This interdisciplinary, community-based field study “laboratory” is a variable credit elective which provides students the opportunity to engage intensively in a community based project or program with academic application, support, guidance and supervision. Student may choose to take this course for 1-3 credits in order to more fully engage in a project derived from another class as a supplement to that class; or they may take this elective independently to pursue a project of interest with the community. Many students took this course in fall 2009 in order to participate in the USM LA Cares for Youth mentoring program and their course is described below. Students who took this course in fall 2009 but were not participating in the mentoring program had varying academic requirements, writing requirements, supervision requirements and meeting requirements based on individual arrangement with the course instructor.

USM LA Cares for Youth Mentoring Program Community Engagement

This option of the Community Engagement field study course provides structure, supervision, training, administration, orientation and academic application to students paired with identified community youth through the USM LA Cares for Youth Mentoring Program. Students in this class work with diverse at-risk youth in developing, implementing and evaluating a resiliency and community building youth program. Students will develop mentor relationships with individual youth through one of four school-based supervised programs administered by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Androscoggin County. In addition, they will be involved with group and community based activities and development. They will learn to apply activity-based techniques, strengths perspectives and community empowerment fundamentals in order to develop a positive peer culture among the youth, enhance self esteem and empower youth with skills in decision making and communication.

The course will be conducted through a three intensive training/orientation sessions to be held the first three Fridays in September as well as a monthly group seminar in which concepts, skills and techniques will be taught and group supervision provided. Students will also fully participate in the Big Brothers Big Sisters orientation and training program and be provided the weekly supervision and support of Big Brothers Big Sisters staff at the sites to which they are assigned.

Prerequisites: Psychology 101 and 102 or permission of instructor


Upon completion of this course, it is expected that students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the multiple interrelated factors which contribute to vulnerability in identified youth from micro, mezzo and macro systems perspectives.
2. Define and apply the primary concepts of social service practice relationship building such as engagement, strengths assessment, bonding, boundaries, transference-counter transference, empowerment, networking, resource development and termination.
3. Demonstrate familiarity with the fundamental understandings necessary for work with adolescents such as youth development, adolescent development, maturational issues, peer interaction, and youth culture.
4. Integrate an understanding of particular issues related to at-risk adolescents, such as substance abuse, teen pregnancy, separation, attachment and loss, and resilience, into their work with teens and families.
5. Participate in self-reflective and group reflective evaluations and assessments.
6. Communicate and relate sensitively to diverse populations and with people different from themselves.
7. Utilize social skill training methods with at-risk youth to enhance the self-esteem, communication and decision making of these youth.
8. Analyze the impact of multiplicative and interactive effects of diversity, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, environment, and personal and societal history on particular at-risk youth and families.
9. Assess and describe the nature of obstacles and hardships faced by ethnic and racially diverse adolescents, gay, lesbian and bisexual adolescents, as well as poor, disabled, and otherwise vulnerable adolescents in the delivery of services.


In the course of assessment of, as well as discussion, instruction, and practice with, at risk youth, much attention will be paid to the contribution of racism, oppression, poverty and powerlessness to the particular vulnerabilities recognized in youth. In addition, critique of theories and programs which characterize and identify vulnerability as a condition endemic to the “underclass” and to people and families of color will be incorporated into the curriculum and supervision. Further the phenomena of family and community violence, substance abuse, school dropout and teen pregnancy will be analyzed from ethno cultural and societal perspectives, which recognize the disproportionate manner in which these obstacles are confronted by “at-risk” youth. As such, issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability and age will be emphasized as particularly salient to the analysis of and practice with this community.


This course will be presented through a discussion seminar format (“seminar”), which will be immediately accompanied by a community service learning practicum (“community practicum”). The seminar will take place for the first three 3-hour course sessions and then monthly for 3 hour sessions. The content of the seminars will be actuated through supervised practicum experience in the community with individual mentoring relationships, group activities and community practice. Lecture, discussion, modeling, experience, peer and group interaction, reflection, and self and group assessment will all be methods utilized in both fora to introduce, impart, integrate and operationalize the content of this course.

The course encourages student exploration of the issues confronting low income and multiply-stressed families and neighborhoods through research, community involvement and assessment of risk and resilience in a particularly vulnerable community.


1. Attendance and Class Participation (50%)
As the seminars are designed in a progressive/serial manner, and as the community practicum entails regular interaction with individual youth as well as with the community group, EACH CLASS SESSION IS CRITICAL to full understanding, incorporation and development of the course material and community relationships. Each student will receive a participation grade for each seminar and practicum which total will amount to 30% of the final grade. In addition, each student will receive an attendance and participation grade based on attendance and engagement at the assigned sites and interaction with your assigned youth which will amount to 20% of your total grade.

