cohort has expanded from 25 undergraduate and Masters students to almost 48 to date. It is an official internship! How incredible!

What have we learned in these last three years?

  • Peer to peer leadership works! School-age youth (K12) easily respond to university-age, session facilitators. They develop a positive rapport, and display vulnerability (sometimes, even more so than with traditional teachers).
  • These K12 students across the country see themselves in the Student-Leaders because of the close proximity in age. Their interest in sports and leadership are aligned. The Student-Leaders become a positive example of what a college student looks and feels like. They are true role models for the K12 students.
  • Kid-grit Student-Leaders also see themselves in the young people they work with. They relate to the student’s mindset in most instances because of the narrow gap in age and experience.
  • While kid-grit see the continuous growth of the Student-Leaders, the feedback from our partners also confirms they observe the personal development of the Student-Leaders. Not only are the school-age youth benefiting from the internship model, but the Student-Leaders are growing by leaps and bounds in areas of communication, leadership, problem solving, and public speaking. This is extremely important for their futures. This model is mutually beneficial for all parties. It is a WIN!!!
  • This model has resulted in a very rewarding experience for the Student-Leaders, which has included traveling across the nation to experience different cultures, working with youth with different perspectives and life experiences, and creating lasting memories.
  • The Student-Leaders receive year-round social-emotional learning support, college and career readiness workshops, and mentorship during and after the internship.

What’s next???

This kid-grit internship model is an impactful program for the future. Based on the success of our pilot program, and the subsequent three years of successful programing, we know this model can work for other universities and colleges. We have created a blueprint and have all the special ingredients necessary for an impactful, soon to be evidenced-based program. We are gathering all the evidence necessary for this model to be recognized as a powerful approach to social-emotional learning for school-age youth across the country.

Now, who wants a Student-Leader on your K-12 campus or in OST program?

NJCU kid-grit