Program Goals/Target Population
The Eisenhower Quantum Opportunities (also known as the Eisenhower Foundation’s Quantum Opportunities Program) is an intensive, year-round, multicomponent intervention for disadvantaged teens during their 4 years in high school. The program was designed as a youth-investment and youth-development intervention for high-risk minority students in inner- city neighborhoods. Youths targeted by the program are considered at risk of academic failure. The goal of the program is to improve academic achievement and attitudes toward school, increase rates of high school graduation and the number of students who advance to postsecondary education or training, and decrease problem behaviors.
The intervention consists of tutoring, mentoring, life skills training, college preparation youth leadership training, and modest financial stipends. Youths are provided with services over all 4 years of high school. Program participants are referred to as Quantum Associates.
- Tutoring. The tutoring component of the program is designed to help Quantum Associates improve in academic areas where they may have deficits. For example, students may enter high school with deficiencies in math and reading. Paid and volunteer tutors work with students on general homework assignments or provide specialized tutoring in specific subjects. Tutors also collaborate with teachers to ensure students’ work is getting done properly. Most tutors also serve as mentors.
- Mentoring. Individual and group mentoring is provided to Quantum Associates. The “deep mentoring” provided by the program is designed to be more intensive and of longer duration than conventional types of mentoring. Associates are matched with a mentor in 9th grade, and the mentor remains with the Associate through senior year (unless the relationship does not work, in which case a new mentor is assigned). The long-term relationships between the mentor and mentee help to ensure that the Associate will achieve academically, prepare for college, and learn life and youth-leadership skills. Mentors are expected to build relationships with the Associates; get to know their friends and family; visit their homes to discuss problems and find solutions; and meet with teachers and school counselors, if necessary. If possible, mentors and tutors may attend parent–teacher conferences (and even stand in for parents who can’t attend). As needed, mentors also help represent Associates if they come into contact with public agencies, such as the criminal justice system.
- Life-skills training. Youths who are at risk academically may also face other life challenges. Mentors work with Associates to teach life, personal, and social skills that build resilience and help youths navigate developmental tasks. Life skills include social awareness, decision making, personal and family responsibility, health awareness, cultural awareness, civic responsibility, and job readiness. The skills are taught through facilitated discussion, structured small group activities, role-playing scenarios, and team-building exercises. Mentors also provide college counseling, guide SAT/ACT preparation, assist with applications for college admission and financial aid, lead field trips to local colleges, and help Associates identify internships or secure summer employment.
- Youth leadership. This component of the program requires Quantum Associates to achieve a personal outcome and a community outcome. The personal outcome encourages Associates to continue onto postsecondary education after high school graduation, and thereby serve as role models in their communities. For the community outcome, Associates are required to participate in a youth-led project that improves the status of their communities or schools in some measureable way (examples of leadership ventures include a campaign against HIV/AIDS, a literacy program for parents, and a college scholarship program.). The overall goal of the youth-leadership component is to empower youth.
- Modest stipends. Finally, Quantum Associates are provided with a stipend of $1.25 per hour to participate. This is used to help cover personal and family expenses. The use of stipends is also integrated into the life-skills training component, during discussion on personal financial management.
The Eisenhower Quantum Model is based on an earlier version of the Quantum Opportunities Program, which was implemented in 1990. The earlier version involved tutoring (including the use of the eXtralearning online system), individual and group mentoring, life-skills training, community services, stipends ($1.25 per hour), bonuses for youths, savings accounts for youths, and bonuses for staff. As described above, the Eisenhower Quantum Model also includes tutoring (though eXtralearning was replaced with hands-on tutoring), individual and group mentoring, life-skills training, and stipends (the $1.25 per hour rate was continued). The community service component has been replaced by youth-leadership training. Also, the savings accounts as well as bonuses for staff are not implemented.