CRASH – Stacey Gasson talks to Lloyd Martin

CRASH – Stacey Gasson talks to Lloyd Martin

Stacey Gasson

Crash

Stacey Gasson investigates CRASH, a small-group mentoring programme designed for at-risk young people.

CRASH Research Project

The CRASH programme was developed by Lloyd Martin as part of a research project looking at the effect of involving community resource people (youth workers) as mentors with ‘at risk’ students. A community youth worker based in Porirua, Martin began his project from an assumption that the best people to deliver social services are those who are part of the community receiving them.

A key part of the project involved creating a model to define ‘risk’ in the New Zealand context. Martin sees the young person as having four major social environments: their family; their peer group; school (or work); and their ethnic/geographic community. When their relationships in one or more of these environments fails, the young person can become ‘at risk’ as they are dislocated from the adult world, becoming more dependent on the peer group for acceptance and approval.

Based on this model, the CRASH programme proposes that community youth workers (and the projects that they involve young people in) may represent a fifth social context somewhere in between a young person’s peer group and the other (failed) social contexts.

Brother/sister relationships

By building relationships and acting as a tuakana (an older brother or sister) rather than in an ‘adult’ role, youth workers may provide both an important extra reference point as young people make decisions, and help restore pathways back into those (adult) contexts.

The youth workers involved in this programme met once a week for six weeks with a group of five to six students. During this time, the groups sought to address a common cluster of issues ∆ finding reasons to come to school, interpersonal communication skills, self esteem and dealing with anger/frustration appropriately.

While workers used a variety of activities in their programmes, Martin discovered that some of the most successful courses used a range of low key activities, for example going to the tutor’s own home for a meal or coffee.

It appeared to me that some tutors had the ability to create a group dynamic in which their students were invited to participate in (an aspect of) their world as fellow adults. This seemed to be particularly appreciated by the girls.

When asked what advice he would offer a youth worker interested in developing a similar model, Martin raised five key points:

1. Locate yourself.

The mentor is not working with a client, a child, or a peer. Located outside of these relationships, the youth worker has a ‘counter-cultural’ role. Seeing that ‘at risk’ youth are becoming cut off from mainstream society, a key goal is to help restore the pathways into a young person’s ethnic community and into wider society.

2. Listen.

Hear the story of the young person, for you only earn the right to talk once you have listened. When asked what qualities were important to them about their tutor, students did not focus on outward qualities like age or ethnicity, but wanted someone who listened to them, understood and encouraged them.

3. Don’t arrive with solutions.

See note 2.

4. Concentrate on small successes.

Lloyd says that other studies show successful programmes don’t automatically mean improved academic performance or retention at school. But he is finding that the identification and achievement of smaller steps over a period of time is likely to prevent a further disintegration of social environments. The small successes provide those involved with alternatives to the antisocial and destructive behaviour of people who have no stake in society.

5. make a distinction between symptoms and causes.

Young people are influenced by both the experience of their unique cultural setting, and the effects of their individual stories.