Global Smarts Mentoring Program 2019-2020 Year End Report
The Global Smarts Mentoring Program is an award-winning program that was developed in 2012 with the aim of “leveling the playing field” for middle school students from under-resourced schools participating in the Council’s Student Diplomat Program / Jr. Model United Nations. It is a rigorous global literacy tutoring program pairing 6-8th grade students from under-resourced and low- to middle-income Philadelphia public, parochial and charter schools with college student mentors. Through weekly individual and small-group instruction at their assigned middle school site, mentors provide students with the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to confidently participate in the Council's annual, region-wide Student Diplomat Program/Jr. Model United Nations Program.
In order to meet program objectives, beginning in January and continuing through May, undergraduate student mentors from Saint Joseph’s University and Temple University met weekly with Global Smarts students for 60-75 minutes either during or after school. The overarching educational goal was to help students develop the core knowledge and skills required to successfully participate in the Council’s region-wide Jr. Model United Nations (Jr. MUN) Conference, including researching assigned countries and global issues, writing position papers, drafting and amending resolutions, and debating and defending final policy arguments. Additionally, mentors met weekly, for approximately 120 minutes, with the Council’s education staff to review teaching strategies and to assess student progress and challenges. Mentors also completed several intensive research assignments in addition to viewing and/or attending a minimum of two Council speaker programs.
Now in its eighth year of operation, the Global Smarts Mentoring Program grew from 152 students attending nine schools in the 2018-19 school year, to 163 students attending ten schools in the 2019-20 school year. All current Global Smarts schools—A.M.Y. at James Martin School, A.M.Y. Northwest, Blessed Trinity Regional Catholic School, Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School, Gesu School, Hope Partnership for Education, New Foundations Charter School, Shawmont Middle School, St. Gabriel’s Middle School, and St. Mary’s Interparochial School—are in Philadelphia County, and constitute Title I schools where a majority of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch. The following map shows the location of all 10 participating schools:
As the COVID-19 pandemic prevented us from distributing our annual Global Smarts evaluation to gather demographic data across middle school program participants, the following charts were created using information from greatphillyschools.org as well as from the participating middle school’s websites:
2020 Lindy Award for Excellence in K-16 Partnerships
The Global Smarts Mentoring Program was the recipient of the 2020 Lindy Award for Excellence in K-16 Partnerships from the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND). PHENND is a consortium of more than 30 colleges and universities in the Greater Philadelphia area.
The Phillip B. Lindy Award aims to recognize a collaborative partnership between at least one K-12 school and one university. Their board was particularly impressed with the longevity of our program's partnership, the fact that it's grown over time to include multiple schools, and the strong emphasis on training and support for not only the middle school students but also the college mentors.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Our Impact and Response
The Global Smarts Mentoring program faced unforeseen and unprecedented challenges this academic year brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic. In mid-March 2020 when schools closed throughout the city of Philadelphia and public gatherings were suspended, the program was quickly adapted to continue virtually. While access to technology and internet service was the greatest challenge among a portion of the program's participants, the citywide roll-out of personal laptop devices to some of the city's most deserving students gave faculty advisers and mentors the ability to effectively reach the Global Smarts students virtually. The mentors’ research websites, letters of encouragement, lesson plans, videos addressing their classes, and even the ability to continue Global Smarts meetings virtually provided critical support to students, parents and teachers during these challenging times. Weekly professional development meetings between the mentors, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia Education staff, and guest speakers continued virtually via the “Zoom” platform.
Enhancing Digital Literacy
In 2019, we received additional funding from the Comcast Foundation to continue improving and growing the digital literacy components for the Global Smarts Mentoring Program. The Coronavirus pandemic proved the importance of having digital components in the program as well as the need to continue expanding upon them. In particular, Global Smarts research websites provided a consolidated pool of vetted and age-appropriate resources for their middle school students to use throughout the distance learning time period. Students could review posted material on the websites as well as send questions to their mentors. This year, the Global Smarts Mentoring program continued to build upon our existing foundation with regards to digital literacy enhancements by:
• Continuing the creation and training of mentor-created research websites;
• Using the Zoom Platform and Google Meet/Hangouts as a means of remote program delivery for both students and mentors;
• Facilitating a virtual Mock Model United Nations simulation with Global Smarts mentors;
• Incorporating distance learning and alternative activities in lieu of the Final Jr. Model UN conference; and
• Facilitating virtual mentoring group final presentations on topics ranging from school inequality to the impact of COVID-19 on our program topics; and
• Continuing to offer mentors and teachers the opportunty to attend Council programs once they shifted to a virtual, webinar format.
