Student Ownership of Program

Name: Heather Burack; Marissa Disla; Keith Rogers

Organization: Good Shepherds Services: Groundwork for Success

Date: August 6, 2018

SEL Competency: Academic Behaviors, Academic Self-Efficacy, Belonging

Driver of Focus: Mastery-Based Experiences, Caring Relationships, Elevating Youth Voice

Cohort Demographics: 9th-12th Grade


GWS staff elevates their student leadership cohort by allowing them to share responsibility and ownership of program design and implementation, including but not limited to staff hiring decisions. This creates a culture of inclusivity and “holistic learning,” and reinforces participants’ sense of belonging. GWS students improved in academic behaviors and self-efficacy as well as belonging on the SSN Survey.



  • Year-Round program
  • Each cohort meets periodically, ranging from monthly to bi-weekly, to weekly.


  • Classroom(s)


Peer Tutors are paired with younger students during homework time. They walk through lessons and assignments with students, creating a mutual increase in academic behaviors and academic self-efficacy.

Peer Leaders give insight to planning program activities, including but not limited to retreats, lock-ins, college tours and even changes to basic facets like Homework time.

Scholars with Service engage with different community partners of their choice.

Students within the leadership cohort earn a quarterly checks as compensation and increased incentive to participate.


GWS takes a holistic approach to academic growth. The leadership program provides a means for students to build connections (and sense of belonging) with each other and with staff as well as their academic self-efficacy. It also provides students with valuable experience for college. Tutoring has been touted as a viable method for students to build their own academic skills and efficacy.

Checks are distributed on the condition that students handed in their report cards.  


Based on Network-Wide SEL Survey Analysis, Good Shepherd Services Groundwork for Success cohort was identified by Research Alliance for NYC Schools as one of 18 Bright Spots; meaning they had a greater positive effect on youth SEL compared to sites that serve similar students across the Network. The charts shows the change in the percentage of youth responding positively to Survey questions related to Academic Self-Efficacy, Academic Behaviors, and Belonging.


  • Report card and progress report tracker


  • Prioritize getting to know students and their strengths. Utilize their strengths when appointing roles and considering program changes, further building their confidence.
  • Make sure students are comfortable with each other; connect students with similar interests, or encourage students who live nearby each other to walk home together. This program functions best when the students feel kinship with eachother.
  • Staff must keep open lines of communication with each other, and keep an open mind; program is subject to change!
  • Plan ahead of time; have systems and structures ready in order to maximize impact of change.  

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Stefano Barros

Stefano believes that one of the best ways to develop young leaders is through community building in youth-centered spaces. This is the driving force behind his focus on strengthening SSN’s reservoir of resources through collaborative learning and research. Stefano joined the team after holding college access and youth leadership development roles in Boston and New York City.

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