Soul Spin

Program Elements

Our youth program was built on several core elements. These elements drive all of our program design & implementation. They are rooted in theory & research, and built to facilitate long-term growth



First and foremost, our programs are rooted in sound, multi-disciplinary research, then backed by rigorous, ongoing program evaluation. We're "idea" people and love to talk about "vision" and use feel-good language, but underneath it all is a solid foundation of good ole fashioned best practice. And when we say "multi-disciplinary," we mean it - our team's professional experience with school psychology, clinical child psychology, after-school programming, therapeutic camping & recreation, and music education have given us a unique perspective on harnessing the best of multiple worlds.


Project-Driven Learning

We believe that our core learning objectives are best met in a project-based learning environment. Our kids learn everything - from turntable skills to spreadsheet acumen - in the context of real-world projects. These projects - from DJ parties to mixtapes - help kids integrate learning in meaningful, applied contexts. For example, our event coordinator may learn about budgeting & spreadsheets when planning a Halloween Party. Our graphic designer may learn about multi-tasking, prioritizing, and client communication when working with an event team to create a poster for an upcoming community event. 

Project-driven learning is integrated, sustainable (long-lasting), contextualized, meaningful, & relevant. 


Applied Leadership

Each youth member of our program takes on a leadership role on one of our leadership teams, from marketing to A/V production. Members play leadership roles both within that team (e.g., Production Director) and for the group as a whole (e.g., our Graphic Designer takes the lead with graphic design). Furthermore, our members don't just learn about leadership theory or do abstract teamwork activities (those are great too), but learn applied leadership skills - strategies to use in real-world contexts that lead to better results in actual team-based work environments: how to give constructive feedback, how to manage multi-week projects, how to delegate tasks within projects, and how to inspire/motivate team members, just to name a few.


Individualized Support

We intentionally recruit children who show great potential but face environmental barriers to success, manifesting in social, emotional, behavioral, & educational difficulty. We believe that inspiration, empowerment, & opportunity make a world of difference for children, but also recognize that sometimes complex kids require more complex support. Hence the name Soul SPIN - Strategic, Personalized, & Intensive.

The centerpiece of each child's participation in our program is an Individual Support Plan - a "strategic plan" that starts with a broad, multi-element assessment, followed by linked interventions, ranging from social skills training to token economies.

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Most educational & youth development strategies are necessarily short-term. They're designed to help make classrooms function today. They generally don't address the question, "How will this improve the child's life in 10 years." That was our focus from the very beginning. We want kids to have a great time & do better in school this year, but we also realize that the challenges our members face are serious & longitudinal, and need a serious & long-term response. We think we've found our answer in self-direction.

Let us nerd out here a bit: We definitely believe that strategies focused on short-term behavior, and remediating past & present issues, are huge. Kids can't move forward without certain social skills, for example, and may need to process through anger & resentment about prior life experiences. However, simply getting kids to the point of being okay isn't enough - we need to help build resilience for the future - equip them with the skills to handle unexpected life challenges tomorrow and in 10 years. If you look at resiliency research, a few patterns emerge, one being self-direction. Kids who own their own lives (from goal setting & planning to a having an internal locus of control), take responsibility, believe that they are competent & powerful, and manage themselves tend to do better

As such, a major goal of our program design has been cultivation of self-direction. We don't want kids to do things because we say so - we want them to do things because they say so. We want them to follow their own directions, come up with their own goals, and be their own bosses. We won't always be there to help them succeed as their lives progress, nor will their friends, teachers, or even parents. They are the only ones who can, at the end of the day, ultimately hold themselves accountable for their own success, however they define it.