Por Vida Academy Charter High School is an alternative to public school created to meet varying educational and emotional needs of teens on the verge of permanently dropping out of school. Many of the students who attend Por Vida have been turned away from any other option for a high school education. By opening its doors, Por Vida encourages and supports a better future for each student, their families and the community. Teachers and staff at Por Vida combine efforts to offer adaptive academics, nonjudgmental mentoring, and character building programs–always with a healthy dose of compassion.
Joven Noble (Noble Youth) is an evidenced-based character development program offered to young men attending Por Vida. The ten-part curriculum is a process developed by Jerry Tello and encompasses Chicano/Latino rites of passage. One of the program’s goals is to “increase the ability of youth to act in a responsible and respectful way in reference to their relationships.”
Xinachtli is a similar program offered to the young women attending Por Vida. Xinachtli is a comprehensive indigenous based, youth leadership development program with curriculum, also from Tello, which supports and guides young women through their female “rites of passage.”
Both programs address specific elements in a young person’s life that may be causing disturbances in their relationships. Prevention of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, domestic and gang violence are some of the negative influences addressed. In the collective group they experience guidance and nurturing leading to development of character and responsibility to themselves and their families.
Each young man who makes his commitment to Joven Noble, has a different journey. The Fire and Water curriculum is a segment of the overall Joven Noble rites of passage program which works well with young people who experiencing anger/violence (fire). Reggie, a junior at Por Vida, was reluctant at first to join Joven Noble. He was struggling with anger issues and it was causing a disruption in his school and home life. After joining in his sophomore year, he was surprised at the profound changes in his life.
“This group is like my family,” says Reggie. “I came to understand that if I had any problem, I could come to them for help. Through the lessons and genuine support, I found a way to balance my feelings and become a calmer person.”
Zach is no stranger to Por Vida. His parents attended high school here, as did some of his cousins. His grandmother Ninfa Chavarria is the Parent Liaison for the school. Zach graduated but has come back to volunteer with the Joven Noble group because he feels very strongly about the program.
Zach is from a military family and did not have the opportunity to interact with many other Hispanics on the bases where he had been living. When he joined Joven Noble his senior year, he became acquainted with his Hispanic heritage on a more intimate level. “In learning to communicate better with my family and others, I learned acceptance and how not to hold a grudge,” said Zach. “From there I was able to find way to a better relationship with my dad.” He added, “One of the main teachings is “palabra”–keeping your word. It’s all about holding yourself to a high standard.”
Xinachtli is a Nahuatl word meaning ‘seeds that are sprouting and blossoming.’ This is an apt description of the young ladies attending one of the Tuesday afternoon meetings. “We have a good group here,” said Alexis. “No drama, we’re all friends. The most important thing is that we can talk about our problems, get healthy feedback and know that what we say stays inside this room.”
Last year, some of the members created an anti-cyberbullying campaign. “In developing their plan, you could see these students growing as leaders and experimenting with their ability to speak to others, including the media, about the dangers of cyberbullying,” said Por Vida Principal Loren Franckowiak. “Being able to offer Xinachtli and Joven Noble to our students has helped those who participate grow emotionally as well as academically.”
If you are interested in attending or know any young person who might benefit from the curriculum and programs at Por Vida, please call their offices at 210.532.9161