The Focus Forward Class
The Focus Forward Model
The Focus Forward Project classes are made up of two volunteer facilitators and 8-12 participants. The 12-week class meets once a week for two hours, and participants are required to complete weekly reading and journal assignments. The first hour of class is spent discussing and analyzing a book. The second hour of the class focuses on a different life skill each week.
Our classroom model is based on using a small group setting to create a community where participants are encouraged to discuss the feelings, emotions, and difficulties they are facing while incarcerated or out on bail awaiting trial or sentencing in a constructive manner. Facilitators encourage and direct discussion based on these expressions and then relate experiences to the specific themes expanded upon within each classroom session. By engaging in honest dialogue and classroom exercises that focus on improving self confidence and self worth, participants are able to better utilize their period of incarceration or pretrial supervision and prepare for reentry.
Focus Forward participants read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. This memoir recounts the author's journey during the Sierra Leone civil war, his experiences as a child soldier, and his struggles and accomplishments as he navigates his post-war life.
Participants are required to read several chapters of A Long Way Gone each week, and group leaders guide class discussions on book themes, posing questions that often ask participants to relate the protagonist's experiences to their own.
By engaging with the text, participants learn to read critically, analyze writing, and improve reading comprehension.
By the end of the course, participants walk away with a completed working resume, interview skills, conflict resolution skills, public speaking skills and both long and short term goals. Participants also learn how to maintain self-confidence and motivation in the face of adversity and struggle, and how to apply all of the life skills they learn to their daily lives.
Participants are asked to complete weekly journal writing assignments, on topics ranging from reflections on A Long Way Gone to writing a speech to be delivered to the class or listing short and long term goals. Writing as a form of personal expression can be therapeutic for participants as they navigate this stressful and uncertain period in their lives.