Authentic Education Through Community Action
YouthBuild Charter School of California’s authentic and collaborative project-based education model is the contrarian’s response to a traditional, high-stakes testing system that dehumanizes the learning experience, marginalizes tomorrow’s potential leaders and disproportionately fails society’s most vulnerable groups. At the beginning of each trimester, teachers work together to form one “essential question” for all of their courses to guide how learners will engage in a course study. Students and teachers work together throughout the trimester to explore answers to their essential questions– questions about leadership, the balance of power, and social justice. As the trimester draws to a close, students work together on their “Community Action Project,” a single event that involves the whole school working to serve the community, and is typically related to the site’s “essential question.” These culminating projects have included a community-wide health fair in Lennox, a “Green the East Side” campaign that added fresh food options to a local liquor store in a community that is largely a food desert, and a community fair that showcased student projects and featured voter registration and free counseling services.
Inherent to the educational philosophy held by YouthBuild Charter School of California is a deep rooted belief that all students enter the School program with gifts and talents that can be cultivated and showcased using a project-based curriculum where students are actively engaged as creators of their knowledge in a way that is not manufactured, but authentic and meaningful. This belief is put into practice to every extent possible, by all school staff using the authentic and collaborative approach in pedagogy and in conjunction with the YouthBuild program’s mission and vision. Young people are pushed out of school for a variety of reasons. Instead of judging them and calling them “drop-outs,” YCSC seeks to find solutions to the obstacles that may have led those young people to leave school without a diploma and provide an education that is more relevant to their needs.
A More Engaging Alternative
What makes YCSC different from other continuation and adult schools serving a similar demographic is that it uses a project-based approach to learning instead of more traditional continuation models which rely on packets, distance learning, or GED prep tests. Additionally, most over-aged students have only one option after they leave school without a diploma—taking the GED. Through the school’s partnership with YouthBuild programs, students at YCSC, though over-aged, have an opportunity to earn a high school diploma in a classroom-based setting thanks to an exemption written into the California’s Education Code. Because of this partnership with YouthBuild programs, students at YCSC receive not only a great education and the opportunity to earn their high school diploma, but also counseling and social wrap-around services, job training, community service opportunities, and leadership development.