This mentorship-based course pairs Williams students with teenagers involved in the Berkshire County juvenile justice system, usually due to truancy. LIFT is an official Commonwealth of Massachusetts probation diversion program. Sponsored by Pittsfield Chief of Police Mike Wynn ’93 and Professor Cheryl Shanks, the course is entirely run on a day-by-day basis by Williams students who have served as mentors in the past. Williams students provide positive mentorship, helping the teens to envision, construct, and present an independent project of the teen’s choosing. Past topics have ranged from teen parenting to who is the best point guard, from the history of the quesadilla to the biological process by which the horned lizard shoots blood from its eyes. The project and other course activities aim to cultivate initiative, creativity, focus, and skills in areas such as goal-setting, research, and communication, and to show teens that school can empower them, and not just be another form of incarceration. The course culminates with a presentation in which each mentor/mentee pair formally presents their work to an audience that includes judges and probation officers in the juvenile court system, state elected officials, chiefs of police, district attorneys, the teens’ peers and families, and faculty and community members. Williams students are expected to attend trainings, meet with their teens three times a week, co-facilitate a final presentation, and contribute to a common log detailing their meetings. Because LIFT is an after-school program, this course meets Tuesday through Thursday from 3:30-5:30pm. Williams students will additionally meet Mondays from 4:00 to 5:00 pm. Absences cannot be accommodated: the teens cannot be let down. Williams students will undergo training as well as a criminal background check prior to the start. To apply, please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/iWvi5fsuVPFLdpJE9 Also register on PeopleSoft. The student leaders, Aliza Cotton and Michael LesStrang, will select the applicants, with some advice from the dean’s office and course sponsors, and Professor Shanks will inform those who registered whether they were accepted.
The Class: Format: studio; The group meets as a whole; additionally, pairs meet separately. At times this is in a classroom, at other times, the library or makerspace or studio.
Grading: pass/fail only
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Successful mentorship throughout the term, contribution to the mentors' log, and final joint presentation.
Enrollment Preferences: Students will be evaluated based on a statement of application.
Unit Notes: Mike Wynn just retired as the Chief of the Pittsfield Police Department. He graduated from Williams in 1993.
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses