In those most recent eight year history of the Brotherhood, several wonderful graduate students, with a passion for adolescent minority males, have provided mental health checkups for the Kenwood Academy Brotherhood (KAB). Since their involvement with KAB, they continue to effectively use their knowledge and skills to positively influence the organization through a multidisciplinary approach. The approach affords comprehensive supports to KAB through the use of interns from the helping professions. Some of the interns who provide support to the Brotherhood study in the field of social work, school and community mental health counseling. It is the continuing collaborative work of these interning helping professionals that strengthens the support circle that surrounds the KAB male students.
This section is where the counseling/social work interns and volunteers can express their experiences in assisting with the Kenwood Academy Brotherhood.
Growing up on the south side of Chicago, we thought we knew it all about Kenwood Academy. “The school in Hyde Park you’d never be able to attend.” While in high school, I was often envious of the students who attended Kenwood. This envy grew from what I felt like was essentially a better learning environment and opportunities for the students of the school. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Kenwood would have an opportunity waiting for me as well.
I began interning with the Kenwood Academy Brotherhood on January 4, 2016. Since beginning this experience, it has been a big confirmation to my hopes. In my role as the intern for KAB, I am privileged with the tasks of facilitating weekly meetings and activities with members, conducting individual and group counseling sessions, producing assessment, and collaboratively developing agendas and scheduling. So far in my experiences as an intern, I have been able to meet individually with students outside of group settings and begin to build rapport for a therapeutic interaction. Members have discussed personal goals, career aspirations, as well as areas of growth for themselves. In consistently meeting with members, I intend to provide them a network of support that encompasses my responsibilities as a counselor, as well as a relatable figure that the males can resource when ethically and responsibly necessary.
Being in this role means so much to me at this moment in time. I knew graduating college that I wanted to be in an environment where I can help youth progress through their development. More importantly is the fact that this experience embodies what I truly feel like the purpose of an education is; which is to gain knowledge and skills that are applicable to the culture and/or community from which one comes from. Being a Black male from the south side of Chicago, I am driven by the need to contribute to this population in all areas of my work. I am interested in the lifetime development and awareness of African American youth and contributing to efforts for their achievement. Being the intern for KAB has provided me with the platform to directly interact with young males who are interested in comradery and community, what better to ask for?
In my youth, I dealt with many hardships and as a young male I struggled to find answers. But more importantly, I struggled finding support. This I why I cherish the opportunity to be of a resource to the members of KAB. As my experience with KAB furthers, I am extremely eager to experience the ways that I can incorporate social consciousness as well as youth advocacy to interactions with the males. I have learned so much in such a short time about the world of a high school male. I am completely honored to serve in this capacity.
January 2016 – Mr. Anthony Downing and Mr. Reco Bates
Here is an article where their experiences with establishing trust, promoting intimacy, developing creative activities, conducting assessments, and collecting/interpreting data while implementing a structured-thirty-week curriculum was implemented.
Brittany Sims, MSW earned her Bachelor Degree in Psychology with a concentration on Adolescents/Human Development in 2006 from DePaul University. She also attended the University of Chicago and received a Masters in Clinical Social Work. Conducted Ethnographic Research on the Kenwood Academy Brotherhood Organization, considering intimacy development within the context of an adolescent minority male-mentoring organization. While her first Publication is in the works, she is also certified by Illinois Department of Children and Family Services & Certified in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention. She currently serves as a Board Member for L.I.F.E. non-for-profit 501 (c) (3) & Board Member for Kenwood Brotherhood Inc., non-for-profit 501 (c) (3).
I began my research with the Kenwood Brotherhood in 2010 and upon my arrival, I was unsure of the direction my research was going. I realized that certain topics, while valid, had been saturated with repetition of the problem and not considering topics that could facilitate interventions and/or solutions. I had the opportunity to meet with members individually and collectively, which appeared to bring on feelings of ambivalence. I was a female; I was asking questions, and always taking notes. After a few sessions of trivial conversations and icebreaking exercises these members began to warm-up to the idea of regular conversations with me. They began to feel safe with me, trust me, and this lead to them becoming vulnerable. Individual sessions and conversations shifted from surface chatter to profound statements of authentic feelings and perceptions of themselves and their peers.
Based on the use of ethnography, I was able to immerse myself into the Brotherhood culture for three years. I documented certain things that were mentioned such as, ‘I want a friend, but I don’t think I know how to be a friend’. I was questioned on ‘How do I know if someone is safe to be around, it could be a set-up, so how do I trust?’ or ‘How do I know if someone trusts me’. Also, ‘Man, I can’t tell my secrets, some could use that against me’. I recorded the aforementioned statements as a part of the data and several others issued by the young men over my three-year period with the Brotherhood. Inevitably, the ethnographic analysis through qualitative anecdotal data concluded that male-mentoring programs are effective when considering healthy-intimacy-development within the context of same-sex (non-sexual) friendships.
