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From Confused to Humble – A Capital Partners for Education College Student’s Reflection

Nate Green entered Capital Partners for Education (CPE)’s program in 2012. Now going into his senior of college at Morehouse College, he shares his journey getting to and through college as a low-income, first-generation student. CPE did this interview with Nate to understand how mentorship has played a role in helping through transitions, specifically looking at one’s mindset going into their first year of college versus their final year. We want to see the impact mentorship has on one’s growth mindset in getting to and through college.

What was it like growing up low-income in a first-generation to college family?

I grew up in Southeast, DC, where I saw a lot of violence and worrying about where the next meal would come from. Although my mom tried to hide the struggle from me, I still witnessed it and felt the impact. Sometimes I would be bullied for wearing the same shoes or clothes because my mom could not afford to continue to buy new clothes if my sisters and I wanted to eat. My mom never attended college and my sisters didn’t either because they were tasked with taking care of me. I couldn’t read or do math up until 5th grade. It wasn’t until I entered KIPP DC during my 8th grade year that I found out about CPE. It was important to tap into a resource that understood the connection between being first in your family to potentially go to college and actually getting there.

Having the opportunity to be a CPE student is like being part of a community. The experience has taught me valuable things I’ve been able to take back home and share with my family such as going over the FASFA application with my mom who didn’t know how to fill one out.

How would you describe the transition of going from your freshman year of college to now your senior year?

College life has taught me there are three types of students: those who stay the same, those who are upward trending, and those who trend downward. An experience I went through in my first semester of college made me realize I wanted to take ownership of the type of student I wanted to be.

What most people may or may not realize is that college is hard. You face challenges whether it’s academic, social, related to identity, or financial. In my first semester, I finished with a 1.9 GPA. Some family and friends suggested I take a semester off and hinted at the idea that college may not be for me. My CPE mentor helped me devise a plan that kept me in school and focused on making it to the finish line which I’m proud to say is coming up next year!

To sum up the first day of my freshman year of college in one word, I felt confused. Now going into the first day of my senior year, I feel humble. There is no other place in the world where there are over 2,000 black men who are all working toward a common goal together — to build minds of excellence and service.

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What has kept you encouraged throughout your college experience as what you consider an upward trending student?

It’s the CPE care packages, the check ins I still have with my mentor and my program coordinator, and reconnecting with people I went through the program with that has helped make the difference. When I reflect back on what has contributed to my success, I realize it’s been the little things that has helped get me through. I could have chosen to accept that I was a downward trending student but I believe your thoughts ultimately become your actions and so I had to change my mindset which has resulted in me attaining a 3.15 GPA which is higher than the 1.9 I had freshmen year.

When is graduation and what will you be doing afterward?

At 8am on May 17, 2020, I’ll walk across the stage of Morehouse College and accept my bachelor’s degree in political science. It’s a moment I am most looking forward to and one I can’t wait to share with friends and family. After graduation, I’ll be taking on a fellowship with KIPP DC to attain a Master’s in Teaching and then a Master’s in Education in the last two years of the program.

This blog posted was originally published on the Capital Partners for Education website on September 3, 2019.

 

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Art Enables

Are you an art lover? Do you want to support people with disabilities? Are you a fan of cheese and crackers? If you answered yes to all three to these questions, then you should consider volunteering with Art Enables, a Catalogue nonprofit partner. I did recently, and I highly recommend the experience.

Art Enables allows artists to make, market, and earn an income from original art pieces. These artists experience a broad range of developmental and cognitive disabilities as well as various mental health challenges. This local nonprofit gives artists opportunities to express themselves through visual art by providing a professional studio environment, art supplies, technical guidance, and exhibitions both on and offsite.

After Art Enables caught my eye on the Catalogue volunteer page, I reached out to their staff to set up a volunteer time that worked with my interests and schedule. To allow me to experience different sides of their work, we decided that I would volunteer at two consecutive events. My first position was as a Studio Volunteer for the 2nd Saturday Workshop, an ongoing community engagement event that Art Enables hosts — you guessed it — every 2nd Saturday of the month. Community members can walk in and create art for free in the style of that week’s theme. Past themes have included pop up art, sketch portraits, painted leaves, minimalist watercolors, and more. People get to learn about resident artists’ work and the services that their neighborhood nonprofit provides.

When I entered the studio that afternoon, the first three words that came to mind were bright, colorful, and open. Art pieces lined the walls. Large windows flooded the space with natural light. There didn’t appear to be any separation between staff desks and studio workspaces.

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A staff member welcomed me and introduced me to my fellow volunteers (women from the Junior League of Washington) and our guest facilitator for the day, Sonya Michel. She would be leading everybody in creating “assemblages,” converting “junk’ into 3d-collages.

