El Paso, TX
Stands on the Rio Grande, across the border from Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico
Home to the University of Texas at
El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso
Total population: 649,121
3.39% Black/African American
1.18% Asian American
0.73% American Indian
86.62% Hispanic/Latino of any race
Median household income: $32,124
The Boys & Girls Clubs of El Paso (BGCEP) implemented the MSY Program at three sites in south El Paso: (1) the Boys & Girls Club Janacek, a school-based site located at Montana Vista Elementary School in far-east El Paso (the club serves an area known as a colonia, which are unincorporated communities along the Mexican/U.S. border; nearly all [92 percent] of the youth served are immigrants from Juarez, Mexico, with Spanish being their first language); (2) Club Travis Petty, which serves the El Paso Segundo Barrio in downtown El Paso (the second poorest community in the United States as of a couple of years ago, with a median annual household income of $5,000 to $6,000); and (3) the Boys & Girls Club Delta, located in a community with a median annual household income of $10,000. The MSY facilitator at the downtown location (Club Travis Petty) had to deliver MSY lessons in English and Spanish.
Each facilitator recruited participants within his or her own organization, as well as via Keystone and Torch Clubs (preteen and teen clubs that focus on giving back to the community and supporting future leaders). MSY activities took place in game rooms, open areas, and portable schools (small buildings with two classrooms). BGCEP also promoted the MSY Program by issuing a media release to several media outlets throughout El Paso. A reporter from the El Paso Times, the local newspaper, visited Club Petty and interviewed one of the MSY participants. An article featuring the MSY Program appeared in the El Paso Times several weeks later.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of El Paso aims to enable all people, especially those most in need, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible adults.
Ana Chacon, facilitator for the Boys & Girls Club Janacek MSY Program, is a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, working to earn her degree in education and become a teacher. Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, she is bilingual and bicultural, which allowed her to optimally serve the 9- to 12-year-old, urban youth of Mexican descent enrolled in the MSY Program. Many of these youth are bilingual, but some only speak Spanish. Ms. Chacon facilitated the program in both English and Spanish with 8 to 13 youth participating (attendance varied weekly).
“The Big Production helped open the kids’ eyes to the future. Instead of thinking they want to become police officers because that is all they see, they learned that they can go to school for media activities. They had no idea about this before.”
Isaac Hernandez, Coordinator
Club Janacek offered the MSY curriculum to two different groups from Monday through Friday for 2 weeks beginning April 2013, with one lesson covered each day. The facilitator at this site then added two additional sessions to implement the Big Production. The facilitator implemented the program in two portable classrooms and used outdoor space to implement the physical activities. The first group developed a public service announcement (PSA) that promoted the use of football as a way to be physically active outdoors and provided recommendations for making football an enjoyable activity. The second group produced a video that also encourages children to be physically active.
Club Petty implemented the MSY curriculum twice a week for 10 sessions that lasted 60 minutes to 80 minutes during winter/spring 2013. The facilitator added 2 additional weeks to implement the Big Production. The facilitator at this site implemented the program in a game room area and conducted physical activities in a large gym with a full-size basketball court. Youth engaged in media production editing in the computer lab. Youth conceived and developed a video for the Big Production. They recorded the video with video cameras and edited it at the computer lab. The kids also generated their own song about healthy eating.
Club Delta implemented the MSY curriculum once a week for 1 hour to 1½ hours, primarily in a small classroom. The facilitator conducted the physical activities in the adjacent full-size gym. Youth developed a PSA video to teach other kids about how they can have a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising. Club Delta disseminated their PSA video to the larger community by posting it on YouTube. One of the camera operators for KFOX, the local FOX news affiliate, helped kids with the project by teaching them different camera angles for filming and helping to edit the narrative.
To buy the ingredients for the Snack Breaks, Isaac Hernandez, director of operations for BGCEP for 15 years and MSY Program coordinator, intentionally shopped at local supermarkets—markets close enough to participants’ homes so that their families can walk to access the same foods he purchased for snack time (instead of buying food from stores that were many miles away, inaccessible to families lacking transportation).
