Open Doors Academy believes that by building supportive relationships, strong social networks, and skills training with access to knowledge, experience and opportunities, youth will develop a sense of autonomy, purpose, and personal empowerment which in turn leads them to contribute to the common good.

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Distinctiveness of ODA Model


Family Engagement

ODA is grounded in the belief that it takes a community to raise a child. As such, parents are required to contribute a minimum of 16 service hours to their child’s programming. This family engagement contributes to the wellbeing of our students by creating opportunities to spend time in a healthy and safe atmosphere, and by enhancing parent’s knowledge base and toolset for supporting their child.


School-Community Partnership

ODA's success also depends on the close partnership with each school we serve. Our staff spends approximately 24 hours per week in the classroom at the schools, observing students, modeling appropriate classroom behavior, meeting with teachers and counselors, serving as a support to youth during transitions and often having lunch with the youth. As a result of this close partnership, we have seen an increase in academic performance among student participants.


Continuation of Programming

The success of the ODA program includes the long-term service provision offered to students and their families. Throughout middle school students focus on organizational and study skills, and four core areas of enrichment: health and wellness, arts and culture, character development, and global social education.


Strong Adult-Peer Relationships

Beyond middle school, ODA seeks to ensure that our youth have the opportunity and support that they need to graduate from high school, and complete a post secondary degree at a college institution or trade school. Programming consists of tutoring, volunteerism, internships, apprenticeships, college tours, national service learning trips, and individual mentoring and support. We are proud to have alumni at Harvard, Purdue, Cornell, Ohio State and Columbia.

4 Core Areas of Enrichment Programming


Social Emotional Learning

At ODA we believe that a demonstrated competency in self-regulation, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making are critical pre-cursors to maximizing the learning experience and navigating independence in adulthood. With our core focus in SEL, we leverage the CASEL Model (Creating a Safe Environment for Learning) and the four elements to high quality SEL learning experiences: (1) Sequenced activities that lead in a coordinated and connected way to skill development; (2) Active forms of learning that enable youth to practice and master new skills; (3) focused time spent developing one or more social and emotional skills; and (4) explicit defining and targeting of specific skills.


Strength-Based Development

We engage in practices that emphasize individual youth’s self-determination and strengths. We believe that even in the face of adversity our young people are resilient and resourceful. Through this approach we believe that our scholars can move beyond the circumstances that hold them back and realize their full potential. The strength-based approach is meant to draw on the strengths that youth bring with them and to build them up, as opposed to the deficit-based approach of trying to “fix” the child (Pittman, Tolman, Yohalem, & Ferber, 2003). Research has demonstrated repeatedly that stress and hardships in childhood can alter the brain of a developing child. Those changes, in turn, raise the risk of cognitive and developmental delays, physical health problems, and behavioral and mental health problems. Leveraging a strength-based approach with a strong focus on relationships fosters resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity.


Focus on Non-Cognitive Factors

ODA is not a tutoring center and the model’s focus is not targeted at directly impacting academic focus, but rather focusing on developing non-cognitive factors that shape academic performance. ODA focuses on increasing academic behaviors, such as going to class, doing homework, writing down their homework assignments, and studying for exams; academic perseverance, such as grit, delayed gratification, self-discipline, and self-control; academic mindsets focus on a sense of belonging in academic community, self-belief in one’s own ability and belief that they can succeed academically and that the work has value for them; learning strategies including developing study skills, metacognitive strategies, self-regulated learning, and goal-setting; and social skills including interpersonal skills, empathy, cooperation, assertion, and responsibility (Farrington, C.A., 2012).


Building Social Networks

We believe that at the core of our work and the core of human development is the interactions and relationships we hold with one another. Throughout a lifespan, relationships and roles within relationships evolve and change. What is most critical is building deep meaningful relationships, promoting pro-social bonding, and creating a strong web of relationships between family, school, and community.