Every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we get together with all of the young adults and have a class called Community Forum. We enjoy a good bit of banter about various, pre-planned topics related to life, relationships, current local and international happenings in the news.
Community Forum is a rich opportunity for the young adults to work as a group on variety of skills including problem solving, perspective taking, maintaining mutual respect and fair rules of disagreement, and higher order thinking issues. It is a fantastic way for the guys to work on emotional regulation, communication skills, interpersonal relationship building, empathy, listening and attention skills.
We have a predictable structure to each meeting. First, we do a brief check-in to get the group aligned and settled. We then move on to current events sourced from community, city, state, national and international news. If the guys feel particularly compelled by a story, we may follow its progress over time, as we did when Libya overthrew its dictator or when Jerry Sandusky was arrested. The bulk of the meeting is then devoted to a variety of topics that relate to transition, adulthood, or other important issues. For material we use a wide range of sources, such as essays, articles, documentaries, media, scientific studies, Internet research, and books.
At the moment, we are watching a documentary about the food industry in America entitled Food, Inc. It is approximately an hour and half long, so we are watching it in about three segments. As a result, many of the young adults are starting to engage in dialog with the staff and their peers about information from the film and how it connects with the foods they eat on a daily basis. We also have a basic nutrition segment in the curriculum to demystify food as it relates to health, which will add a practical side and augment the information provided in Food, Inc.
The other running topic right now is 50 things everyone needs to know. We are taking one item from the list at a time and expanding on it practically, such as how to change a tire and be prepared if your car breaks down. We will periodically have guest speakers come in and share about their lives and work. Last semester, we had a prison minister discuss his groundbreaking peace initiative work in maximum-security prisons. The guys were very engaged and asked many poignant questions to further understand the lives of those in prison. We also had a stock broker visit and discuss what the stock market is and how it works. We have since begun a mock stock market game where we are investing fake money into companies and following our “investments” for the rest of the semester.
Community Forum is both challenging and very helpful to each one of the young adults.