The Unity Project: Mentorship for Incline’s youth | SierraSun.com

The Unity Project: Mentorship for Incline’s youth

Special to the Bonanza

The eighth-grade class at Incline Middle School and the AmeriCorps team gathered on the Unity Project's final day for a group photo.

Friday, June 6, was the last day of a unique mentorship program for the eighth-graders of Incline Middle School.

Fittingly called "The Unity Project," this program was designed by the Parasol AmeriCorps volunteers to cultivate camaraderie among the eighth-graders.

Since the beginning of April, the Parasol AmeriCorps volunteers have been working directly with the Incline Middle School students and providing activities, discussion topics, and team building exercises that address issues such as tolerance and bullying, healthy relationships, goal setting, body image and self worth, peer pressure, and overall health and wellness.

Although each AmeriCorps volunteer developed curriculum for a specific topic, the entire service project was designed by Parasol AmeriCorps members Megan Heatwole and Kassi Reisbeck.

"We chose to create the Unity Project because we feel like eighth grade is a difficult developmental time for young adults," Reisbeck said. "Any support and advice that people our age, in their early 20s, can relay to them is very much needed and is a support system that sometimes falls through the cracks."

Many of these topics are not openly discussed in school settings, and Reisbeck and Heatwole saw need for a mentorship program in the community.

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Faculty members involved in the Unity Project noted a change in the students' respect for themselves and others, and noticed a positive change in attention levels close to the end of the school year.

"Any group of students could benefit from these topics that the AmeriCorps suggested," said Sharon Kennedy, the school's site administrator. "In the end, (the students) are actually talking about topics like respect and goal setting."

The faculty members weren't the only ones who noticed a positive change. The AmeriCorps volunteers checked in with the students throughout the progress of the Unity Project to see where improvements could be made to the program.

When asked what "unity" means, one student participant said, "I think unity is when everyone respects each others' differences and can get along and can not only be happy themselves but can help other people be happy."

The Unity Project culminated in a final day full of positive well-being strategies. The AmeriCorps volunteers taught students about positive psychology, nutrition and healthy eating, and yoga or exercise as a way for healthy stress management.

The students left with a folder full of resources and strategies to stay informed about all the topics that were addressed during the Unity Project. The incoming freshman class of Incline High School will be more prepared than any other group of students.

This article was provided to the Bonanza by members of the Parasol AmeriCorps program. Learn more at parasol.org.