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I grabbed an apron, got familiar with our art supplies table (plastic, cardboard, paint, paper, markers, magazines, etc) and began welcoming guests as they trickled in off the street. Throughout the day I refilled dirty paint water glasses, chatted with people and artists, and took plenty of cliche art photos from odd angles. You know, for the gram.

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A total of 65 people came that day (typical 2nd Saturdays range from 50-125 people). Community members mingled with resident artists, staff, and volunteers for an easygoing afternoon of making art. When life gets hectic, it’s nice to be able to take a minute and decompress by creating art in a communal space. During the lulls of the day, I even got the chance to make my own assemblage; it’s now proudly hanging on the corkboard above my desk at work.

 

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All the artists I spoke with were generous with their time and sharing their pieces with me. Robert showed me how his painting has been transformed into a mug (other Art Enables merchandise includes playing cards, leather bracelets, and coasters).

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Each resident artist has a drawer with their name on it filled with additional pieces of art (all for sale!). It was a pleasure to recognize the distinctive artistic styles of the resident artists. For example, Shawn is in the midst of a shoe period.

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The workshop came to an end and we moved onto the next event for the evening: the opening reception for the 13th Annual Outsider Art Inside the Beltway (OAIB) exhibit. As described by their website, OAIB “has been committed to highlighting and providing self-taught artists who often don’t have opportunities to exhibit their work the opportunity to do so. This includes new and emerging self-taught artists, artists with disabilities, and artists from traditionally underrepresented communities.” I was to be a Volunteer Gallery Attendant. In preparation, I cleaned up art supplies, wiped up spills, and set up refreshments. Armed with a butter knife, I did a spectacularly mediocre job cutting the cheese for the platter, but they tasted great regardless.

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Throughout the reception, I refreshed snacks, welcomed guests, and took photographs. The Art Enables basement exuded hipness, the perfect industrial-chic look for an art gallery reception. I love art galleries, so getting to hang out and chat about art with people while volunteering was a win-win situation for me.

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At the end of the evening, I helped put away leftovers, wipe down tables, and clean dishes. It had been a lovely volunteer experience with Art Enables; I met some amiable artists, enjoyed some art, and even got to participate in the art making process myself.

If this sounded like a fun way to spend an afternoon, then you should consider volunteering with Art Enables. Their volunteer opportunities can easily accommodate individuals with busy schedules who can only come once in a while or on a one-time basis. Possible positions include staffing special events and at the studio (like I did), helping out administratively, and even providing professional services, such as marketing or education. Check out their volunteer page to learn more and work with their helpful staff to find an opportunity that appeals to you. Your support can make a real different for artists with disabilities in the DC region.

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This post was written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator of Catalogue for Philanthropy.

New Intern at the Catalogue!

The Catalogue has a new team member! We’re very happy to welcome Julie von Foerster as our brand new Nonprofit Management Intern! She will be helping out our team with all aspects of our operations, including programming, development, and marketing. Please allow her to introduce herself:

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Tell us about yourself!

I’m a newcomer to D.C., having just moved to the city a month ago to start graduate school. I’m originally from Michigan, where I attended Michigan State University to study International Relations. Prior to my move, I was living in Detroit for 2 years and am proud to call it home. Living in a big city like D.C. is a new experience for me — getting used to taking the metro, learning to ride my bike through traffic, and meeting new people in a city where I knew only 2 people. So far, I’m loving it and I feel lucky to live in such a fun neighborhood on 14th street. I’m a full-time graduate student at George Washington University, studying International Development. My hope is to one day work at a nonprofit abroad.

What made you interested in joining the Catalogue?

When I came across the Catalogue in my search for internships, I knew right away it was what I was looking for. The mission of the Catalogue and the nonprofits it supports resonated with me. I have a passion for working within the nonprofit sector, so gaining experience in nonprofit management was the perfect fit. This passion comes from my desire to help those in need and give back to the communities that I live in. The internship listing stressed the importance of gaining real-life skills and professional development, not just filing paperwork or fetching coffee, which really stood out to me.

What experience have you had with nonprofits?

My experience with nonprofits started during my undergraduate career. I had my first internship at a nonprofit focused on education and improving literacy rates within Michigan, which was such a rewarding experience. The experience that made me realize that the nonprofit sector was my calling was my internship at a refugee center in Cape Town, South Africa. Meeting refugees from all over Africa opened my eyes to the vulnerable populations all over the world. From there, my interests have mostly been focused on working with refugee populations. Prior to this role, I worked as a case manager and volunteer coordinator at a refugee resettlement agency in Michigan. I also love to volunteer and am always looking for more nonprofit experience! My past volunteer experiences have been working with the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, Red Cross of Michigan, and with a Detroit city council member.

What are you looking forward to in this internship?

