Vocational & Enrichment Programs

THE PROBLEM VOCATIONAL & ENRICHMENT PROGRAMS
INVISIBLE GIRLS STORIES THE CHALLENGE
TRANSFORMING INVISIBLE GIRLS FOUNDATION LEADERSHIP
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THE GIRLS’ CENTER NEWS AND PRESS

To live independent, successful lives after they leave the Girls’ Center, invisible girls must develop new skills and pathways to viable employment.  As a result, vocational and enrichment programs will be provided at the Center, in addition to educational programs and personalized treatment plans.  While living at the Center, girls’ interests, personalities, values, knowledge and aptitudes will be identified through career assessments and field trips will expose girls to the practical implementation of their vocation.  The goal is to provide a seamless transition for girls from the Center to a trade school, community college, high school or professional trade.

Keith Armwood, Superintendent of Letot Center, and Terry Smith, Ph.D., Director, Dallas County Juvenile Department, have lead the process of exploring, prioritizing and budgeting the vocational and enrichment programs which will be offered at the Girls’ Center.  The following programs are scheduled for implementation during 2015.

Tier I Enrichment Programs (Implement at Opening)

Pre and Post Testing – In order to ensure that the psychological services offered at the Letot Girls Center are effective and beneficial, testing will be conducted at the beginning, middle, and end of treatment.  This testing will assess the effectiveness of the different therapeutic treatments offered during the girls 6-9 months stay, with respect to decreasing PTSD symptoms, decreasing depressive symptoms, along with increasing self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-awareness, emotional control, and an ability to engage in self-protection. To streamline the process and increase security and confidentiality each girl will be able to use a laptop to directly input their responses.

Nutrition and Culinary Arts Program – Girls will learn how to plan and prepare healthy and nutritious meals.  The culinary portion of the program will be taught in the Girls’ Center learning kitchen and engage girls in working with a chef instructor and volunteer chefs to plan and prepare six complete meals.  Classes will be offered once a quarter and serve 48 girls annually.  At the completion of the program, girls will receive a certification to reference on job applications and resumes.  In addition, they will be eligible to participate in two advanced programs:  Café Momentum service training and dinners and the ServSafe Food Handler program.  The Nutrition and Culinary Arts program will be taught in six, two-hour weekly classes.

Serve Safe Food Handler License Program – Girls will learn information needed to pass the National Restaurant Association’s Serve Safe Food Handler exam and receive the US Food Handler Certification.  This certification will enhance girls’ opportunities for employment because establishments serving or selling food to the public must have an individual holding this license on duty at all times.  This eight to ten-hour program will be taught over three to seven days.  Classes will begin on the Monday immediately following the completion of the Culinary Arts program and be offered quarterly, serving 48 girls a year.

Garden and Horticulture Therapy Program – Girls will learn to grow and harvest flowers, herbs and vegetables in raised garden beds located at the Girls’ Center.  A covered hoop house will be used for winter gardening and give the girls hands-on opportunities to learn, grow, harvest and taste a variety of fruits and vegetables. Horticulture Therapy will include a number of activities, including but not limited to bonsai class, cut flower growing, seeding, transplanting, and many more group activities.  This program will have two core components:

  • Girls will be assigned to work in the garden as part of a prescribed program conducted by a certified horticulture therapist (YVR staff) working closely with the Letot psychological staff to address the individual needs of the young women. Classes will be taught Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school year.
  • Three times a year a three-hour horticulture class on the basics of plant production, from soil creation to planting, will be taught.

Additionally, the charter school science classes will utilize the greenhouse and aquaponics system as a resource to have the girls apply chemistry, physics and botany theories by working hands-on in the garden. Classes will be offered throughout the school year, as directed by the charter school instructor.

Café Momentum – Girls who receive life and social skills training through the Nutrition & Culinary Arts program will be selected to work the off-campus Café Momentum pop-up dinners every other month. They will serve as kitchen and wait staff for a notable local chef for an evening event.  Girls who have successfully worked a Café Momentum pop-up dinner are eligible to apply to the Café Momentum Restaurant Training program for a post-release internship once they go home.

Events – Girls will be able to participate in special events at Letot Center and the Girls’ Center.  Events will range from a “prom” for the girls complete with decorations, food and music, to holiday parties and seasonal events with gifts and motivational speakers.

