Letting Go of Clecha, While Holding Corazón; Developing a New Approach to Empowering Youth in Gangs the Homeboy Industries Way
CitationCruz, Cesar A. 2016. Letting Go of Clecha, While Holding Corazón; Developing a New Approach to Empowering Youth in Gangs the Homeboy Industries Way. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractThis capstone seeks to assess and support Homeboy Industries (HBI), a leader in wrap-around services for formerly gang-involved and incarcerated men and women, in their co-creation of a youth services committee and a comprehensive system of care for young people. In doing so, my strategic project consists of conducting stakeholder interviews, focus groups, and synthesizing those findings to present to the organization. The second part of the strategic project involves building and working with a team of individuals from various departments, including case management, mental health, education, job services within two separate agencies, Homeboy Industries and Learning Works Charter School Network, to create a youth services committee that can carry the work forward. In service of evaluating the progress of the strategic project, I will utilize the 4I Framework of Organizational Learning, developed by management professor, Mary Crossan, and her associates from the Ivey School of Business. The 4I Framework contains “four related (sub)processes-intuiting, interpreting, integrating, and institutionalizing-that occur over three levels: individual, group, and organization” (Crossan et al., 1999, p. 524). Ultimately, the goal is to help an already successful leader in wrap-around support services for adults, Homeboy Industries, create an “organized system of care for young people” (Torres, 2015). This goal can be achieved by maximizing its strengths, coupling them with best practices in youth development, and in creating a team that can place the needs of young people in its core mission. Creating an organized system of care, Homeboy Industries-style, can have national implications as the new secretary of education, John King, has made it a point to visit with the leaders of Homeboy Industries (August 2015, Appendix A) in search of models for empowering the youth in a non-traditional way. If clecha, or knowledge that is passed down in prison is the old way of empowering young people, as it often goes in one ear and out the other, then this capstone seeks to capture the experience of Homeboy Industries and Learning Works, the profound work of founder Father Greg Boyle and many amazing practitioners on site at HBI, and combine it with the wisdom of young people, to offer a new approach to empower youth in gangs, the ever-evolving, Homeboy Industries Way. See, the idea of clecha or street wisdom has been passed down for generations as the way that older homies “lace” (give) younger homies advice. In the research on best practices to reach gang involved youth, this clecha notion dates back to the curbside counselor of the 1930s from the seminal work of psychologist Clifford Shaw, but often times, that form of advice has not worked. This has created what Reed Larson, a pioneer in positive youth development, calls the Intentionality Paradox. According to Larson, the paradox lies in that adults want to be intentional with their advice-giving to young people because “it is easier to think about molding clay than about helping the clay mold itself.” (Larson, 2006, p. 682) Larson along with many other experts in the field of youth development are telling us, what young people have been saying for a long time, “stop telling me what to do.” They don’t care to know how much we know (about life or the struggle), they need to know (and feel) how much we actually care. Many adults care so much that they struggle to balance letting youth learn on their own, and sharing their own experiences or clecha. While we are trying to figure it out in the field of youth development and education, too many young people are dying. Every 26 seconds a young person drops out of school in the U.S. (American Graduate, 2016). Over 1 million youth per year are system-involved in “courts with juvenile jurisdiction handling delinquency cases.” (Hockenberry, 2015, p. 6) Thousands of those youth are ending up caged in juvenile halls and prison, and many are dying in our cities nationwide. We must search for new ways to engage and walk with youth in gangs. This is part of that search.
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