On behalf of the youth, staff, and board of OCU, I am excited to share our Impact Report for the Third and Fourth Quarters of 2021.
Throughout the summer and as schools returned to in-person learning, our staff adapted to new ways of facilitating Fly By Light programming and therapy sessions through COVID-safe means. Returning to schools, the disparities brought on by the pandemic brought to light the immense need for our programming and services. Our talented Fly By Light facilitators rose to the occasion, expanding full-time in-school programming and out-of-school-time programming at schools throughout the District. Similarly, our school-based mental health clinicians stretched beyond their limits to manage the rising demand for therapeutic services to support our most vulnerable youth.
As an organization, we are also growing and planting seeds of change. In October, we announced the transition of OCU founder Hawah Kasat out of his role as Executive Director. We wish him all the best as he gets back to what he loves best: teaching, traveling, writing, and continuing to serve OCU in his new role as Senior Advisor! We ended the year with a powerful 'Close The Gap' campaign that helped raise awareness of the persistent disparity gaps that hold our youth back in school and in life. It launched with the premiere of our latest documentary film, 'The Melody Lingers On,' and culminated in a 21st Anniversary 'Close The Gap Virtual Benefit Concert,' emceed by Little Bacon Bear of 93.9fm WKYS.
Some highlights of our programming include:
- Summertime with Fly By Light: Over the summer, OCU hosted our first Art and Social Justice Institute at Roosevelt Senior High School for 32 youth through our partnership with Learn24. Students were fully immersed in the Fly By Light curriculum, in which they practiced artistic expression with various media and created their own social justice campaigns centered around police brutality, climate change, and mental health. The program was offered in both English and Spanish, bringing together students from different backgrounds. We also took students on various field trips, including a canoe trip with the Anacostia Watershed Society, an interactive art viewing at the Artechouse, a special Kennedy Center performance, and a trip to Kings Dominion! On the final day, students were given the opportunity to present their social justice campaign to Senator Bernie Sanders.
- DC Summer Youth Employment: Through a partnership with Mayor Marion Barry's Summer Youth Employment program, One Common Unity was a DC Summer Youth Employment host site. Four Fly By Light youth from our various school chapters had the unique opportunity to transition from after-school program participants into robust leadership roles within the organization. Throughout the course of the program, the youth participants developed, promoted, and facilitated a virtual event for the community, focusing on how to manage stress in COVID times. They also facilitated a full day of the Fly By Light National Training, giving their unique insights on youth activism to 20+ educators and social workers from across the country. Later in the summer, the youth hosted a group of Nigerian activists visiting the U.S. through the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program and facilitated a workshop about DC youth organizing for them. The program culminated in a collaborative zine, called "A Look Through The City," about interventions to gun violence, such as community organizing, mutual aid, conflict resolution, and more.
School programming launched in-person for the 2021- 2022 school year and we once again have full-time facilitators located at several schools throughout the District including at Eliot-Hine Middle School (daily peace room, FBL facilitation, mediation); Perry Street Prep Middle School (daily Intention Room, Life Skills programming and Fly By Light classroom plug-ins) and Roosevelt Senior High School with a full offering of Fly By Light programming. To date, 302 students are involved with Fly By Light in-school programs and 67 students have completed the Life Skills 10 session program and 355 students have visited an OCU Intention room.
In addition, Through a Learn24 Out-of-School-Time (OST) grant, Fly By Light OST programming is happening all across the city. Intensive after-school programs are being offered at Perry Street Prep Middle School, LaSalle Elementary School, Stuart- Hobson Middle School, Browne Education Campus, School Without Walls High School as well as the OCU Organizing Troupe (composed of students from schools throughout the district. We will serve a minimum of 85 students this year in the critical after-school space.
OCU is offering a deep dive model at Roosevelt Senior High School, where we have a full-time Fly By Light facilitator, Mental Health Clinician, the Intention Room, and both in-school and OST Fly By Light programming. During the fall, 85 students participated in weekly lunch groups, in addition to the following special events
- "Affirmations & Self-Love Part I" workshop at the Senior Class Meeting (122 students attended); and "Affirmations & Self-Love Part II" (122 students attended)
- A student Lunchtime Open Mic (102 students attended)
- 10th-grade class meeting with FBL arts and SEL activities (153 students attended)
- A community conversation in partnership with local non-profit Just Keep Living, titled “The Importance of Giving, Gratitude Circle, & Social Justice Giving/Philanthropy" (43 students attended)
Entering the 2021–22 school year, OCU placed school-based mental health clinicians at 10 partner schools to provide consistent, accessible mental health support for students. It was a rough adjustment back to in-person learning, and our clinicians saw a drastic surge in demand for their services. In the last half of the year, our clinicians treated between 47 to 129 clients each month, closing the year with 85 clients enrolled in Tier 3 (Treatment) services, and we received 35 new client referrals during this time.
We started the school year strong as our clinicians assisted with Tier 1 and 2 resources and programming with the students. In the last part of the year, surging demand for mental health services and rising COVID-19 case counts in schools and among our clinicians highlighted the multiple challenges our team faces as well the deep need for our services.
After 21 years, our vision to transform schools into spaces for healing is alive and well. It's with your support that this work is possible. Here's to the next 21 years working together to build healthy communities and inspire the next generation of change-makers!