From Data to Dialogue: Youth Voice at Opportunity Neighborhood

Every January, Sprockets hosts M3 (Making Meaning with Multiple Data Sets). This day- long workshop provides the space and support for youth programs to analyze and reflect on program data. Youth workers leave the day with a better understanding of their data, conversations to continue at their sites, and even new action plans to improve their quality programming.  

This past year, Chan Chamrong, Resident Services Coordinator at Opportunity Neighborhood left M3 with an unexpected realization and an inspiration to address it. “I think what we noticed from our numbers in the SAYO data was that this was the lowest thing, youth choice. They [youth] didn’t feel they had a say in what we did. Yet most of us [staff] thought that they did, and to know they didn’t feel that, there was a disconnect, and we wanted to change that.”  

Opportunity Neighborhood promotes safe and supportive housing by providing family support services onsite at affordable housing communities. One of four different service locations, Ames Lake Neighborhood offers Ames After Hours for children k-5, and the Ames Teen Group. A 9-week summer program, field trips, movie nights, homework help, community outreach projects, and a curriculum touching on topics such as anti-bullying, healthy relationships, truancy awareness and effective communication, are just a few examples of the programming provided by Chan and the rest of the Opportunity Neighborhood staff at Ames Lake.   

While their programming demonstrates a wide range of activities for youth to choose from, participation in M3 allowed Chan and her co-workers to analyze their SAYO data and begin a conversation around incorporating more youth voice. This conversation led to the development of a youth panel, where youth have more input in the focus and implementation of the curriculum. “Sometimes it seems we are kind of repeating things over and over again in regards to lesson plans, because we teach the same things every year,” Chan pointed out, “So it’s good that they [the youth] are putting in their opinions. We are having that dialogue, and it’s really great. Now having them [the youth] be able to look at it and say ‘Hey we talk about it this way, but let’s do it this way,’ I think will keep them coming back and they’ll stay more engaged.”  

Committed to using program data for continuous improvement, and now feeling more prepared on how to utilize the data, Chan is especially looking forward to the upcoming year. She and the rest of the staff plan to revisit the youth panel, and engage new and returning youth in their conversations on youth voice. Chan hopes that in the future, older youth will take on more of a leadership role, where they are leading curriculum for the younger participants. “But for right now,” Chan reflected, “we will keep on doing the good work we are doing, increase the numbers of our teens, and create a space that is their own and that they want to come back to.”