I have just returned from a week of travels around Phoenix, Arizona and Denver, Colorado. I and husband spent days walking around several facilities operated by an organization that has built programs for young men and young women who have been committed to “the state” for crimes or behavior, and for whom the programs operate upon positive principles. “Positive Youth Development” the lingo is. And the amazing thing is — these organizations appear to be reshaping young lives. We’re reviewing and synthesizing, and will generate some materials based on our observations and interviews. Thick observation indeed. Social research, program research, dramaturgical research come together.
Boys and girls doing three-mile runs, basketball, yoga, community service, academic studies, and vocational training. Therapy dogs and robotics projects and “The Star Spangled Banner” on a clear, winter brown football stadium field. The context was to observe and to listen. And learn.
On one winter brown football field one afternoon, a school assembly involved a demonstration by a group of men on horseback representing Buffalo Soldiers. Buffalo Soldiers originally were members of the U.S. 10th Calvary of the U.S. Army, formed just after the Civil War (1866) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Some sources say that the name was given to the soldiers by the Native American tribes they fought, and was soon applied (informally) to all African-American regiments formed that year.
On this day in March 2010, five men on horseback demonstrated (to a rapt audience of several hundred young men and staff ) movements and positioning and flag flying. It was a crisp clear winter day and this consultant sent to observe for a future report ended up learning a few things herself.
There is theatre everywhere. And there is hope everywhere. Adults focusing on young people, young people achieving and failing and achieving again, sports and activity, encouragement and dreams. There is something important going on here.