Street Wize Foundation is a youth-serving organization working in communities to educate and empower youth about wellness and to foster health-promoting activities including: nutrition, fitness, personal safety, sexual health and green life styles.
SWF envisions communities where health, fitness and safety are central pillars of childhood including:
- Access to and use of fitness and recreational facilities and programs;
- Knowledge about nutrition and access to healthy food options;
- Safe communities without injuries, domestic or environmental dangers, including drugs, toxins and violence;
- Knowledge and resources about pregnancy and disease prevention and sexual health;
- Engagement in well-designed living and community space that fosters fitness, productive and collaborative learning and fun for youth.
SWF works to ensure that every youth:
- Has access to and completes 30 minutes of exercise a day
- Can recognize and avoid personal and environmental dangers
- Lives within a mile of fresh fruits and vegetables and can prepare healthy food
- Contributes to individual and community-wide improvement
SWF designs and implements programs with the following values:
- Serve as a bridge to connect services and information with communities through youth-centered programs and activities. This includes connecting SWF programs with other organizations’ activities
- Lead place-based programs that engage youth to see themselves as health and safety advocates in their communities
- Utilize social media and video to promote healthy choices and lifestyles
- Engage youth in program design, implementation and evaluation
Street Wize Foundation focuses its services on low-income youth, ages 5-24.
There are three effective ingredients that Street Wize Foundation leverages to ensure that its programs are fun and educational. First is the enthusiasm and good will of its staff and team gorilla. SWF manages to engage communities when other organizations investment dwindles from lack of energetic commitment. Second, is SWF’s dedication to partnerships. We understand, as a small organization, that our skills are specific and we need partners with other skills to ensure highest quality programs and ensure continuity of concepts. Third is social media engagement. Our ongoing marketing and promotion of the programs and the youth we serve provide extended impact for the community and for funding and program partners who understand the value of high quality video and widespread promotion.
SWF was founded in 2007 to engage youth in the fight to end the HIV epidemic in DC. The Go Gorilla and the SWF team distributed condoms and promoted HIV-Awareness across the community through the Go Gorilla Campaign. Since that time, SWF’s work has broadened to address what we call the four dimensions of health which are: 1) fitness and nutrition, 2) environment, 3) safety, and 4) personal relationships. Current program activities include: biking and bike safety, fitness instruction and programs, CPR & First Aid training along with pregnancy and disease prevention, HIV and STI awareness and education. SWF prides itself on partnering with other community organizations to help design, implement and promote youth wellness programs. Partners have included a range of regional agencies:
- DC: Metropolitan Police, Department of Health, Housing Authority, Parks and Recreation and the Office of the State Superintendent of Schools (OSSE), Wards 5 / 6 Prevention Center
- Montgomery County: Health Dept., Parks and Recreation
- Prince George’s County: Department of Parks and Recreation, Health Dept.
- State of Maryland: Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene.
- Regional Groups: American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA), Planned Parenthood, President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition
SWF has three core program members and engages 16 adult and youth volunteers to design and implement programs. The staff members are each trained in positive youth development and in health education. In addition, staff members are from DC and have strong networks across the community and in agencies. The staff and volunteers are themselves engaged in supporting healthy citizens and communities through their own lifestyles and practices. In addition, SWF works closely with Streetz Media firm to document activities, produce video and promote SWF themes across new media.
Street Wize Peer Educators:
SWF engaged a cohort of youth peer educators who are recruited, trained and paid to conduct community outreach and education and support all programs.
Outcomes and Impact:
Since 2007, SWF has reached an estimated 14,500 youth through over 216 community programs, ranging from bike education for groups of ten youth, to community block parties for a few hundred, to go-gos promoting HIV awareness for over 1,000.
SWF measures its impact in three ways: a) increased awareness; b) enriched knowledge and changed attitudes and; c) changed behaviors. Changed behaviors is the ideal outcome for health education and awareness, but changed behaviors are the result of increased awareness and knowledge coupled with a perceived change in peer norms and behaviors. A) Increased awareness and improved attitudes is measured through persistence and increased attendance at activities, social media engagement that includes numbers of “likes” on Facebook, numbers of re-tweets, video comments and other responses to discussions around health. B) Improved knowledge and attitudes is measured through post activities surveys and follow up activities—such as commitments and reporting back on personal fitness goals. It is also measured on the number and intensity of engagement. For example in a six-part program if the number of attendees increases and their levels of engagement increase, this is measured as improved attitudes. C) Finally, we measure changed behaviors both across a short-term series of activities and through longer term interactions with neighborhoods and such as on social media outlets where we have virtual communities reporting in and exercising together.
SWF has three strategies that it deploys to engage, educate and empower youth across a spectrum of health issues. They are: “gorilla” tactics; place-based activities; and new media promotion. The Street Wize Go Gorilla is an icon of fun, health and safety. One of the trained staff members dresses up in the Street Wize Go Gorilla costume and is at the center of action to promote healthy communities. This gorilla is practiced and can engage even the shyest of participants. The gorilla is also the mascot of health and safety, able to lead any dance or exercise with a group.
The second tactic that SWF deploys is to host programs and activities across the community, ensuring that everyone is reached. As listed above, SWF has partnered with a range of community, government and faith-based organizations, to ensure that all community members understand that healthy living is physically in their communities. This approach increases activities and one-on-one outreach in underserved communities, and demonstrates that individuals do not need extensive space or equipment to be a part of a healthy community.
The third strategy that SWF uses is video production and social networking. SWF has gained recognition for its high quality audio and video recording and promotion across social media including: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more. Through marketing, people at events know they are a part of a larger movement. Through marketing, participants at the event see and re-live the experience and attitudes go viral. Also, others who see the video understand that there is a movement and are excited to be a part of it. Finally, the social marketing spawns more social marketing. For example, Street Wize Go Gorilla performs a dance with a group and in distributing the video calls on others to take video and submit back for broad distribution among the SWF network.
Recent Street Wize Foundation Accomplishments
- Implement the AIM Program at the Washington Middle School for Girls, Washington Metropolitan High School and the New Heights Program at Ballou High School, funded by The DC Office of the State Superintendent of Schools (OSSE) PREP Program to prevent pregnancies.
- Conducted Go Gorilla Fitness programs for Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation.
- Distributed 30,000 condoms at Prince George’s County METRO Stations for the Prince George’s County Health Department.
- Safe in the Streetz programs were apart of the National Night Out Community Block Party in the Hopkins Community in SE Washington DC in partnership with DC Housing Authority to support community safety and violence prevention.
- SWF is a member of DC’s and Prince George’s County’s Sexually Transmitted Infections Community Coalition (STICC).
- SWF is a recipient and trainee of DC Department of Health’s Effi Barry Capacity Building Grant Program for small organizations.
SWF is a great partner in that it brings creativity, energy and social networking to programs.
|African American Health ProgramChildren’s National Medical Center
DC Department of Health
DC Department of Parks and Recreation
DC Housing Authority
DC Metropolitan Police Department
Greater Mount Calvary Medical
Maryland Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene
Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WAMATA)
|Montgomery County Health DepartmentMontgomery County Parks and Recreation
PG County Health Department STICC
President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition
Sasha Bruce Youthwork
START at Westminster Program
The Women’s Collective
Union Temple Akoma Project
Ward 5 and 6 Prevention Center