Regional Quality Collaborative Project

In 2015, Youthprise launched the Quality Collaborative Project is to address the limited supply of Youth Program Quality Assessment External Assessors of ethnically diverse backgrounds, and to efficiently coordinate and promote continuous quality improvement throughout the metro area.

Through the Quality Collaborative Project, a number of Youth Work professionals from out-of-school time systems in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the Brooklyns have been trained as External Assessors to assess program quality, and to provide coaching to youth-serving organizations within the Twin Cities metro area.

The following Assessor Coaches are skilled and certified to conduct YPQA assessments and coach organizations’ continuous program improvement efforts, while leading with an equity lens.

Keem Anderson is a lifelong youth worker. He began his journey as a participant in Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools and Kwanzaa Church’s Nia – Imani Teen Center from the age of 13. It was there where his mentors instilled and crafted his philosophy on quality. Keem has worked in a variety of youth work settings and capacities including: Minneapolis Youth Congress, YCB R.A.G.E. Street Outreach Team, Sojourner Truth Academy, Lucy Laney, Edison High, Youthrive, and the Peace Foundation.

When observing for quality I look for staff who serve youth first and keep them at the center of their work. Keem is trained as an External Assessor by the Weikart Center for Program Quality and a cohort member of the Regional Quality Collaborative Project. Quality has little to do with the behaviors of youth, but everything to do with the mindset and effort of the youth work professional. A quality experience for youth includes fun and engaging activities that connect youth with the community they live in. Quality programming is culturally relevant to the population you serve. Issue based programming for teens where they can learn how to critically think and begin to question the world we live in. Quality programs should teach leadership, and service learning through tangible skill building, giving young people experience creating change.

Contact: akimandersonconsulting@gmail.com

Georgina Chinchilla Gonzalez is a dedicated youth work professional with over six years of experience teaching language, leadership and life skills to children and youth. She is originally from Honduras and immigrated to the United States to secure a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from Eastern Michigan University and a Master’s of Arts in Musicology from the University of Minnesota.

After spending several years tutoring and teaching, she chose to use her experience to make a difference in a community abroad, and challenge herself in the Peace Corps. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she spent 2 years in Jordan teaching English in a rural Elementary school. There she facilitated English language camps and clubs, and planned and facilitated Camp GLOW, a week-long leadership camp for high school girls. These experiences strengthened her passion for helping young people expand their horizons to reach their potential.

After returning from Jordan, she facilitated programming for low income girls and girls of color through the Girl Scouts ConnectZ program. Through Connectz she offered culturally sensitive programming to Latina girls in the Metro area. She is currently a full time MBA student at the University of St. Thomas, focusing on Nonprofit Management. Georgina volunteers every week as an ESL teacher through the Minnesota Literacy Council and serves on ComMUSICation’s events committee.

Georgina is trained as an External Assessor by the Weikart Center for Program Quality and she is a cohort member of the Regional Quality Collaborative Project. As a Quality Assessor Coach she has facilitated coaching sessions using the YPQA tool, as well as the SLPQI (Summer Learning Program Quality Intervention). Georgina’s philosophy about quality youth work and programming stems from her cross-cultural experiences in Minnesota and abroad, and her own experience as an immigrant to the U.S. She believes that all youth deserve to be in high quality programs that are relevant to their needs and cultural backgrounds. She strives to help them develop their talents and grow to become leaders in their communities.

