Hear Them Roar: How Tiger Academy Uses Team-Building Games to Launch Youth Leadership

By Team Mizzen · 4 minute read

It’s 3:00 PM on a chilly day in Hollister, Missouri. The school bell rings. With jackets, books, bags—and a few back-to-school jitters—students pile into Katie Schiefelbein’s Spanish classroom where she leads Tiger Academy III, the school’s 21st Century Community Learning Center for 9th-12th grade youth. Hollister High School just wrapped up its break, and students are reconnecting with the rhythms of school. They stow their stuff and find seats, three to a table.

Katie is kicking off the spring semester with the Tiger Leadership Team, a small group of teens that has co-planned programming for Tiger Academy III ever since the center adopted a youth “voice and choice” model. “It’s been awesome to watch them decide what’s going to work best for them and their peers,” Katie said. “We’ve had everything from aviation and self-defense to volunteering club. That’s one of my favorites because the kids get to choose where they volunteer and see the impact they make in the community.”

This year, the Tigers joined TRACTION, a traffic safety and leadership training program offered by the Missouri Department of Transportation. Their students took part in a summer conference on safe driving, learned about risks and seatbelt safety, and met peers from other schools across the state. “Now, using actors and real-life scenarios, our TRACTION team is creating a presentation on driving safety for the whole school,” Katie said. “This can help everyone make better decisions when driving.”

“One day the principal told me, ‘I don’t care what you get your teaching certificate in, but go back to school and be a teacher.’”


 “If you’re going to build a youth leadership team, you need Mizzen.”

Katie learned about Mizzen from Mark Cowsert, Associate Director of Partnerships at Missouri AfterSchool Network, a grantee of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Before joining MASN, Mark—a longtime champion of youth-centered programming—had served as program director for the Hollister 21st CCLC. “Mark had recommended that we go with a youth-led approach in the first place,” Katie noted. “He said, ‘if you’re going to build a youth leadership team, you need Mizzen.’”

“Under Traci’s leadership we’re continuing to push forward, and make sure that every student has a voice in guiding the program,” Katie said, referring to Traci Critser who now directs the Academy.  “She’s ‘all in’ when it comes to making sure that the program is one hundred percent student led.”

 “Through play, they find out how much they have in common, and get to know people they might not have hung out with before. This means they have a friend in another class that can help them through the school day. And they develop communication and relationship-building skills they’ll need as leaders, at work, and throughout life.”

So, she started exploring the Mizzen platform, focusing on activities that would foster her students’ well-being and sense of belonging, while growing communication skills that complemented their leadership development. She landed on a set of team-building games by !MPact Players. Each is aligned with CASEL standards, from self-awareness and relationship skills to decision-making.

Before diving into their planning agenda, the Tigers choose among a wide array of ice-breakers and team-building games. “They choose !Mpact Players games in Mizzen so often, they call them ‘Ray Games,’” (after !MPact Players co-founder, Ray Trinidad, whose high-octane demonstration videos illustrate how each game is played).

Beyond the Booth: Building Safe — and Real — Spaces for Youth

By Team Mizzen · 4 minute read

Michael Berry chooses a vibrant orange chair surrounded by decorative plants and suffused with lamp light. For the Executive Director of Youth Guidance in Dallas, this is the best spot for talking about a recent partnership with Mizzen Education to revamp his program’s furniture and collaborative spaces for youth.

Beyond the Booth-11-min“At Youth Guidance, we want all kids to be authentically felt, seen, and heard,” Michael said. “That’s what we offer when we think of out-of-school time spaces,” in Youth Guidance’s two main programs for students at North Dallas High School. Without those spaces, “kids wouldn’t have a voice.”

That passion — for creating authentic spaces that empower youth — made Youth Guidance an ideal partner for Mizzen Education’s Beyond the Booth initiative in Dallas.

Through Beyond the Booth, Mizzen strives to ensure that the furniture, furnishings, and people-centered sensibility the team brings to exhibit halls have a life beyond the booth that benefits local out-of-school time programs. Far more than a furniture donation program, Beyond the Booth is a way to partner with communities and pool ideas and resources to create next-level spaces for young people. 

“I can see us outfitting an entire program in the future.” — Carlos Santini, CEO, Mizzen Education

The concept is rooted in Mizzen Education’s mission. “Part of our mission statement talks about partnering with the out-of-school-time community, but there’s also this element of joy, curiosity, and love of learning,” said Mizzen Education’s CEO, Carlos Santini. “When we look at joy, there’s a direct connection to our exhibit space, and that then goes beyond the booth and into a classroom. I can see us outfitting an entire program in the future”

Mizzen was in Dallas for the National AfterSchool Association’s 2024 Convention in mid-March and had designed one of its trademark exhibit booths — a popup lounge where attendees who’d come in from across the country could connect, refuel, and collaborate in a space where they felt at home.

Team Mizzen invited Youth Guidance to partner on Beyond the Booth. “We were inspired by the staff’s ability to create a safe, engaging learning environment for youth, fostering mentoring and life skill development to help them achieve their goals,” said Kristin Stayer, Vice President of Engagement & Educator Experiences at Mizzen Education.