I’m looking forward to collaborating with the entire team at the Catalogue on different projects. I can already tell that they are a great team that works closely together and are passionate about the work they do. My projects will include providing support for our upcoming Community Changemakers event, working on our Learning Commons program, and helping our team promote this year’s GivingTuesday campaign. I’m excited for this immersive experience into the nonprofit world of Greater Washington. I’m also very much looking forward to getting to know the nonprofits that we work with and learning more about their missions. I hope to be able to visit at least a few during my time here.

Tell us one fun fact about you!

If I could spend every day traveling, I would! I have been to 52 countries and am always looking to visit more. I have lived in Germany, South Africa, and Thailand — all different but rewarding experiences! The photo below was taken last year on a trip to Morocco, where I stayed overnight in the Sahara Desert.

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For Working Families, Sitar’s Aftercare Program Fills a Critical Need

Written by LeAnne DeFrancesco, WWPR Pro Bono Committee

Aftercare. A simple term but an often complex system to navigate for parents whose jobs don’t allow them to pick up their kids when the school day ends. Beyond getting kids from school to an aftercare facility, cost can be a factor, making even convenient or desirable programs out of reach for working families.

That’s where once again, Sitar Arts Center bridges a gap.

Sitar piloted its aftercare program in Spring 2015 to provide a place for children to thrive via a range of arts activities. It started with just six students tucked into a corner of the Center, but when Sitar expanded its facility by 2,500 square feet in 2017 following a two-year capital campaign and renovation project, it was able to open the doors to nearly 50 additional students in grades K through 8.

According to Sitar’s Aftercare Coordinator Jordan Smith, “Aftercare programs are important because they offer working families the flexibility to work and provide for their children, while their children enjoy a fun, nurturing environment that provides enrichment in academics and the arts.”

Sitar’s aftercare program is multifaceted, encompassing:

1) Educational support through a partnership with For Love of Children (FLOC), an organization that provides educational services beyond the classroom.

2) Emotional support via Restorative Justice Circles, which are designed to resolve conflict and solve problems through collaboration.

3) One-on-one teacher support; and

4) Opportunities to grow and learn in daily arts activities like Capoeira, a dance that evolved from Brazilian martial arts.

Two program tracks are designed to serve the different age ranges: K-3rd grade and 4th-8th grade. In this way, Sitar ensures the classes and projects are developmentally appropriate.

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For families, aftercare at Sitar is appealing because there is a dedicated staff focused on providing the strongest possible programming for the students. The variety of exciting arts classes like Capoeira, photography, acting and oration are all available at affordable prices.

“More than anything else, it is the connections we make with our families that keep them here,” says Smith. “Sitar is a community. We support the whole child and the whole family, and as a result, many of our families have stayed with us for years.”

Another element that makes this program special is that it runs year-round, providing a basic developmental need: stability. Students can rely on a consistent safe space outside of school to grow and be themselves.

Families also benefit from the peace of mind of knowing where their children are and what they are doing with their time.

“Our families know that everyday there is a safe place for their students to go where they will receive a healthy snack, get help with their homework, participate in fun activities and classes and be with people who genuinely care about them,” says Smith.

The biggest challenge in operating this program is balancing the needs all those involved. Getting to know each and every student and their families is essential so that Sitar can support each student’s needs. According to Smith, this is the most rewarding and most difficult to balance aspect of the job.

However, there is no doubt that the program has made an impact on the community.

Sitar evaluates its programming by surveying parents, teachers and Sitar staff on the impact and outcomes they observe in students. In the last three years, they have seen huge improvements in students’ creativity, confidence and communication.

One Sitar parent described the changes in her daughter as being more creative and focused at school and with projects at home.

“Sitar is a place that our families and students view as a home away from home,” Smith says. “When you take classes at Sitar, you are not just signing up for a class, you are signing up to become part of the Sitar family.”

Currently there are 45 students enrolled for the 2019-2020 school year with room for more. To find out more about aftercare enrollment at Sitar Arts Center, go to www.sitarartscenter.org or call (202) 797-2145.

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Housing Initiative Partnership

It was a hot, Saturday morning in August. I was fanning myself with a brochure seated at a table under a tent, one among many, in a church parking lot. In between greeting people walking by, I took in the smell of hotdogs, the sound of blaring hip hop, and the sight of kids jumping on a moon bounce. If it sounds like I was hanging out at a barbecue, you’re right! But it was also my most recent volunteer experience with another one of the Catalogue’s nonprofit partners, Housing Initiative Partnership.

Housing Initiative Partnership (also known by their fun acronym “HIP”) has been a Catalogue nonprofit partner since 2013. Their mission is to revitalize neighborhoods and create economic/housing security in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. They renovate foreclosed homes and develop new multifamily and single family homes to provide low and moderate income families with environmentally-friendly and high-quality affordable housing. Additionally, they provide financial counseling, helping some people prepare for first-time home ownership, and helping others avoid foreclosure.