Contact: georgina.chinchilla@outlook.com

Sarah Gerdes works at YouthCARE (Youth for Cultural Appreciation and Racial Equality), and serves as the Operations Manager. Previously, she held roles as YouthLEAD Program Director, Young Women’s Mentoring Program Director, and Camp Sunrise Counselor. Prior to working at YouthCARE, Sarah served as an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow with Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE), worked abroad in Thailand for the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), and danced professionally with Ragamala Dance Company. Sarah graduated Cum Laude from St. Catherine University with a B.A. in Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity, and Communications. She is now pursuing a Master of Arts in in Organizational Leadership. Sarah is endorsed by the Weikart Center as an External Assessor of the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) tool. In addition to scoring and coaching organizations using the YPQA, she has also served as an External Assessor for the Summer Learning Program Quality Assessment (SLPQA) Initiative through Sprockets. She is currently an active cohort member of the Regional Quality Collaborative Project sponsored by Youthprise. In her spare time Sarah enjoys bridging people together, serving on the Board of Directors for Minnesota Alliance with Youth, and teaching Bharatanatyam dance for Ragamala. She has experience in female centered programming, outdoor education, and working with immigrant and multicultural populations. Sarah believes that encouraging young people to take initiative allows them the opportunity to transform into leaders.

Contact: sarahpriyanka@gmail.com or (612) 267-1744

Darius Lyles is a youth program quality assessor-coach with a host of youth work experience. He is currently a YMCA School Success Program Director, serving the Brooklyn Center Secondary school. He previously served the St. Paul – Maxfield Elementary site from October of 2012 until August 2015. Darius previously served as a TA & behavior specialist with St. Paul Public Schools’ Maxfield Elementary community. Darius has a great deal of experience in working with underprivileged/underrepresented youth, not only as a YMCA and SPPS team member, but as an Assistant Site Leader with the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches (SPACC) Project S.P.I.R.I.T. afterschool program, as a Servant Leader Intern with the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School summer literacy program, in SE Washington DC with the AmeriCorps “Heads Up” summer/afterschool literacy program and with the Mikva Challenge organization as a youth leader on the South Side of Chicago.

Darius is a Chicago native who studied Political Science at Washington DC’s Howard University. He is a hip-hop enthusiast whose hobbies include playing chess, basketball, roller-skating, studying ancient history, and writing spoken-word poetry.

Contact: Dariustlyles@gmail.com

Kenya Ollie graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Family Social Science and a Minor in Family Violence Prevention. She has over 10 years of youth work experience. Kenya recently began her quality programming journey after being promoted in her current field as a Youth Support Specialist with the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. Kenya is endorsed by the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality as a Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) External Assessor and a cohort member of the Regional Quality Collaborative Project. Kenya has experience implementing the YPQA and guiding youth programs through coaching sessions to improve quality. Kenya believes that every young person deserves to have quality and enriching programming, whether it is before, during or after school. Kenya regards delivering high quality youth programming as a necessary standard that puts the developmental needs of youth first.

Contact: Kenyaollie@gmail.com

Rich Pennington started his youth work experience on a high school crew at the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center. The years following, he experienced a variety of youth programing working in summer camps, after school enrichment, activating museums, community outreach, and Freedom Schools. He has also facilitated youth programming in a range of spaces such as museums, schools, community centers, libraries, rec centers, community celebration and festivals. He has participated in a mixture of enrichment activities as well as STEM education in and out of school time. Now working as the Internship Manager Rich has lead multiple educational experiences at local and national events for youth and adults. You can see in his 9+ years in youth engagement he has a diverse experience in youth programming as a youth participant, program facilitator, youth program developer, and evaluator. Before he became an external assessor he has gone through multiple program assessments and evaluations on his own programming; so he knows the stigma and stress that goes along with evaluations. Rich has been certified by Wikert, a nationally known organization, to provide YPQA assessments. He has assessed several programs and provided coaching on improving program quality in YPQA and SLPQA, the extended YPQA for summer learning.

Rich believes quality youth work is performing your BEST in a way that is CONDUCIVE to the individuals you are working with. People are ever changing which would mean the way you do your work would need to change to make sure we are preserving the quality in our work. People are not a monolith so a cookie cutter method of programming would be ineffective. For us to do our best we must hold ourselves accountable to becoming lifelong learners. As we unearth more things we see as best practices it is our duty to not only enact these tools as we engage our youth but to build on what we have to make sure that it is profitable for all of our young minds.

Contact: rich.pennington.official@gmail.com

Kehinde Reuben is a youth development professional with over 15 years’ experience working with youth in community-based and education-based youth serving organizations. Out of these years, 12 were in out of school time programming and 9 were in a program development, leadership, and management role. She works as Director of Programs at The Sanneh Foundation.

Kehinde has been helping young people, and the adults that support them, to realize and develop their unique combination of skills, strengths and talents. She is committed to helping youth see the value they possess. In addition, to helping youth use their voice to aspire to bring forth positive change. It is

Kehinde’s belief in order to build bright futures, improve student academic success and develop youth leaders; it requires well-trained caring adults, high quality programs, and school and community connectedness.

Kehinde has earned her Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Afro/African American Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and her Master’s of Arts in Leadership from Augsburg College. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, receiving her designation from the Coaches Training Institute. She is endorsed as a Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) External Assessor and Summer Learning Program Quality Assessment (SLPQA) External Assessor through the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality. She is an active cohort member and Project Coordinator for the Regional Quality Collaboration Project.

In her spare time, Kehinde enjoys relaxing while listening to the sounds of a great music playlist, performing and teaching West African dance and trying to learn to play her acoustic electric guitar.

Contact: KAReuben07@gmail.com

Tamara L. Stark has expertise in leading program planning, consultations, collaborations, and efforts to build thriving communities with and for underrepresented youth and families. She works with several local and national initiatives, including community-wide engagement strategies to end violence and homelessness. Ms. Stark has developed and launched a range of programs and partnerships, including improved access to strength-based services for youth and young adults who have experienced violence or are at-risk. She has contributed content for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and other related publications. She has been in the human services field for nearly twenty years and has prior experience as a therapist and educator. She is passionate about social justice, creativity, and entrepreneurship. She credits childhood involvement with theatre, farming, civil rights movements, and the opportunity to be a peer counselor in high school as key life experiences that have influenced her along the way. She believes that the power of youth voices is key to driving positive community transformations. She works as Director for Youth, Family, and Sustainability Services at Tubman. She completed undergraduate studies at St. Olaf College and holds a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Argosy University. She serves on the Board of Directors for the MN Women’s Consortium and the MN Coalition for Battered Women. Ms. Stark is a David P. Weikart External Youth Program Quality Assessor and a member of the Regional Quality Collaborative Cohort.

Contact: maralite24@gmail.com

Cyarra Swanson has been working in youth programs throughout the Twin Cities for over 5 years in various capacities from teacher assistant, after school tutor and mentor, program evaluator and high school crew manager. She attended the University of Minnesota TC and discovered her passion for social justice, youth development and informal education and graduated in 2014 with a bachelor degree in Youth Studies. Currently, she works at the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center (KAYSC) at the Science Museum of MN where she leads a crew of 12 high school students (primarily from St. Paul public high schools), who focus on health equity, specifically nutrition and access to healthy foods in their community. The KAYSC program blends best practices in workforce development, Youth Participatory Action Research, and Informal STEM Education. She took part of a year-long YPQA cohort with other Twin Cities youth workers and conducted YPQA assessments, including coaching sessions. She also co-lead a workshop on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and how it relates to quality youth programming.

Cyarra is devoted to quality youth work and, is not only committed to providing her own youth the best quality programming, but also helping her fellow youth workers evaluate their own program’s practices to ensure the youth are getting the best of the best. She is passionate about working with underrepresented teens and supporting their dreams. She believes youth voice, and reflection are key to ensure good quality youth programs. Also, organizations must be in a constant cycle of checking and adjusting their program to fit the needs of the youth they are serving. Native to South Minneapolis, she is a nature lover and enjoys dancing, knitting and biking around her city.

Contact: cyarraswanson@gmail.com

To request an YPQA observation and/or a coaching session, submit your request here.