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The John Lewis 'Good Trouble' After School Program


The John Lewis ‘Good Trouble’ After School Program is designed for middle school students attending the Boston Public Schools. The program provides urban students a critical look at Civil Rights History, focusing on the time period of the 1950s that features the successful struggle for voting rights. The objective is to inculcate palpable ideations and practiced citizenship sensibilities within communities where civic literacy is low. While suburban public schools systems are resourced to provide substantive civic experiences for elementary students, few Boston Public School students are afforded “high-design” civic programming intended to establish a firm public and participatory aspirations. This unique program utilizes the Massachusetts Department of Early and Secondary Education social studies and history frameworks as an unique after school opportunities for youth and families.


Using the Pulitzer Prize winning Graphic Comic Book Novels written by the former Congressman John Lewis, the program gives students a highly relatable “portal” into the nation's history and the role that African Americans led in renewing our democracy. Students gain reading comprehension re-enforcements, opportunities deepening understanding the dynamic relationships between family, community and civic life.

Program Format

During the course of this 6-week program youth will learn the values of citizenship, history and the democratic process in age-appropriate and engaging lessons led by university age instructors and Boston social justice activists. 


The program uses current and tested evaluation measures that will capture changes in civic attitude, leadership development and their capacity to work within learning groups. Didactic and Socratic methods (designed to engage youth participation) are employed to support cognitive and social development with the 15 to 20 member program cohorts.

Methodology & Pedagogy

Using successful learning and pro-family models developed by the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, the program will utilize strategies that connect after-school learning with families and neighborhoods. The program fills a significant gap in the Boston Public Schools where form civics classes have not been taught since 1972. Other pedagogical tools include the use of social media, informal conversations with city leaders, movie reviews and field trips. The program will build upon the current research and practices being employed at the Rutgers Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program which relies upon:


Implementing “social-emotional learning strategies; and encouraging improved civic engagements skills in light of structural inequalities that under-serve and overburden students of color; and building civic awareness through dialogic and Socratic engagement around textual subject matter

Partners & Program Projection

The program is supported by staff at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a “pilot” grant from the Massachusetts Department of Early and Secondary Education. The program seeks support and community resources so that it grows to scale and provides its offering in 20 after school programs across public, private and charter schools by 2025, impacting hundreds of families and we are preparing the next generation of informed and active Boston citizens.

The program was designed by education consultants, New Democracy Coalition volunteers and The Reverend Kevin C. Peterson who was mentored by the late Congressman John Lewis.


Methodology, Program and Practice Informed by the following Research

Zaff, J. F., Kawashima-Ginsberg, K., & Lin, E. S. (2011). Advances in civic engagement research: Issues of civic measures and civic context. In Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 41, pp. 273-308). JAI.


Elias, M. J., Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Frey, K. S., Greenberg, M. T., Haynes, N. M., . . . Shriver, T. P. (1997). Promoting social and emotional learning: Guidelines for educators. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development


Youth: Poverty and Racism in the Schools. Reclaiming Children and Youth.

Sanchez-Jankowski, M. (2010). The Management of Purpose: Lewis Anthony Dexter.

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