BGCEP also partnered with a local rock radio station that held a fundraising event for the MSY Program and posted the video on the station’s Facebook page. The downtown location group took field trips to a professional recording studio that showed participants how to use the equipment. Mr. Hernandez shared, “The Big Production helped open the kids’ eyes to the future. Instead of thinking they want to become police officers because that is all they see, they learned that they can go to school for media activities. They had no idea about this before.”
Youth and Community Response to the Media-Smart Youth Program
All three sites reported that the youth liked the program overall, especially the Snack Breaks and the video developed for the Big Production.
At first, youth participants from Club Delta “weren’t really into the program” because “they didn’t understand what ‘media smart’ meant,” Ms. Chacon said. When she asked participants to list examples of “media,” they mostly gave social media examples. They were not aware that billboards, for example, are included in the umbrella definition of media. Moreover, participants did not know what a blog was when they began the program. However, they “eventually looked forward to the program and learned a lot, especially how to eat.”
Mr. Hernandez observed, “Our kids had a lot of fun with this program.”
Youth participants most enjoyed the Action Breaks, as “this got them out of their environment instead of sitting and listening to a lecture,” said Mr. Hernandez. Youth participants also enjoyed making their own snacks, such as trail mix. “They loved creating their own snacks, including trail mix and granola and yogurt,” he added.
In addition, at Club Petty, there were a couple of parents who reported that their children were eating healthier.
Successes, Challenges, and Lessons Learned
The main challenge was sustaining participants’ interest in 90-minute sessions when all activities at BGCEP are structured around 60-minute rotating time slots. Every day, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., after-school programs focus on homework assistance. From 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., youth rotate among different activities, including gym and technology.
Another challenge was ensuring consistent attendance. Mr. Hernandez shared that his organization’s programs are geared mostly toward elementary school children because participation begins to drop off in the middle and high school years. Snack time was a key component in retaining participants. “The healthy snacks kept the kids coming.”
To ensure that attendance would be high at the sessions, Ms. Chacon advised the other facilitators to confirm attendance as well as to factor in plenty of time to review the lessons before the day of the lesson.
An additional challenge was fully including youth participants who speak only Spanish in the activities. Ms. Chacon had to translate every activity in real time to include all youth.
Although Ms. Chacon reported that the time allotted for MSY Program lessons was accurate in her experience, she sometimes had to “cut a lesson short because three related kids would get picked up together early.” She adapted by continuing the shortened lesson at the following week’s session. The younger kids, she observed, became distracted more easily and quickly than the older ones, especially toward the end of a lesson. This applied particularly to the completion of the worksheets.
Moreover, Erick Trevizo, the director at Club Petty, reported that “the teaching content, specifically the videos, did not seem age-appropriate for some of the older kids.” He found the videos to be more appropriate for the younger kids in the group.
The greatest success for Ms. Chacon as well as the youth participants was the creation of the Big Production, a PSA posted on YouTube. A television camera operator from KFOX14 visited the participants, helped them write scripts, and trained them on video camera angles. “The kids found it fun to actually make something,” Ms. Chacon observed.
Recommendations for Future Implementations of the Program
“The kids found it fun to actually make something.”
Ana Chacon, Facilitator
For future implementations of the program, Mr. Hernandez suggested that it would be helpful to modify the curriculum so that each lesson is a maximum of 60 minutes, which would translate into structuring the program as 15 modules. Otherwise, in his experience, “Kids start to get antsy.”
Ms. Chacon recommended gearing the promotion of the MSY Program toward older youth; in her opinion, 13- to 15-year-olds would be the ideal audience.
Both Mr. Hernandez and Ms. Chacon suggested developing bilingual materials, particularly for those being sent home to parents who speak Spanish only.
At present, BGCEP does not have plans for sustaining the MSY Program.