LEVEL UP was started in 2017 as a result of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force’s Leading on Opportunity Report, which recommended a variety of services to address teen crime, health and academic success. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee and the Community Building Initiative provided a space for employees and community members to engage and share their points of view about race and police community relations and have open dialogue about matters that impact them and the community.
The LEVEL UP program hosts activities at branch YMCA sites in low-income areas on weekend evenings and during the summer at which volunteers from several youth nonprofits provide mentoring services, classes and recreational activities. Additional opportunities include interactions with police officers, tutoring, and becoming part of longer-term mentoring and educational programs.
In 2017, the program’s first year, LEVEL UP (then called Summer of Opportunity), enlisted more than 330 volunteers, three CMPD officers each in-session night, staff from nine partnering youth-serving organizations and YMCA youth development staff to interact with and guide teens.
A survey was given to 627 participants at the outset. Results helped to establish participants’ social-emotional baseline and inform programming to address the greatest deficiencies. Program offerings included workshops on themes such as the rights and responsibilities of citizens, healthy eating, college and career readiness, positive interactions with the police and social justice.
The program served 1,003 youth ages 13-17. Of the 81 youth who completed the post-program survey, 84% made gains in the positive youth development score using the Algorhythm Youth Development Impact Learning System to measure short-term gains focused on moving the needle toward long-term outcomes.
Based on the successful pilot, the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and its partners have expanded to a year-round youth enrichment program. During the school year, teens will have access to safe and positive experiences aimed at connecting them to role models and resources that develop interpersonal skills, promote achievement and improve access. In the 12-month program, youth will also have access to Y Achievers (the YMCA’s college and career readiness program) in partnership with eight high schools which includes in-school engagement in the Career and Technical Education Department of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. In addition to Y Achievers, LEVEL UP will feature teen nights, after school enrichment activities, and complementary YMCA memberships.
In 2018, LEVEL UP will:
Community service projects are being planned for 2018. Counselor-led workshops will include themes such as healthy eating, personal style, social media, building your own brand, social justice and performance art. Participants and CMPD officers will compete in a basketball tournament, and a college and career fair will be held.
Timeline of Project: Since 2017
Initiator: City of Charlotte and YMCA of Greater Charlotte
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council
Charlotte, NC – 2018 AAC Winner: Presentation