A Single Act of Compassion can Lead to an Avalanche of Change

Team Ascent

In 2010, Serve The Peninsula developed and implemented at Sequoia High School an alternative learning experience called Team Ascent for “high risk” students. The program promotes physical exercise, discipline and the individual’s development of integrity, knowledge and character. Students facing life challenges of gangs, drugs, and violence, have the opportunity to break down social barriers and to build relationships with each other and youth leaders / mentors.

“I never dreamed that you would help us to save these kids, but you have. The Team Ascent approach in working with this crew, addressing their needs for attention, positive role modeling and ethics development, is making it possible for these freshmen boys to succeed in the classroom. Their growth in school buy-in, drop in discipline referrals and rise in grades has been startling! First semester, each of the 17 students now involved in the program were suspended multiple times; this semester, only one of the 17 students has been suspended, and he only once. My favorite fact is that the student who was suspended asked to spend the week in the AVP office because he wanted to use the time to make up homework!” -- Sequoia High School Principal Bonnie Hansen

Team Ascent has four primary parts: structured physical activity, team lunch, classroom curriculum, and mentoring.

  1. Drawing on the success of Serve The Peninsula’s RWC PE program, Serve The Peninsula leverages our partnership with Peninsula Community Center and their USTA youth tennis program. Students participate in the structured tennis program in place of regular PE where the students have an opportunity to learn team work and discipline. Lessons discussed in the classroom are put into practice and reinforced on the tennis courts. Playing tennis is a first-time experience for these students and provides a level playing field as a foundation for the youth leaders.
  2. After the tennis module, the students sit down around a conference table with the “team coaches” and enjoy a hot meal together. Our objective for the lunch time, in addition to providing a nutritional meal, is to create an unstructured time for the students and coaches to come together as a team and build relationships. In most cases this is the only meal these students will have in a caring group environment, similar to a family enjoying a meal together.
  3. After lunch the young students and the youth leaders continue to work together as a class and in small groups. Team Ascent utilizes the 180 Degree curriculum during the classroom portion. The 180 Degree curriculum’s focus is working with students to take responsibility for their lives by accepting personal accountability and to continuously strive toward the goal of achieving their full potential, turning their lives around one degree at a time. The curriculum provides a core roadmap for the facilitators and small group leaders across the multiple teams.
  4. The final ingredient in this program is to develop a mentoring relationship that spans beyond the once a week class or the school day. Our goal through these structured activities and field trips is to build a relationship of trust and friendship. During the school week, students are offered the opportunity to participate in organized rock climbing and weight training. Additionally, outdoor field trips and adventures are planned where students will have the opportunity apply the fundamentals of character and teamwork they have learned, test themselves, and stimulate future hopes and dreams. The field trips and activities include backpacking and river rafting on the South Fork of the American River. The initial group just completed a community service project with the Santa Clara County Park Rangers at Metcalf Motorcycle Park. In exchange for completing a service project at the park, the Park Rangers taught the students how to ride dirt bikes.