Art Therapy – Art therapy is a therapeutic modality that enables the youth to express themselves non-verbally, through the use of art such as drawing, painting, and sculpting.  Often times words fall short in describing how we feel or think for various reasons; our verbal capacities are not yet developed to fully convey our feelings, we have not developed enough trust in the other person or even ourselves to verbally express/share our thoughts, or the thought of verbally sharing our inner most feelings is too daunting and we fear decompensation.  For these reasons and many more, art therapy enables the individual to be heard without words.  Also, especially with the Letot Girls RTC population, working with girls who have experienced trauma in their past, verbal therapy has its limitations since traumatic memories are stored in the area of the brain responsible for emotional processing rather than verbal processing.  Therefore, art therapy is able to tap into these memories more directly enabling the girl to express themselves without limitations.

Therapy with Games (Play Therapy) – Games are an effective tool in conducting individual therapy.  It builds rapport between the adolescent and therapist, which is essential to building a trusting therapeutic relationship.  Games present a non-threatening modality – in a medium that adolescents already are acquainted with/excel in, to start engaging with the therapist.  Once trust is established through games, more difficult conversations can begin.  Games ease anxieties and the awkwardness some adolescents experience when sitting across a therapist.  The expectation to share/talk is minimized and becomes more naturally elicited when the adolescent and therapist are mutually engaged in a joint task.  Also, lessons are directly derived and explored through games such as winning, losing, cheating, sustaining attention, dealing with frustrations in the moment, etc.

Yoga – Based on current psychological literature finding the importance of mind/body connection to the subjective experience of trauma, yoga practices will be implemented throughout our clinical curriculum to encourage girls to increase awareness of their adolescents ‘somatic responses, ultimately increasing mastery of their emotional identification and regulation.

Art & Music Program – Girls will be invited to create their own beats using drums and bongos and create their own color schemes with paint.  In a two-hour program twice a week, Big Thought volunteers and Letot staff will teach girls a brief history of drums and bongos as well as different rhythms and beats.  Volunteers and staff will also teach girls how to identify primary colors, mix colors to make new colors and use proper painting techniques.  Instruction will be provided three days per break for three sessions.

Tier II Enrichment Programs (Implement in September)

Career/Jobs Readiness and Financial Capability – This six-week class will meet once a week and assist girls in developing a portfolio for future job searches and interviews.  Girls will create a resume, create a plan to achieve their future goals, conduct mock interviews with staff and volunteers, learn how to prepare and dress for interviews and conduct a job search.  Financial Capabilities will be taught using “Building Wealth,” a workbook published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and taught by a VP from Texas Capital Bank.  Each student will receive her own copy of the financial curriculum, a jump drive containing her resume and 10 printed resumes.  Job mentoring volunteers will provide help and advice to girls who graduate the program and are released from the Girls’ Center.

Computer Laptops – Girls will be provided laptops for supervised use in career readiness and financial capability, computer training and retail service training courses.  After successful completion of the Letot Girls’ Center program, girls’ laptops will be given to them at the time of their release.

Computer Training – Girls will learn Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint in Microsoft’s Introduction to Computers course.  They will be able to format business letters, memos, reports and tables and receive three credit hours of continuing education from El Centro College.  The two-hour, two-days-a-week, eight-week course will be offered quarterly.

Retail Service Training Program – Girls will learn about customer service and how to work in a retail store.  After passing a final exam, girls will receive a certification in Retail Service Training from the National Retail Federation.  The certification is recognized by Wal-Mart, Target, Foot Locker and Game Stop, among others.  ResCare of Dallas will teach the two-week, two-hour daily class quarterly.

Dog Training Program – The primary goal of the dog training program is to allow girls to experience the responsibilities of leadership and teaching.  This program will draw clear parallels between the skills learned and the girls’ own lives.  Girls will participate in the program 90 minutes a day, five days a week, for three weeks.

Education & Operations

The Dallas County Juvenile Department’s Charter School will provide basic infrastructure, staffing and equipment for high school and GED programs and Dallas County will cover all of the operational expenses for the Girls’ Center.  However, County budgets cannot provide for vocational and enrichment programs which are budgeted at $563,715 for year one and $506,119 for year two of the Girls’ Center.