Dr. Silva: Youth Odyssey Board Member and CCISD Director of School Leadership

Silva2011Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Youth Odyssey board member Dr. Rafael Silva and see what drew him to Youth Odyssey.

Dr. Silva was a principle at both Travis Elementary and then Martin Middle before moving to his current position as a Director of School Leadership for the Moody Vertical Learning Community. Dr. Silva first encountered Youth Odyssey while he was the principal of Martin Middle School, “I was the principal at Martin for four years. The kids would come tell me, ‘we went to the ropes course, we went camping, we did this we did that.’ I would have conversations with them and I could tell that their self esteem was improving, their confidence increasing. A lot of these kids, were the real quiet kids in the classroom, kids who never raised their hands. I saw them becoming more confident and their grades improved too. I would have conversations with them where they shared, ‘I believe a little bit more in myself, I like working with someone, where as before they were just kind of alone.”

This change in the youth is what intrigued Dr. Silva, so when he was approached by our Executive Director Becky Koeller to become a member of the board, he immediately said yes, YO Board Members BoA Presentation“I saw that Youth Odyssey promotes team building, so when I was approached last year by Becky I thought absolutely, I’m a student advocate. As a principal at the elementary and middle school level, we always did activities for the kids, very similar to Youth Odyssey. So I said perfect, I’d like to be a part of it and see how I could help with resources, be a liaison between Youth Odyssey and the district. That is why I joined, to see what kind of assistance I could provide.”

Youth Odyssey keeps programs small, with a fifteen kid maximum, to better facilitate personal relationships with youth. Dr. Silva is passionate about targeting those youth who need the program most and spreading the word about Youth Odyssey,Martin Smiling Faces “it’s all about educating, our students, our parents, and our teachers about this program. You’d be surprised by how many don’t know about us. The word needs to get out there. With any program or organization, you need to educate the community on what you are about. No organization can do it alone. Since we can only accommodate a certain number of students, we have to know who would benefit from this program, who is in our target audience. We rely on the counselors and community for this. They see someone who doesn’t feel good about themselves, has a low self esteem, or who is always angry or struggling with academics, and they know those are the ones we need to hone in on. ”

As a CCISD Director, Dr. Silva is able to facilitate collaboration between Youth Odyssey and the community, “you need to have those ties with the school, the community, parent groups. But in the end, it all boils down to education, educating the people on what we do. To excite the people. An initiative that requires buy-in is more likely to fail that an initiative that creates buy-in. In order to create buy-in, we have to show them what we are about!”

“I want parents to know what this initiative does for the kids. Take for instance the student I told you about who had low confidence in himself and being part of this program increased his self esteem, built his confidence. CommunityHe started doing better in school, the teacher noticed a difference, the counselors noticed a difference. Success stories like that, I want these youth to inspire other youth who are out there! In many areas, the students don’t get enough support. And it’s not the parents fault because they are working trying to support the kids, but the support, that emotional support provided by Youth Odyssey, makes a big difference with their academics.”

Dr. Silva has some big ideas for further collaborations between Youth Odyssey and CCISD, “the schools are a huge pathway for awareness about Youth Odyssey, so that it becomes an extension of the curriculum; a collaboration between Youth Odyssey and the teachers. When you take them camping and to the ropes course, you tie in all kinds of academic areas, it lends hand and hand!” The life skills Youth Odyssey teaches: communication, teamwork, goal setting, problem solving, trust, and leadership; develop youth into stronger students by building up their self confidence and creating a desire to learn.

The excitement Dr. Silva exudes is contagious, and we here at Youth Odyssey are lucky to have such a motivated board member working on behalf of the youth in the Coastal Bend Region. Be on the lookout for a Youth Odyssey program near you this summer!