38 Year Old Culturally Relevant School Based Community Based Intervention
The Winners Sankofa Program is a 38-year-old, culturally relevant, school-based/community-based intervention designed to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors for ATOD use by promoting cultural assets, improving attitudes towards school, and increasing alcohol and drug awareness among 4th - 8th grade African American youth. The intervention is a curriculum-driven, strength-based, African centered model that promotes cultural values and awareness and identity development to mitigate the effects of discrimination and racism.
The intervention is “based on the philosophy, culture, and values of African and African-American people and seeks through the use of African American culture to assist Black children in gaining a full and complete understanding of their duties and responsibilities as Black boys and girls. By introducing our youth to the qualities, attributes, and responsibilities of African and African-American men and women of excellence, the intervention stimulates in their character the desire to become high achievers and the best at whatever they do.” Sankofa" is a West African concept that teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward.
Through the process of introducing African American youth to African and African American values, culture, traditions and beliefs as well as qualities, attributes, attitudes and responsibilities of African and African American men and women of excellence, the Winners culture-based substance abuse prevention intervention recreates and reestablishes the complex mental and ethical traits associated with African and African American excellence, and in so doing stimulate in the character of African American youth the desire to become high achievers and the best of African American Manhood and Womanhood. In addition to the educational benefits of the intervention, it also enhances their psycho-social competency, develop more appropriate communication skills, more effective decision-making and problem-solving skills and have a more positive sense of self-worth of program youth.
In “educating and inoculating” Black youth, the intervention attempts to re-align them to a value and belief system which was consistent with the positive nature of African people. By reinforcing the positive attributes of Black manhood and womanhood, Winners “prevents” young Black boys and girls from being susceptible to drug involvement and drug-related activities and, at the same time, assists them in becoming mentally healthy.
The centerpiece of the Winners intervention is its African-centered curriculum. It is delivered in modular form and consists of written activities, lesson plans, and extra-curricular activities. The project’s curricular strategies support the psycho-social developmental needs of African American children, by strengthening racial identity and self-concept. The project’s classroom and after-school activities and lessons are designed to focus on developing critical thinking prowess and writing skills using culturally relevant pedagogical strategies that inculcate knowledge of African and African American role models.
The lessons of the Winners curriculum address seven themes: 1) Self-Identity, 2) Self-Esteem, 3) Feelings Validation, 4) Substance Use & Abuse, 5) Leadership Development, 6) Decision-Making, and 7) Coping Skills. Workbook lessons target an important value or character trait and an African American role model associated with that trait, e.g., Assertiveness of Maxine Waters, Eloquence of Jesse Jackson, Kingliness of Dr. Martin Luther King, Magnificence of Marcus Garvey, and Nationalism of Malcolm X.
As the percentage of Latino students increased on the campus of Tom Bradley Global Magnet Elementary School and based on the percentage of Latino students on the campus of Transfiguration Elementary and Middle Schools, the Winners Sankofa curriculum was expanded to include Latino-specific lessons to meet the needs of our Latino participants.
In the Winners Sankofa Program, the African American’s historical, social-cultural context and contemporary experience is strategically integrated into dynamic spirituality and rituals, culturally-relevant curriculum lessons, and holistic family-school-community activities as protective factors. The following “protective factors” are identified and assessed in Winners:
Positive and resilient (attitude)
Perception of social support from adults and peers
Healthy sense of ethnic self-identity
Positive expectations/optimism for the future
School motivation/positive attitudes towards school
Student bonding and connectedness (attachment to teachers, belief, commitment)
Academic achievement/reading ability and mathematical skills
Opportunities and rewards for pro-social involvement
In addition, the identification of debilitating risk factors that make it difficult for African Americans to function intra-personally, inter-personally and within institutions is also addressed. These risk factors are:
Lack of ethnic self-identity, cultural anomie (traditional values and morals)
Antisocial behavior and alienation/delinquent beliefs/general delinquency
Involvement in drug dealing
Favorable attitudes toward drug use/early onset of drug use
Early onset of aggression/violence
Intellectual or developmental disabilities
Poor refusal skills
Mental disorder/mental health problems
Low academic achievement
There are a total of twelve curricula associated with the Winners Sankofa Program Intervention that are utilized in the intervention’s classroom, afterschool or community-based settings.
Classroom activities, facilitated by program staff, are taken from the intervention’s curriculum, are facilitated on a weekly basis over the entire school year from August/September thru May/June. Each classroom receives an average of 35 weekly sessions—lasting 55 minutes each. The lessons of the interventions for classroom participants are focused on participants’ self-identity development.
After School Activities
The after-school activities of the intervention are facilitated Monday to Thursday and include homework assistance workshops, ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug) Awareness and Leadership Development Workshops—lasting 60 minutes each. Lessons from the Winners Curriculum Series with a leadership or a substance abuse focus form the basis for these workshops. During the school year, an average of 30 ATOD, 30 Leadership Development and 120 Homework Assistance Workshops are facilitated as part of the after-school programming.
Tom Bradley Magnet
(classroom and afterschool)
Transfiguration Catholic Elementary/Middle School
49th Street Elementary School (classroom only)
McNair Elementary School
Avalon Carver Community Center (afterschool only)
St. Odilia Catholic Elementary/Middle School
Hillcrest Drive Elementary School