What’s working at Thea Bowman Center

Thea Bowman Center is the very first GED class I helped get started, and now is also my first client that is independent enough to no longer need educational consulting services. So how do we make that transition? I wanted to make sure that I didn’t just leave without passing on some basic responsibilities and also wanted some feedback to know what worked. I borrowed some ideas about Appreciative Inquiry I learned from Mark Chupp at Case Westen Reserve University to create a “Growth Planning Process.” It looks a little something like this:

  1. DISCOVER: Find out what’s been working well and what motivates them.
  2. DREAM: Have interviewees envision where they want the class to be in ten years.
  3. DESIGN: Ask what can be done to make the dream a reality.
  4. DELIVER: Go out and do it!

I started by collecting interviews from representatives at all levels of the organization: students, volunteers, staff, Board members, community partners. Then I asked those representatives to come together for an afternoon of reflection and planning. The meeting started with an overview of what we’ve accomplished in the past six months together and presented the results from the interviews. Here is the success story I repeatedly heard:

Would you believe that Thea Bowman Center is the backdrop for a gripping tale of intrigue, courage, heartbreak, dedication, and ultimately…a story of triumph? That is the story I heard repeated about our faithful volunteers. Despite stolen books, broken copy machines, uncertainty about the future, and fluctuating student attendance, the tutors kept coming week after week. They held up a “pleasant and welcoming spirit” because they are “dedicated and real self-starters” and build “personal relationships”. They continue to believe in the power of compassionate service to transform not just a neighborhood, but the world.

After allowing some time for networking and folks to get comfortable with each other, I separated everyone into small groups and we did three activities. First, each small group decided what is the most important reason we have a GED class, our collective dream for the program, and how we can make it a reality. Their vision for Thea Bowman Center’s GED class in 2019 is:

We would be a high quality, efficient GED program that has a clear path for students from registration through instruction to completion. Community support would increase through partnerships and funding. Volunteers would facilitate small group classes. Students would be provided opportunities to set goals and connect with resources beyond the GED, from job training to college education. Employers, college recruiters, and outside agencies would provide additional learning opportunities and recruit our students. The computer lab is used to study every day. Ideally, in ten years everyone in Mount Pleasant will have their GEDs so we will be advancing with them to provide vocational and college prep classes. We have a great reputation because we offer the best in every area. WOW!

Our second activity was a brainstorming session to think of as many strategies as possible to make our wishes come true. Each person got two votes and they choose three top ideas:

  1. Partner more mature or academically strong students with newer, younger, or lower skilled students for goal setting, encouragement, and mentoring.
  2. Recruit, screen, and train qualified tutors.
  3. Find teaching aids and software to assist tutoring instruction.

Each person then got the opportunity to choose which idea they wanted to work on. It turned that although the first idea of partnering students for mentoring got the most votes, only two people were interested in actually working on the idea and so they moved into the other two groups. Then each group created a long term goal, short terms activities, and chose who would do what activity by when. Finally, we ended in a prayer that God would continue to keep us safe and guide us as we deliver on our dream.

One thought on “What’s working at Thea Bowman Center

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