"Space Of Her Own" (SOHO) is an art-based program serving pre-teen girls, ages 10 to 12. The program offers participants yearlong mentoring through engagement in creative art activities and meaningful community service projects. Each volunteer mentor makes a one-year commitment to the program, which fosters long-term relationships. This program utilizes evidence-based life skills curricula and the National Mentoring Partnership's model program guidelines.
As a result of a citywide survey of Alexandria's teens and parents, and community focus groups, it was concluded that at-risk girls would be most successful in avoiding juvenile criminal activity and improving social skills and self-esteem, through engagement in long-term mentoring involving art activities. Consequently, a partnership between the local Court Service Unit and the non-profit Art League was developed and a "Space Of Her Own" was conceived.
Girls are matched with adult, volunteer female mentors, who work with them in weekly art classes as part of the yearlong program. Homework support, life skills, communication and anger-management classes are infused into every program day. The mentors are not professional artists. They and the girls learn artistic concepts and techniques throughout the course. Both mentor and youth work together to create expressive and attractive artwork for the girl's bedroom, which may include a "dream" chest, mirror, personalized chairs, lamps and wall hangings.
SOHO is loosely based on popular HGTV programming because upon completion of the program, girls and mentors work in teams to remodel other girls bedrooms, being sure to include ample lighting and study space. Each girl is then required to "pay it forward" by completing community service projects with her mentor. Artwork and a before-and-after renovation video are exhibited at a community reception.
The promise of gorgeous new bedrooms is the program's hook, promoting near-perfect program attendance, which also attracts mentors. Because of the program's non-threatening approach, mentors, program administrators, and seasonal volunteers are welcomed into the girl's homes during renovations. This often results in connecting families to appropriate city services. The success of this program is not only the one-year commitment by mentor and youth, but also the three-year follow-up of activities and supportive services through the SOHO Sisterhood Club, which is available to graduates throughout their middle school years.
The SOHO program's evaluation measures assure the program's effectiveness. The following items are measured: the duration of the mentor/mentee relationships, the quality of the mentor/mentee relationships, developmental assets (via pre/post tests), criminal involvement and teen pregnancy. Since its inception, SOHO has serviced 93 girls, only 3 of which have subsequently become involved in the court system.
Thursday, August 27 – Orientation for Prospective SOHO Mentors
The Space of Her Own (SOHO) program invites creative female mentors to enjoy a light dinner with a wonderful group of women and learn details about an exciting art-based mentoring program for pre-teen girls in Alexandria. The orientation will occur from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at The Art League Annex, 1 Duke St. Each mentor makes a one-year commitment to attend Thursday evening sessions with her mentee. Together they participate in team-building activities, learn life skills and artistic concepts, techniques and processes. To RSVP for the mentor orientation, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.alexandriava.gov/soho.