The Change Project boosts students' confidence - AZEdNews
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The Change Project boosts students’ confidence


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  • Erica Ballesteros/ The Change Project

Student Nevi Hauptman, Left, And Erica Ballesteros, Right, Founder Of The Change Project Helps Students Learn Soft Skills And Ways To Deal With Challenges In The Workplace As Part Of A Program In Queen Creek Unified School District. Photo Courtesy Of The Change Project

Preparing youth for college and career is more than academics. Students need to be armed with confidence, interpersonal and communications skills and more. Schools in the Queen Creek area know this, and it’s why they’re helping students develop those skills.

The Change Project pilot program launched with Combs High School in the J.O. Combs Unified School District and American Leadership Academy‘s Ironwood Campus.

Founded by Erica Ballesteros, The Change Project (TCP) harnesses the power of what makes each student uniquely valuable. TCP provides training and development aimed at helping students discover how to utilize their unique strengths, develop soft skills, and gain clarity on what steps to take next in life.

Funded by local businesses and generous donors, The Change Project is working to drive change for both education and local business.

The impact of Arizona’s teacher shortage, mental health issues and addiction, and our fast-paced society have taken their toll in schools. And Ballesteros understands that too many of people’s problems stem from them not understanding their own value and potential.

TCP works with high schoolers during a 9-week after-school program. For 90 minutes each week, the team meets with youth to share how to cultivate and use their own strengths. They address everything from goal setting to communication and problem solving. Exercises help youth to grow their own resiliency and practice interviewing skills, and more.

The Change Project video: Workforce development initiative-driving positive change

They even have the opportunity to learn from a number of local leaders. Each cohort is visited by guest speakers who share their key interests. The interactive opportunity allows students to delve into potential career paths and how to get there.

In between sessions, participants have access to a digital coaching tool. This online portal guides them through self-improvement exercises and allows the TCP team to track progress and adjust future sessions where needed.

Building confidence and soft skills will pay dividends to future educational and professional pursuits for these young people. And it’ll go a long way toward the Arizona Education Progress Meter goals of keeping more youth in school and improving post-high school enrollment rates.

The pilot program has shown great results. Students’ confidence within different areas improved by a factor of 100 percent in 10 out of 11 categories measured. And the feedback speaks for itself:

  • “Erica Ballesteros is the most amazing, positive, influential person that I have had the privilege to learn from. I have experienced her and what The Change Project does first hand. It has made a huge impact on my life and who I am as a person. I can personally vouch for my fellow classmates who were at the training alongside me, who felt empowered and confident upon leaving! Erica does not just influence you on the day of your development course, she leaves you with a lasting feeling of empowerment for what you can achieve! She has changed my life and I’m positive she can change many others lives as well.”Student

  • “This workforce development program has helped our students identify their most inner strengths and develop a stronger self-identity that has proven to push them to perform better in the classroom, at work, and at home. Erica has helped the students gain greater insight to choosing pathways that lead to increased happiness and success, both professionally and personally.”District CTE coordinator

For more success stories from across Arizona, visit the Expect More Excellence Tour.