Having discussed some of the content and comments disclosed during these sessions in supervision, with Dr. Wyatt, it was concluded that what we had here was an issue with intimacy. What was interesting to me was that these young men stood in a circle, hands locked (right over left), and tested their link by taking three steps back. This symbolized that the Brotherhood was only as strong as its weakest link. A short prayer was said and then with pride and vigor grew the chant ‘Fraternity’, ‘Responsibility’, and ‘Creativity’ repeated three times. In that instant, I realized that what was apparent in my research and the most significant issues plaguing the work of male-mentoring groups, advocacy centers, community-after-school programs, and other support services, while trying to help these individuals establish an authentic sense of identity and healthy-intimacy-development, must combat “the street” identity/mentality.
“The street” identity/ mentality adopted by these young men, is influenced by the media’s portrayal of them. The majority of our media outlets portray minority youth as recent hip-hop lyrics suggest, as ‘all the way turnt up’ young men on top of their, ‘swagg surfin’ game and they ‘ain’t got no worries’. The notion that minority youth are so far removed from whom they really are and who they could be, that they rely on false images, unrealistic values, and a code of ethics, which breeds disconnect is clearly demonstrated in current trends of hip-hop/rap music. For a significant portion of minority youth population, these phrases are adopted as their daily mantras and this in turn, shapes their thinking, behaviors and feelings.
The Brotherhood is a male-mentoring organization maintains a commitment of ‘turning young boys into men one at a time’. Along with several other school-based and community-based, mentoring, advocacy, crisis, and youth programs while these adolescents are in the presence of the group is implied that the environment is a safe haven. While this notion of a safe-haven may hold true inside the meeting walls of the organizations, these young men are oftentimes faced with an all too real paradox, once they exit the doors of their respective ‘safe havens’. Thus the need for continued use of multidisciplinary approaches within organizations like the Brotherhood, as to enhance the supports provided to minority youth.
Aja Humphreys, M.S., Ed in Counseling with a specialization in School Counseling from Northern Illinois University. She was a school counselor intern with Kenwood Brotherhood in Fall 2012. Aja’s counseling work is student-centered in which she builds rapport to understand students from a holistic approach. She is currently an Academic Advisor at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago, IL.
During my time with KAB, I worked with the young men on overcoming various issues that impacted their academic, personal, and socio-emotional development. The members generally lacked life skills in the areas of problem-solving/conflict resolution; communication; time management; responsibility; and teamwork. These are skills that may not be directly taught in the classroom by teachers, but definitely need to be encouraged and reinforced by school counselors. The skill deficient in those aforementioned areas contributed to the boys’ poor academic performance, insecurities, and personal experiences of exclusion in social relationships. My goals for the 14 boys on my caseload were to help them achieve their own goals while motivating them to improve their grades, raise their self-esteem, and embrace their individuality. The combination of rapport-building and unconditional positive regard was essential for establishing a working relationship with the boys. My approach to address the boys’ presenting issues included academic, personal, and group counseling. I utilized Glasser’s Reality Therapy/Choice Theory to guide my work with my students. Using this theoretical framework, I taught students to assume responsibility for their actions and make better choices to gain more positive outcomes in their academics and personal/social lives. Academic counseling consisted of checking Brotherhood members’ grades weekly and arranging individual meetings. I created a spreadsheet to collect data and monitor students’ academic performance. I shared the data with Dr. Wyatt and other interns to inform them of the members’ academic progress. I motivated students to care about getting better grades. I also worked with students on setting realistic goals for academic recovery.
General issues concerning conflict-resolution, self-esteem, and friendships were addressed in individual and group counseling. Active listening, positive affirmations, and lessons on coping skills were effective for the boys to resolve their personal problems. The student and I also collaborated on problem-solving and goal-setting tasks. KAB’s weekly meetings have a group counseling component. Group activities and discussions are aligned with the American School Counseling Association standards. Academic, career, and personal/social counseling are incorporated into group meetings. The interns take turns facilitating group activities based on the group’s needs. Each activity is processed with the members to make sure that they are gaining skills and learning valuable lessons. We also allow group members to lead their own activities. It teaches them public speaking, leadership, and interpersonal skills. Various activities on communication, fraternity, teamwork, and conflict resolution are facilitated in forms of writing, drawing, speaking, and kinesthetic learning. Students were more engaged in group meetings when the activities are fun for them and not necessarily confined to the school. For example, students participated in a community service-learning event at the DuSable Museum; gained graphic design skills at YOU Media at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago; and attended college tours in Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Chicago. A comprehensive male-mentoring program, such as KAB, certainly gives young men an outlet to express themselves freely and receive therapeutic healing in a non-threatening environment.
Fredrick Kendricks Jr., B.A. in Spanish and a Candidate for M.A. in Community Counseling from Argosy University-Chicago. I worked with youth for over a decade and currently counsel various mandated clients within the community mental health system. It is my passion to continue providing mental health counseling services to underrepresented populations within plight stricken communities.
While interning with the Kenwood Academy Brotherhood, I simultaneously served as an interning counseling at a community based mental health agency. I often switched gears while working with mandated adult clients and the KAB. The skills, techniques, treatment planning, and counseling styles required for the two sites were vastly different and required me to advance my counselor development, exponentially. Specifically, my colleagues traditionally had one dynamic to adjust to while I had to readjust and refocus frequently to changing dynamics. Conversely, the needs and issues of the school-based male-mentoring minority youth between the ages of 13-18 are especially different from those of the multi-aged adult clients in mandated substance abuse and sex offender treatment programs.
As a KAB Intern, I was charged with a caseload of eleven clients. It was crucial for me to engage the students and seek to establish a counselor relationship with them. This was necessary because as an intern, students could only come down for counseling during their lunch period. Each lunch period generally lasted for 45-50 minutes, which discouraged the use of a traditional 50-minute session. I mean, the kids have to eat at some point, right?
When the students would come down during their lunch periods, I utilized Solution Focused Brief Therapy Approach for the counseling sessions. This approach proved effective due, to its application timeframe and use of solution-oriented interventions. In the counseling sessions with my KAB clients, during their lunch periods, it was common for them to come to the counseling office with problems, in search of immediate solutions. The young men reported conflicts with instructors, issues with relationships, parental issues, academic challenges and interpersonal conflict. I noted that a client’s failure to address the issues tended to escalate smaller issues or situations within their classrooms or affected their involvement within the Kenwood Academy Brotherhood.
So, in an effort to increase the effectiveness of treatment, I incorporated a myriad of activities within the group sessions. The activities were partly aligned with the creed of the KAB organization’s curriculum, addressing fraternity, responsibility and creativity, the American School Counselor Association Model and the principals of Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles). Additionally, the activities were fun in nature and specific to the issues of the young men of the group. This tended to increase the student’s enthusiasm and desire to participate more frequently over time. Towards the end of the group, the Brotherhood members processed the session and expressed how they could use the skills and lessons learned during the groups. Essentially, these activities in (and outside of) group, coupled with individual counseling session, resulted in some improved behavioral, cognitive and emotional development within the young men of KAB—reinforcing the significance of a multidisciplinary model.
Ashley Ward, B.S., is a current graduate student at Argosy University in the Masters in Community Counseling Program. Currently an intern with the Kenwood Academy Brotherhood, she has more than five years of experience in the social service field. She has worked with adolescents suffering with severe behavioral and mental health issue. She is currently works for The Night Ministry with young adults who are homeless, seeking services to find housing and employment.
I started interning with KAB in January of 2013, and the experience and knowledge obtained thus far has been invaluable. I thought that I knew a lot of about adolescent boys due to my career background with adolescent youth in social services. However, I am learning that KAB members continue to challenge what I thought I knew, compel me to redefine what the needs are of adolescent males, and encourage me to question my own theoretical approach when working with adolescent males. The great thing about KAB is that there are interns available to them throughout the school day, to service their mental health needs. I question how the current school system manages to meet the needs of thousands of students, with small concessions of helping professionals, accompanied by limited timeframes to attend to the students? In fact, school systems should consider allowing counselors to implement more mental health services in schools, as I have come to witness the dire need for them.
The counselor’s responsibility should include: assessing the diverse needs of students, providing brief counseling therapy, conduct groups on coping skills and stress management, and all while giving additional supports. While working with KAB for the last six months, during group and some individuals’ sessions, members of KAB had experienced murders/deaths of loved ones and friends, due to gun violence. It was not until experiencing this dynamic that I realized the significant impact the interns of KAB the members have had on the development of the boys—affording them the opportunity to vent, cry, and feel supported throughout the school day. What I have learned now, more than anything, is how precious the provision of consistent emotional support is to adolescent African American males. Sometimes this can be provided through meeting with students one-on-one, recognizing good grades, consistently checking grades, giving a hug every now and then, building trust, and just being there when you say you will be. I ask myself: What about all the other students who attend schools that do not provide mental health services? The issues are of great urgency and should be given great consideration by school systems. It is incumbent that we establish mental health counseling in schools and address the plight that exists within the development of adolescent African American males. Children/adolescents spend most of their time in school; therefore proper support systems are needed to shape our students into the best people they can be.