GUIAS: Guiding and Understanding Individuals in Achieving Success
is a strength based group approach program to promote young men and young women’s positive character development to meet the specific needs of the community. This program, at San Benito High School, Rancho San Justo Middle School & Marguerite Maze Middle School is a comprehensive youth character development program that supports and guides young people, is based on the philosophy that youth need other adults, their family, and community to care for, assist, heal, guide, and successfully prepare them for adulthood. The rites of passage program is to promote healthy peer relationships, build self-esteem, build social skills, and prepare each student to achieve success and is a Mental Health Services Act funded PEI project.
The curriculum used includes El Joven Noble (Noble Youth), Xinachtli (female), Life Skills, Girl’s Circle & The Council for Boys and Young Men, which are a comprehensive youth leadership development program that support and guide young men and young women through their “rites of passage” process while focusing on positive behavior choices and school success.
Gender and culturally sensitive curriculum creates a safe place to discuss and learn about positive cultural connections, life skills, and character development in a gender sensitive manner. Character development begins with understanding “PALABRA” (dignity, respect, trust, love), identifying key concepts of being a man/woman by keeping their word, not bringing harm to self or others, and being a positive example to others. Latino youth and other youth of color live in a world where they have to balance two cultures and many times come from families who have experienced generations of racism, discrimination, and oppression (social/cultural detachment). Through these oppressive processes many youth have internalized a negative self-concept of who they are culturally and essentially have learned to “detach” from the true sense of who they are really in connection to themselves, their families, their relationships and their behaviors. An integral component of the program, is the development of “Circulos de Palabra” (Circles of Support), that serve to provide a support and reinforcement process for ongoing healing, growth and development for the young men/women. Ultimately, the entire program attempts to recreate a positive familia/community or extended kinship network that will allow our youth to develop to their fullest potential. Palabra: literally means word “to give of one’s word is to give of one’s heart”. Youth will also learn and practice asset based thinking, how to verbalize and express themselves with words not violence, and the importance of their familial and community connections. Youth in this program learn about life skills, from cooking and employment readiness, and culture through hands on art activities and ‘convivios’ or fellowship celebrations.