What is the Ever Forward Club?

The vision behind the Ever Forward Club is to be the most effective secondary education program supporting the needs of underserved, at-risk teens. It’s mission is to create communities of students who set and achieve their personal goals, inside and outside the classroom. The Ever Forward club strives to nurture and support the growth of the world’s future leaders.

The goal for EFC is now to expand and bring the workshop and club to more schools and reach more students than ever before by serving 20 middle schools and 20 high schools by December 2015, potentially supporting as many as 500 individual students.

What is the role of the school?

The school provides the site and a mentor for the weekly club meetings. Having the Ever Forward Club at school reinforces the importance of the participants learning that there is a safe and engaging part of school, and not something that is separate. A big goal of Ever Forward is to help young men engage and meet their goals, and school is a big part of that.

California public schools have some funding for programs that help with the 5-20% of kids not performing well. This can help with getting a workshop off the ground and club established. Several schools WANT the workshop and the club, so the priority is getting mentors trained to support that.

How does an Ever Forward Club get established at a school?

The first step is hold a workshop at the school and then the kids who participated can opt in to being a part of the club which includes weekly meetings with a mentor. Kids opt in to the workshop and then into the club once they have taken the workshop. The school can help in identifying students that would benefit most.

Once the club is established there are weekly meetings and the members establish leadership roles and the mentor leads them through a curriculum.

What is a workshop?

Taking off the Mask is a workshop created by Ashanti Branch M.Ed. for The Ever Forward Club. This 2 hour, hands on workshop provides participants a safe place to look behind the mask that we wear on a daily basis and that often gets in our way of living truly fulfilling lives.

This workshop was created for students in Oakland and portions of this work will be featured in an upcoming documentary that will be released at this years Sundance Film Festival. The documentary is created by by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and the team who brought you Miss Representation, called "The Mask you Live in" the trailer can be seen here:

Each workshop will accommodate approximately 30 students.

What is the goal of the weekly club meeting?

The weekly meeting is the central part of EFC. The mentor is there and the group does a check in to focus on what is going with the members. Sometimes they play games to get loose and have fun connecting. There is a curriculum of topics to explore, but that takes a backseat to the check-ins so members feel supported and heard with what is going on with them.

What is a mentor?

EFC Mentors are men in the community who understand the needs of young men. They have gone through Mentor Training, and can even be a graduate of an Ever Forward Club themselves. They need to be able to work at school sites and be available once a week and for special events. Ideal mentors are educators, therapists, social workers and managers. Anyone can attend mentor training to learn more about how the workshops are run.

How does mentor training work?

Training right now is handled by EFC founder Ashanti Branch. He is working on creating materials so training can happen online via webinars. To expand mentor training, he is also working with EFC alumni to be Mentor Trainers or Program Managers.

What is the college trip about? Who goes? Where do you go?

Every year the Ever Forward Club takes a trip to visit colleges, trade schools and universities for some inspiration. The EFC has been able to accommodate 50 students on a trip during spring break to Southern CA. The purpose is to allow members to get exposure to places of higher education. In the future we want to expand this to include trade schools and other local colleges.

Colleges and universities visited include: UC Santa Cruz, Cal Poly - SLO, USC and California Science Center. In addition there is always a fun activity planned (such as Medieval Times, Bowling or going to Venice Beach).

NOTE: Not every club will be required to go on a multi day college trip - other events can be designed by and for different clubs as EFC expands.

What are the measurements of success?

The testimonials and personal experiences of those who are and have been members of EFC is the best evidence of success. EFC strives to support its member and in the process:

• Decrease drop out rate
• Decrease absence rate
• Increase graduation rate (current = 100%)
• Increase college enrollment
• Increase community involvement/activism
• Increase engagement and love of school
• Build relationships at school
• Create teams that positively impact the community at large

Are there workshops and clubs for young women?

In 2006 The Ever Forward Club started the program for young women. The young women in Mr. Branch’s class wanted something similar to what they witnessed the young men had created. The young women’s program at San Lorenzo High School went through many iterations since 2006. At one point at San Lorenzo the young men and young women met together.

In 2013-2014 school year our young women’s mentor at ARISE High School moved away and we were not prepared to recruit and hire a new mentor as a replacement. This academic year 2014 - 2015, the young women requested to have a club and they took the ownership of finding a mentor and they have been meeting. Currently a young women’s club is operating at ARISE High School in Oakland, California.

What is the 24 Hour Relay challenge?

The 24 Hour Relay Challenge will become a Memorial Day tradition in the Bay Area. It is a community event that brings together people of all ages and abilities to participate in a unique and memorable experience. It is also the major fund – raising project that benefits student programs that help motivate students to achieve their goals, improve their communities, and also show them that they can have fun without drugs, alcohol and tobacco. This years Relay will include as many as 25 teams, made up of 10 members each. Each participant runs or walks one mile, then passes the baton to the next member, and so on. This process continues for the entire 24 hour period.

While the teams are circling the track, a giant community camp-out takes place with continuous entertainment, food, and camping – participants have a chance to meet others who believe in a healthy lifestyle. Without a doubt, it is 24 hours of memorable fun for everyone involved!

The Ever Forward Club sounds great, how can I help?

EFC has plans to expand and to do so, more mentors will be key to holding workshops and establishing clubs at more schools. An important focus now is to get Mentor Training scheduled for early 2015. With expansion the need for Ashanti to spend more time on EFC will be critical. He has done this in addition to his day job as an teacher and assistant principal for 10 years - imagine what he can do if he can focus on EFC full time!

Anyone with grant writing experience, event planning and anyone who can contribute as a mentor would be a welcome addition to the EFC team.

Funding is needed for all areas with the priority on the Mentor Training, EFC Operations and trips to expose club members to colleges, universities and trade schools.

The vision for EFC is that it will grow to be a national organization!