Kasserian Ingera: GLA’s Village communal mentorship program

by Executive Editor Timantha Norman

Most people are quite familiar with the African adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” A local nonprofit organization based in North Tulsa has taken this sentiment to heart and crafted a mentorship program that will provide children with the head start they need to lead highly productive lives inside and outside of the classroom.

The MET Cares Foundation was founded in 2014 with the goal of “bringing transformational change to the North Tulsa community.” The following fall, the organization founded the state’s first public partnership school, Greenwood Leadership Academy. The school currently serves over 300 students in grades Pre-K through 3rd with an overall mission and vision to “transform the academic and social outcomes of North Tulsa’s students by providing a rigorous, well-rounded college and career prep education to ensure that Black Excellence is evident in every arena of our community and to reestablish the greatness of Black Wall Street.”

I spoke with MET Cares Foundation’s Manager of Family Organizing Raynell Joseph about the inspiration behind this innovative program and what the organization hopes to accomplish.

Timantha Norman: What led your organization to establish this program?

Raynell Joseph: The Village was an answer to community members who just wanted to be involved in GLA somehow. We didn’t want to just have folks making copies, stapling handouts, and other kinds of busy work. We wanted to give community members the opportunity to be involved in helping GLA in a more meaningful way.

Norman: What kind of programming is provided through The Village?

Joseph: The Village is a mentorship program where community members commit to 30 minutes to an hour per week where they spend time with a GLA Scholar. They can participate by choosing to be either a Reading Elder or a Lunch Elder. 

Norman: What’s the bigger significance of calling the program The Village?

Joseph: The spirit in which The Village was formed was basically inspired by the Maasai people of East Africa. They have this greeting, “Kasserian ingera”, which means “How are the children?” Everyone greets each other that way whether you have children or not. Even if you don’t have children, you would answer “All of the children are well.” So basically we all have a responsibility to make sure that all of the children are doing well. We have a responsibility to do our part to make sure the children in our community get what they need to be successful. 

Norman: What’s the overall framework that serves as the basis of The Village? What is the ultimate goal you would like to achieve through this program?

Joseph: The Village is based on the Social and Emotional Learning model (SEL), which helps Scholars navigate the world more effectively. The five core competencies of the SEL model are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship skills. We facilitate that through the use of literature and modeling the desired behaviors with the Scholars. We just really believe that when you focus on these five skills this will also allow them to be successful academically and socially overall. We train our Elders in the SEL model, which they then utilize in their interactions with their assigned Scholar. An Elder may help a student with setting goals or give them tools on how to handle different SEL issues, such as being able to regulate their behavior in the classroom. Our hope is that a Village Elder can help their Scholar come up with different strategies around dealing with the challenges that they may face in life.

If you’re interested in becoming a Village Elder, please contact Ms. Joseph directly at raynell@metcaresfoundation.com to sign up for one of the training sessions that will be held September 9th-12th.

Photo credit: MET Cares Foundation

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