Bright Spots of Impact and Learning from 22-23
As I look back on the 22-23 program year, I am filled with a deep sense of pride in what we have accomplished and a deeper sense of confidence in our future of impact and community here at Eye to Eye. We have achieved an exceptional amount of good in the past year and have continued along in our impact commitment to every individual we serve. In our fidelity to positive experience and impact, we do what we can to ensure that every person feels seen, heard, and valued, connected in community, and mobilized to act on behalf of themselves and others.
This north star, however, sits alongside the realities that our students, communities, and schools face across the social, political, and economic landscapes that seek to take us further into inequity and injustice and disconnect our present from our past and our futures. At the same time, the call to action to deepen our support for our neurodivergent students and partner with school communities is clear. We know that inclusive education continues to expand and grow and NAEP scores for students with identified disabilities continue to show noticeable differences from their peers’ scores. At Eye to Eye, we believe that wraparound supports like our SEL rooted Mentoring program help our students feel a sense of positive identity, a growing sense of self-efficacy, and a deeper understanding of who they are as learners – mindsets and understandings that support overall success and wellbeing. We also know that educators deserve continuous and applied professional learning to best support their students. It is this knowledge that drives our work forward.
Bright Spots of Progress and Impact
In 2022-2023 we continued to grow our Near Peer Mentoring Program, supporting our 56 schools in hosting over 370 art rooms across 23 states. 90% of our Mentors shared that they would recommend our program to a friend and roughly 80% of them reported that our program promoted peer bonds, supported authentic engagement, and challenged their growth. 92% of school-based staff involved in our program reported that they would recommend the program to a colleague. And for our mentees, 75% of our 4th to 8th grade mentees would recommend our program to a friend and 65% of our mentees grew or were protected from loss in the capacity area of positive identity.*
In our first full year with active Neurodiversity Alliance clubs, we continued to grow a network of connected young leaders who are mobilizing on their school campuses. This year, we updated the brand, tagline, mission, and vision of the network while providing resources, technical assistance, and community building opportunities for our club leaders. Our club leaders reported that they felt inspired to take action, felt a sense of community, and felt confident in their understanding of the mission and vision – an important metric for us as we shifted things.
In our Professional Learning Program, we saw growing interest in our content offerings and a desire from school communities to return to in person and embedded professional learning opportunities. We were thrilled to partner with a growing number of schools across the country to sharpen their vision and practice for equitable learning through the lens of neurodiversity. This year, our professional learning participants reported deeper or affirmed understandings of how to support neurodivergent learners as a result of their time with us.
While there is so much more to share, these topline impact measures enable us to reflect on what matters as we build and support our growing community, to learn from what went well and what could go better, and to identify opportunities for evolution.
Learnings and Evolution
In addition to our impact, we were all busy at work ensuring that we remained steadfast in our commitment to continuous improvement. This year, we launched our youth advisory board, the Young Adult Guiding Coalition, worked alongside our Operations team to update and upgrade our data management, designed and implemented new curricular resources to continue on our journey to ensure culturally competent and affirming activities, built adaptive professional learning online content, began to deliver in person professional learning workshops again, and re-branded our ND Alliance network to ensure that all club members felt supported in celebrating neurodiversity and advocating for change.
It is both a privilege and a responsibility to remain committed to meaningful reach and impact and carve out the time to reflect on our successes and our learnings each year. I am grateful to those that take the time to complete our surveys and share their feedback with us. Without this feedback it would be impossible to know where to focus our efforts and which steps to take to better meet the needs of our community.
The feedback we got this year offered many rich learnings. The top three that held value across any single program we offer were:
- Steady impact and articulation: We have done a lot of work over the past 2+ years to ensure that we can capture the impact and experience of our programming and can use that data to inform our program evolution. We increased the rate of survey completion by about 11% and ensured that participant self-reported data and perceptions were the driving measure of impact.
- Market trends: We saw an increase in school interest in more than just a single program.
- Network interest: We can do more to actively build the community we seek to support with our ND Alliance club network and that requires an investment in our outreach.
As we enter the next program year we know we have to:
- Find more meaningful ways to hear from our mentees to ensure that our Mentoring Program continues to be impactful for our middle school students;
- Build out more connection and support from our network staff to our ND Alliance clubs so our leaders at any stage of club development know how to tap into the right support at the right time;
- Continue our investments in universal access for increased entry and engagement to ensure representation from the broader and vibrant neurodivergent young adult community; and
- Continue to amplify the young adult voice in our external and internal work across all that we do.
To activate these opportunities, we have grown and shifted our team for the 23-24 program year and beyond. We earmarked resources specifically to elevate our focus on measurement, evaluation, and learning and are building out a team dedicated to our ND Alliance club network. We are also designing for greater coherence across our speaking engagements and professional learning to ensure that there is a level of impact no matter how you engage with us. Lastly, we are gearing up to launch a scholarships fund that puts financial capital directly in the hands of our young leaders and (re)starting our Ambassadors program (fka Diplomats) to ensure we continue to amplify the voices that matter.
Thank you to my team and colleagues for always rooting us in what matters and doing this work with our hearts and heads aligned. And thank you to the schools, families, and students that give us their time each year and make all of this possible alongside our funders and Board of Directors. Here’s to the bright year of community, learning, and positive impact ahead.
Written by Simmi Goomer, Chief Learning and Impact Officer
*Eye to Eye used HelloInsights, an online platform that leverages AI and researched-based tools, to evaluate our Near Peer Mentoring Program for 21-22 and 22-23.