2. Reflection/Interaction Journal (40%)
Throughout your participation in the mentoring program, you will be asked to maintain a weekly journal in which you describe your regular interaction with the youth to whom you are assigned as well as respond to certain questions and suggestions regarding your interaction and growing relationship. You will be asked to reflect on these interactions, evaluate your interventions, design future objectives and process your involvement and group processes in accordance with the “Guidelines for Journals” handout circulated on the first day of class. These journals are an additional means of supervision and must be turned in required format at each monthly meeting date. The journals will be collected and reviewed on four occasions in the semester: Sept 18 – ONE preparing journal submitted. Oct 23 – four weekly journals submitted. Nov. 13 – 2 weekly journals submitted. Dec. 11 – remaining weekly journals submitted. You are expected to complete a journal wherever indicated, even if you have not yet met with a mentee or if you were unable to meet with a mentee that week.

3. Self Evaluation Essay (10%)
In preparation for the second week of class you will be asked to articulate at least three goals for yourself for this course and the objectives you expect to meet in achieving these goals. At the end of the semester you will then be asked to review these goals and objectives, your journal, and your work with your assigned youth, and then to reflect on your performance throughout the semester in a Self Evaluation Essay. This essay should discuss your relative achievement of your goals and objectives; the particular challenges and frustrations you faced; as well as the noted successes you enjoyed. The Self Evaluation should include an analysis of strengths and limitations generally throughout the semester, as well as specifically in your mentoring relationship, interactions with school and/or other agency personnel, interactions with the USM LA Cares for Youth group and interactions with the community at large. Thus, your essay should include analysis of your work and learning on micro, mezzo and macro levels. Further, it is expected that your discussion will incorporate concepts learned in classes and through the practicum experience. The essay should conclude with a self-reflection in which you discuss your growth/development/change throughout this course as well as that of your mentee and your relationship. These Self Evaluation Essays will be due at the last class, December 11.

4. Additional Academic Requirements
Students who are taking this course for one credit need only complete the items listed above for full credit and grading.

Students who are taking course for two credits will also be required to design, propose and present an integrated project, such as a policy paper, presentation or other course related work which must be preapproved by the instructor.

Students who are taking this course for three credits will be required to engage in and integrate an extensive community engagement application project to be preapproved by and arranged with instructor and which may involve a year-end summary report, a developed proposal or grant application to continue the mentoring program, a policy or advocacy piece or some other extensive application project.


Written work, contributions and presentations will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

Application: Work that demonstrates relevance to practice.

Critical thinking: Work that demonstrates the ability to evaluate and critique ideas.
Conceptual ability: Work that demonstrates the ability to use theoretical concepts accurately, to think in logical sequence and to organize ideas into a conceptual whole.
Communication and presentation: Work that demonstrates the ability to transmit ideas in a verbal or written form in an organized and grammatically correct (sentence, paragraph, spelling, etc.) structure.

Creativity: Work that suggests innovative approaches to the subject matter being discussed or presented.

Perspective: Work and contributions which reflect an understanding and awareness of others as well as an increased ability to integrate information on micro, mezzo and macro levels.
Research: Work that demonstrates that the subject matter has been adequately researched and correctly cited.

***Class and practicum participation will similarly be evaluated according to the above criteria but the emphasis will be on thoughtful, interactive and appropriate participation.


There are no specifically required texts for this course but relevant readings will be assigned and either put on electronic reserve or provided to students and these works will be required.


Class 1: Introduction and Overview
1. General discussion of vulnerability, at-risk, resilience, strengths perspective, mentoring relationships and community practice
2. Overview of class syllabus and course progress
3. Overview of Big Brothers Big Sisters Format and Outline of Pairing set up
4. Complete Preevaluation, Self Goals and pairing questionnaire

Class 2: Training and Orientation
1. Big Brothers Big Sisters staff provide training and orientation as required for their program matches.
2. Continue of training/orientation with specific focus of vulnerability, risk and resiliency factors and techniques for promoting resilience.
Due: Mentor Survey (Baseline), Goals/Objectives for Self-Evaluation Form

Class 3: Vulnerability, Risk and Resiliency
1. What it means to be “At Risk” or “vulnerable”
2. Circumstances which place a child “at risk”
• Trauma and PTSD
• Resiliency Factors
• Practice Implications for Building Resiliency
3. Overview of Research Issues with Bernice Conklin Powers
Due: First Journal Entry

Classes 4-5: Encouraging Resiliency
1. Review of practice skills which reinforce and promote resiliency
2. Communication and mentoring techniques to promote resiliency (coaching)
3. Establishing mentoring relationships and trust: boundaries, engagement, confidentiality, empathy
Due: Journal assignments as designated at each date; for students taking class for 2-3 credits, academic assignment proposal is due by Oct 23

Class 6: Last Class of Semester, Wrap Up and Community Celebration
Group Supervision
Due: Final Journals as required; Self-Evaluation Essay; for students taking course for 2-3 courses final products are due