Professional Development Weekly Zoom Sessions
The Education Department's weekly Friday afternoon meetings with the undergraduate mentors are a key component of the Global Smarts Mentoring Program and how mentors are supported. This is where they are provided with weekly lesson plans and materials for their students, have the opportunity to hear from a variety of guest speakers, and also discuss highlights and challenges encountered in the classroom. Immediately after schools and public meeting place were shut down, the Council successfully moved these Professional Development sessions to an online platform. Some of the topics covered in the sessions following the state-wide shutdown included: "Bridging the Digital Divide", "Race, Class, and Identity", and "Career Development Post Global Smarts".
Virtual Mock Model UN General Assembly Meeting for Mentors
As part of professional development, the mentors must participate in a Mock Model UN General Assembly meeting where they write, defend, amend, and vote to pass resolutions just as their students would at the final Jr. Model UN Conference. This exercise allows mentors to put themselves in their students’ shoes and understand the inner workings of the United Nations General Assembly. This year, the program held this session virtually on “Zoom”. The meeting had all the same elements it would have had in person, only in a virtual setting.
Virtual Global Smarts Sessions with Student Participants
Mentors have not only provided their assigned teachers with virtual lesson plans and activities, but they have also sent encouraging letters and videos to students, and have even held virtual Global Smarts meetings so their students can continue to meet the program's curricular goals. The program has incorporated the use of Google Hangouts and Google Meet for virtual Global Smarts meetings as these are the preferred platforms for many of our partner schools.
Alternative Activities in lieu of the Final Jr. MUN Conference
Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we were forced to cancel the in-person Final Conference for the 2020 Jr. Model UN program. In response to this cancellation, we decided to include two optional activities for students who had the capacity to finish the program.
We asked students to write a letter to Ambassador Kelly Craft, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Through this assignment, students were asked to convey a short message about their topic of study and why global action is important to mitigation efforts. Second, students were asked to make a videotaped one to three minute speech to the General Assembly. This project allowed students to practice their writing, rhetoric, and public speaking skills.
These activities were open to all schools participating in the Jr. Model United Nations. The limited access to technology experienced by the Global Smarts students put them at a greater disadvantage to complete the optional activities than their peers outside of the Global Smarts program. However, those who had the resources to do so completed a great portion of them. Astonishingly, one of the only schools out of the entire Jr. Model UN program that successfully had every single student write a letter to ambassador Craft was a Global Smarts School, St. Mary’s Interparochial School.
Measuring Impact: Faculty Advisers
Faculty advisers were given an electronic survey to reflect on their students' achievements, growth, and their overall experience with the Global Smarts program this year. The data collected is represented in the following graphs:
Measuring Impact: College Mentors
Global Smarts mentors are the engine that drives middle school student achievement. Mentors embrace the real-world responsibility of leading their middle schoolers’ learning. In turn, their enthusiasm, student-centered care, and knowledge ignite the passion within their mentees to learn about international relations and global issues. In the 2019-20 school year, there were 22 college mentors from both St. Joseph’s University and Temple University that met weekly with the163 middle school students in-person from January through mid-March. From mid-March to May 2020, mentors provided digital lesson plans and activities in addition to videos and letters of encouragement to their students who were navigating the abrupt end of in-person classes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Below are a few testimonials from this year's mentor survey:
“The main lesson I took away from the program really is the importance of relationships in education. My fellow co-mentors and I had a great role model in our faculty advisor and her relationship with our students allowed her to be so honest with them and to challenge them academically.”
“Through Global Smarts I broadened my knowledge of international affairs and learned about where professionalism can meet personal and community development. The Council's lesson plans and materials helped create an environment of mutual learning in the classroom.”
“This program has been incredibly important in developing who I am as a person. Not only has my use of practical skills become stronger, but I now have a better understanding of the importance in educating middle schoolers on how we can solve these larger global issues.”
“Global Smarts is a unique internship experience where you are able to learn and grow in your academics and leadership skills alongside other students in a fun, interactive environment. It was truly amazing to see our students interact, discuss, and debate global issues."
"Global Smarts has been an invaluable experience to not only the middle school students but the mentors as well. Learning about global issues while teaching students about them at the same time provides the mentors with a plethora of information and reflection."
- Global Smarts Mentoring Program Mentor
"Our sixth grade students were fortunate enough to work with the World Affairs Council's Global Smarts Mentoring Program which allowed them to expand their world views, meet new people, and challenge themselves academically. This program had the students improve their real-world problem-solving skills, strengthen their sense of empathy, and experience important teamwork and public speaking opportunities."
- Saint Mary’s Faculty Adviser