Project Kofi is a culturally specific, school and home-based program developed to increase the positive functioning of African-American youth. “Kofi” is derived from a word meaning “child of growth” in Akan Asente, a Ghanaian dialect. Kofi’s desired outcomes are to provide cultural affirmation, mentorship and role modeling, improve behaviors in the classroom and at home, improve academic performance and attendance and increase parental involvement in the child’s education.
Wilder has demonstrated success in building culturally specific programming for youth. Twenty years ago, Project Kofi was developed as a response to the needs of African-American boys in our community. Project Kofi is a culturally specific school-based program that uses curriculum intentionally selected for appropriateness with African-American youth. In recent years, Project Kofi expanded to become Kofi Services and began serving African-American boys and girls and their families. Our tie to specific mental health services for high risk youth and families dates back to 1924, with the opening of one of the first child guidance clinics in the country.
This mental health project was developed in collaboration with Ramsey County Human Services, the St. Paul Public School District, and the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, and is a Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) service. Funding was originally provided by the Minnesota Department of Human Services through Ramsey County. The St. Paul Public Schools and the Wilder Foundation also contribute funding for the project. The Wilder Foundation has the responsibility for administering and evaluating the project under contract with Ramsey County.
The primary purpose of the program is to increase and/or support the positive functioning of young African-American youth in the home, school, and community. This positive functioning is intended to foster social/emotional well-being, a sense of confidence, competence, and cultural consciousness. To achieve this purpose, the program provides:
- Mental health student support experiences (i.e., anger management, conflict resolution, problem solving decision making, communication, and therapeutic leisure/recreation)
- Meaningful engagement, support and role modeling for Kofi students (i.e., daily classroom and attendance check in, cultural/life skills education, administrative meetings with school about academics, behavior, crisis intervention)
- Parenting skills support and outreach, information, referrals, and crisis assistance
- Facilitation of positive parental involvement in school activities and learning opportunities
To be a participant in the program, clients must be of African-American ancestry, a Ramsey County resident, and a student in an eligible grade (grades 3-6 at Galtier Elementary, Maxfield Elementary, Dayton’s Bluff Elementary, or the school programs within the Rondo Education Center, or in grades 3-8 at Monroe Community School). In addition, clients must have problems that seriously affect some area of life, such as personal relations, living arrangements, school, and community. These problems must have lasted one year, or are likely to last a year, or the problems are the result of something traumatic that has happened to the child in the last year; or the child might hurt themself or others as a result of these problems (adapted criterion from the Minnesota Comprehensive Adult and Children’s Mental Health Act. 1991, 245- 487-245.4887). Clients must also have parent/guardian approval to participate.
The evaluation of Kofi is designed to assess nine goals:
- Clients will develop anger management and conflict resolution skills
- Clients will demonstrate improved behavior at home
- Clients will responsibly navigate teacher and school rules and demonstrate improved behavior at school
- Clients will show improved mental health status
- Clients will develop a positive perception of themselves and their African-American culture
- Parents will obtain support to meet family needs
- Parents will increase effective parenting skills
- Parents will actively participate in school and educationally related activities outside of school
- Parents will be satisfied with the services provided by Kofi Services.
- Individual and group counseling sessions
- Age-appropriate skills training
- Behavioral role-modeling
- Family support sessions
- Parent skills training
- Crisis assistance
How to Access
Project Kofi is available to African-American youth in certain Saint Paul public elementary schools who are experiencing difficulty in school, personal relationships or other areas of their lives. Referrals can be made by parents; school staff and members of the community.
Project Kofi Locations:
- Rondo Education Center/Maxfield Elementary School
- Galtier Elementary School
- Dayton’s Bluff Elementary School
- Jackson Preparatory Magnet
- Michelle and Barack Obama Elementary School
- Linwood Monroe Arts Plus School
- Cherokee Heights Elementary School
- Crossroads Elementary School
Kofi Intake: 651-325-2766.