In Conversation with
Organization & Location
Heads On Fire
[San Diego, California]
About the Program
The ECHOES program is an afterschool multimedia arts and civic engagement program targeting youth in San Diego, California. The ECHOES program includes both Saturday sessions for the non school-based participants and weekday afternoons for the school-based groups. The junior and junior-high middle school and high school youth are committed to attend the ECHOES program for 10 months to work on their new media journalism, digital photography, and graphic design projects while acquiring basic journalism techniques. Through the partnership with the San Diego School District, the youth in this program actively participate in conveying the issues they care about and in understanding their school and local community environments. Working from a local context, participants engage in social, cultural, and historical learning about the world.
The Goals of This Program:
- To encourage youth to become engaged in multiple areas of schoolwork that will lead them to higher educational opportunities
- To diminish negative stereotypes about our youth and to receive support from community members
- To prevent drug and alcohol abuse, and multiple forms of violence that compromise physical and mental health for youth
ECHOES program trains young people in the effective use of various forms of technology in order to tell their stories. The participants of this program engage themselves in group activities on social and global subjects where they learn to design still and interactive graphics, and create videos and digital photographs to produce their ECHOES magazine. These technology products are shared through an annual exhibition/Service Learning Project called "Sun Screens". With a 10-month-long commitment to the ECHOES program, the participants are able to reflect on their lives and become aware of community and global issues through these digital arts projects.
- Violence prevention grant through the counseling departments at the San Diego School District
- The Waitt Family Foundation
Challenges & Strategies
- Managing time so as not to conflict with school schedules
- Keeping youth conscious of the afterschool program schedule during afterschool breaks
"In the case of implementing an afterschool program within a school setting, always compare school schedules with your after school time frame because not every minute is devoted towards your program. For example, you sometimes wait when the school is running late or you should allow a certain amount of snack time. Always make sure that you're moving along and wisely dealing with time conflicts. Include in your program plan the full process of addressing these challenges."
- Design an after school digital arts program that plays a counseling role responsive to the issues of the lives of youth and their community. more
- Do not concentrate on advanced technology itself but discover how the media can be suitably applied to implementation of project goals. more
- Give authority to youth in your afterschool program so that they may perform as leading young professionals, "editors." Build an intimate relationship with youth to support them in developing professional journalism skills.more
- Encourage youth to tell their stories, especially about their cultural identities, through magazine production. more
- Evaluate youth outcomes on ownership of their final learning products and potential in becoming local and global change agents. more
Strategies in detail:
- Design an after school digital arts program that plays a counseling role responsive to the issues of the lives of youth and their community.
"The participants of our program are given multiple ways of processing information. The program consists of youth who are in recovery from addiction, have perpetrated or have been victims of violence, are a part of grief counseling, or are involved in a violent relationship among peers. We aim to help these young participants explore complicated issues in their lives and overcome their struggles through increasing self-awareness and accessing related information by using multiple forms of digital storytelling. Our ECHOES program is based on both youth media principles and the integration of community education forums on subjects such as violence. Through the school partnership with the counseling department of the San Diego School District, we access the state-wide counseling curriculum and analyze, modify, and add elements to it in order to make it usable for our program curriculum. Our participants and educators continuously adjust and renew topics that are used for larger group activities according to the flows of social, cultural, economic and political changes. This effort results in positively envisioning how the work of our participants can be a part of broader civic engagement actions. This also stimulates community members, families, and city officials to participate in a discussion coalition to address certain topics selected through our program in order to improve the community."
- Do not concentrate on advanced technology itself but discover how the media can be suitably applied to implementation of project goals.
"We do not consider technology as an objective in learning. What is more important is how we appropriately use technology to enrich learning that counsels youth to reflect on everyday life and become aware of issues around them, their family, community, and the world. Do not restrict the use of technology by only focusing on incorporating fancy technology with your after school curriculum. Start to think about what the program needs to accomplish at the end. Set long-term goals that envision how your program would impact the lives of your participants. Then, use technology that is easy to approach and is already available. For example, on a given day, we might employ Polaroid cameras because of their convenience and familiarity. The goal of the photography project is to give our young participants a chance to take a close look at their neighborhood issues using technology. Our objective is not technology itself. The purpose is for our youth to easily build a visual record of their community and to access this as a resource for their group learning. Rather than focusing on state-of-the-art technology, be responsive to the needs of your groups."
- Give authority to youth in your afterschool program so that they may perform as leading young professionals, "editors." Build an intimate relationship with youth to support them in developing professional journalism skills.
"Educators and staff in our program do not 'teach' youth but encourage them to explore the topics selected that pertain to their own culture and to frame discussion questions that will help them understand themes around the topics. For example, as an Ethiopian refugee, one of our youth editors has background in working with AIDS orphans in Ethiopia. The role of adults is to draw upon the participants' cultural experiences and help them make a connection between the cultures of Ethiopia and the activities that our program participants perform. By using the multimedia products as a tool for community-based learning, the young people and educators work together not only on individual counseling but also in group activities. Youth editors in our program produce the magazine content with their groups and peers of other programs in San Diego, and engage in creating products to express their experiences. Through the collaboration work, youth enjoy learning because all of the participants including educators and editors are connected to each other."
- Encourage youth to tell their stories, especially about their cultural identities, through magazine production.
"Always be creative about how to inspire youth to 'think globally and act locally'. A great way to realize this idea is to encourage participants to contemplate the origins of their culture. Learning becomes meaningful for youth when the process includes an internal connection to their life and identity. We have explored issues of immigrants and refugees in San Diego. Some of our young producers belong to such groups. As they think about their origins, they realize how their culture has been constructed. This makes them eager to know how this process of cultural examination and construction is being played out around the world. For example, youth from a refugee family can connect their issues to thinking about the refugee camp in Austria. This may open up a free discussion about similarities and differences between two different refugee histories. They take a camera to photograph the scenes related to the topic. Some of them research the topic and gather information on the Internet. Everyone meets in the lab and starts planning on producing their ECHOES magazine with the data collected. The participants challenge themselves and their audience to become global citizens and change agents who respond to social issues of the world. All the products produced through our program are distributed with CDs or submitted onto our website. Through the 'Sun Screens' Exhibition/Service Learning Project, we collect work samples from other youth of communities around the world."
- Evaluate youth outcomes on ownership of their final learning products and potential in becoming local and global change agents.
"These after-school activities don't use quantitative measurement systems such as a pre- or post-skill test. Instead, we focus on assessing the impact. We look at how our youth's participation keeps them from alcohol, drugs, and violence. We also try to see how their education in multimedia production helps them contemplate their life struggles, identity, culture, and, even further, broadens their community interests and global awareness. The benefits of technology education should also be evaluated in terms of how youth feel about the potential of technology to improve their lives."
More about the Program
Related Research Articles
Critical Issue: Using Technology to Enhance Engaged Learning for At-Risk Students
Using Technology to Support Academic Achievement for At-Risk Teens During Out-of-School Time
By Wong, J., Ellis, J., Canepa, G., Kimboko, R., & Mitchell-Daniels, M.
National Standards for Civics and Government
The San Diego Unified School District's Educational Technology Department
National Community Education Association (NCEA)
The Civic Mission of Schools
Newz Crew, Youth Civic Engagement Website
A Project of Global Kids and NewsHour Extra
Out-of-School Time Program Evaluation Bibliography Service-Learning/Civic Engagement Programs
Center for Media & Community at EDC: Bridging the Digital Divide
Global Learning Group at EDC
Health & Human Development Programs at EDC
National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center
Youth Service California
Model Programs from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration)