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ASU project helps teens improve communication skills

Boys and Girls Club teens
November 12, 2014

Teens from Boys and Girls Clubs across metropolitan Phoenix have been visiting Arizona State University’s West campus this semester for interactive sessions designed to help them build their skills in how to interview, become better listeners, build awareness around intercultural communication and tell their personal stories.

More than 70 teens visited campus Oct. 21 and Nov. 4 for sessions with students from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the core college on the West campus. Their final visit in the Spark Your Inner Speaker program is set for Nov. 18.

“The passion of the ASU students working with us is inspiring,” said D.J. Heywood, teen coordinator for the Peoria Boys and Girls Club, one of 12 Valley Boys and Girls clubs that are participating in Spark Your Inner Speaker. “After the first session, I talked with one of our teens who now wants to major in communication. This is one of the best events we have been to in quite some time.”

The Oct. 21 session focused on professional communication defining communication, interviewing and listening. On Nov. 4 participants heard from a panel of individuals who were first-generation college students, including Marlene Tromp, the dean of New College, as part of a session about creating and telling one’s own story. Students worked on their non-verbal communication skills and building their stories.

The final session on Nov. 18 will focus on intercultural communication and communication with their community. The teens will record their stories in New College’s Communication Assessment and Learning Lab (CALL). Every teen in attendance will receive an honorary Sparky Speaker certificate. Those who attend multiple sessions will attend a special ASU sports event.

CALL is one of only 11 communication labs to be designated a nationally certified mentoring program as identified by the National Association of Communication Centers.

“Our goal is not only to help the visiting teens develop their skills in public speaking, intercultural communication and professional communication,” said Bonnie Wentzel, a New College faculty member and faculty director of CALL.

“We want these young people to become more intentional communicators, and for them to understand that being able to advocate on their own behalf through public speaking, storytelling and interviewing will greatly improve their likelihood for success,” Wentzel said. “We also want to build a bridge to a college degree, and we would love to have them pursue their degree at ASU on the West campus. For most of these students and their teen leaders, this is their very first visit to our campus.”

The Spark Your Inner Speaker program is also educating teens about career possibilities open to college graduates beyond what they learn through popular culture, and helping them understand they can build a sense of community at the university, Wentzel said. The visiting teens have had the opportunity to tour the West campus.

The ASU students working with the Boys and Girls Club teens are CALL mentors who have completed public speaking coursework and received training in ethical peer mentoring practices, as well as communication skills. CALL is unique to the ASU community and is one of the largest communication labs west of the Mississippi River.