Youth Development Team opens doors to opportunity

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” - Dr. James Comer

Perhaps no words better exemplify the work of the Lincoln Public Schools Youth Development Team than those of Dr. James Comer, a Yale professor and noted expert on how children learn.

Pete Ferguson is the coordinator of the LPS Youth Development Team and he spoke at the latest LPS Learning Lunch on Jan. 23 about the work he and his team do to build positive relationships with students - or “scholars,” as he calls them - and help them succeed.

Ferguson leads the team that includes advocates for African-American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino and homeless students. They work throughout the district to help provide support and opportunities that may otherwise be unavailable to some scholars.

But it’s not just members of the Youth Development Team who can make a difference in the lives of scholars, Ferguson said - it’s teachers, custodians, coaches, para-educators, mentors, parents and community members.

“To me it’s just common sense. For scholars to be successful, for us to be successful, we’ve had relationships in our lives and people who have invested...who have believed in us,” he said.

Two scholars were on hand at the Learning Lunch to talk about their experience with the Youth Development Team. Hazem Koudy is a 5th-grader at Belmont Elementary School and participates in the TRACKS Empowerment Program. Ferguson started the TRACKS program in 2007. Participating scholars meet weekly and take part in activities and experiences meant to enhance their leadership skills.

Koudy said the TRACKS program has helped him believe he can accomplish anything.

“Nothing will stop you unless you’re the one saying, ‘I’m not ready for this’ and that you need to give up,” he said.

Azciá Fleming, a sophomore at Lincoln High School, has participated in another Youth Development Team experience - the annual MLK Youth Rally and March - since she was in third grade. It’s one of many ways she has gained the confidence to succeed in school and beyond.

“When doors open for you, you can take the opportunity and walk through, or you can let it close,” said Fleming, who’s participating in Lincoln High’s pre-International Baccalaureate program this year. “Pete and other adults have shown me you have to take the opportunity and run through it.”



LPS Learning Lunches, open to the Lincoln community, are generally held on the last Tuesday of the month in the Board Room at LPS District Office, 5905 O St. Doors to the Board Room open at noon, the program begins at 12:15 p.m., questions-and-answers happen at 12:45 p.m. You bring your lunch, we provide dessert.

The rest of the 2017-18 season:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 27: Kids vs. adults in LPS Spelling Bee, LPS Spelling Bee champions compete with LPS employees, Mindy Murphy, curriculum specialist, Secondary English Language Arts.
  • Tuesday, March 27: Developing Young Men and Women, featuring Huntington Elementary School children and Rik Devney, Huntington principal. 
  • Tuesday, April 24: Great Year of Achievement, highlighting LPS special education programs at Sherrill, Nuernberger and Yankee Hill Education Centers – Jane Stavem, associate superintendent of Instruction at LPS.
  • Tuesday, May 15: Making Music, UKE can do it!  Come try your musical talents with ukuleles, Lance Nielsen, curriculum specialist for Music at LPS.

Published: January 25, 2018, Updated: January 26, 2018

"When doors open for you, you can take the opportunity and walk through, or you can let it close."

Azciá Fleming, sophomore scholar at Lincoln High School