The Navigators program was created to meet the needs of students in Virginia Beach whose family members are incarcerated. It is estimated that these children number in excess of 2,000. Further, research shows that these children are five times more likely to be incarcerated themselves in later life without intervention.
This program is designed to provide children with the tools they need to overcome their difficult circumstances. The “Dare To Be You” curriculum used by the Navigators is designed to promote resilience in children. The curriculum focuses on: self-concept/self esteem, self-responsibility, communication/social skills, decision making/reasoning skills and drug or substance education. The group also provides assistance with practical concerns of family members, such as transition periods – holidays, court dates, sentencing and release from incarceration. This outreach to the community enables them to improve the child’s situation through assistance with difficult family concerns at home.
The two educators who facilitate the Navigators program have run the groups at the two schools they serve since the inception of the program. The Navigators have been a welcome addition to Seatack Elementary School and Bettie F. Williams School. Navigators provide the children with a continuous, caring adult figure in their lives. This volunteer is someone who expects the best of them and wants to help them reach their full potential.
As a result of the Navigators, children have the opportunity to join with other students whose family members were incarcerated. This group benefited from shared perspectives, experiences and most importantly, the understanding that they were not alone. They learned coping skills, decision-making skills and received information about substance abuse.
The Navigators also arrange guest speakers from the community. They have had the pleasure of listening to storytellers, zoo officials, persons from the Mariners Museum and many others. They also benefited from tutoring provided by interns from Norfolk State University and Old Dominion University.
The Navigators not only help children and their families; but the community benefits from their service as well. There is increased bonding between school and community as well as families and needed resources. In addition there is an increased cooperation between public agencies resulting in the fewer duplications of services and a cost savings to school and community from this service program.
The children that are a part of the Navigators program have experienced difficult circumstances in their lives at a very young age. The family stress, lack of family resources and sense of isolation experienced by these children is profound. The Navigators program serves to provide these children with a network of understanding, caring adults, relationships with other students in similar situations and coping skills to guide them toward a successful future.