I first found HIP while looking for volunteer opportunities on the Catalogue website. I reached out via email and got in contact with Lesia Bullock, their new Director of Resources and Communications. HIP has been a vital community resource for over 30 years and yet is still a “best kept secret” that many people don’t know about. Lesia doesn’t want it to be a secret anymore. So, she actively looks for opportunities to improve HIP’s community outreach and raise public awareness about their services.

She invited me to be her volunteer helper in promoting HIP at the Palmer Park Back to School Block Party and Community Resource Fair, hosted by Maryland State Delegate Alonzo T. Washington. Delegate Washington had invited HIP and other local nonprofits to set up tables at the fair to share their resources with community members. My role as volunteer was to help her set up the table, hand out written materials and swag to passersby, and answer questions about HIP’s programming.

It was already hot when I arrived at the Park View Baptist Church at 10:30 in the morning; I bathed myself in sunblock and donned my massive skin-cancer-prevention straw hat. Lesia got delayed at the thrift store where she was buying goodies to hand out to kids, so I went ahead and picked our table out for us. (Turns out I picked poorly — we were situated right next to the DJ, which meant that we would end up having to sometimes yell about HIP’s wonderful services into people’s ears.)

Once Lesia arrived, I helped her unload her car and set up the bright blue and green HIP collateral for our table. The wind was strong that day, which required some cleverly situated weights and clips to avoid HIP branded papers from flying everywhere.

Nancy and LesiaSome of these papers advertised HIP’s upcoming housing opportunities just around the corner in Palmer Park. Right now, nine new NetZero Ready certified townhomes are already under construction. People interested in buying must take required homebuyer education courses with HIP.

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Lesia was in her element tabling. Not only did she know a thorough answer to every question asked her, she also seemed to know just about everyone at the block party (or at least that’s how it felt to me).

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In addition to having a good relationship with our block party’s charming host, Delegate Washington, she also knew US Representative Anthony Brown who swung through the event for a while to shake hands and give a speech. It was a pretty neat surprise to meet a member of Congress that morning. See, this is why you should volunteer! You never know who you’ll run into.

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I recommend volunteering at community events and parties, because parties are fun! There were speeches, games, line dances, giveaways, and even a karate demonstration by a local studio.

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Around 2 pm, I helped pack up and carry HIP materials back to Lesia’s car and thanked her for the opportunity to learn more about HIP and help run the table with her. All in all, the block party/resource fair had been an easygoing volunteer experience. I enjoyed visiting a new community, seeing civic engagement in action, and learning more about one of our nonprofit partner’s contributions to their community.

As Lesia continues to look for more ways to spread the word about HIP’s work, you can potentially join her as a table volunteer at future public events like the one I helped out at, or their upcoming 30th Anniversary Networking Reception in November. Also, HIP can benefit from weekly administrative volunteers at their Hyattsville and Germantown offices to help take the load off of their hardworking counselors. If you’re passionate about affordable housing and financial literacy, you can help out a trusted, community-based nonprofit by visiting HIP’s website.

This post was written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator of the Catalogue for Philanthropy

 

Is Democracy a Verb?

School is back in session and students are learning about nouns & verbs, new mathematical equations, and the periodic table.

And democracy!

At Mikva Challenge DC, we believe that the best way for young people to learn about democracy is to “do democracy!” So even though democracy might not technically be a verb, our back-to-school season will be full of young people engaging in democratic action!

This year, we will be recruiting 25 high school students from across DC to be part of our “Elections in Action Youth Leadership Team.” Through hands-on voter registration, campaign work, and interactions with candidates and elected officials, our Elections in Action Fellowship empowers young people to become informed about and engaged in elections — even before they are old enough to vote.

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In a recent report, The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE,) recommends that we move from a “paradigm focused on merely mobilizing voters, to one centered on Growing Voters.” As the CIRCLE report states, “We don’t automatically become engaged, informed, and empowered to participate in our democracy when we turn 18.”

The report further states, “school clubs, youth organizations, and other extracurricular activities can be important ‘incubators’ of civic behaviors, but depending on their race and ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, young people may have very inequitable access to those opportunities.”

We agree! And that is why Mikva Challenge DC provides opportunities for DC youth – from across every race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and ward – to actively participate in our electoral process even before they reach voting age.

This year, Mikva DC’s Elections in Action Youth Leadership Team will:

  • learn about the history of voting rights and how those rights affect them and their communities,
  • survey their peers about the issues they care about in this Presidential Election,
  • create a Youth Guide to the 2020 candidates, and
  • travel to Iowa to volunteer on a variety of presidential campaigns before the Iowa Caucus.

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Last fall, we launched our Elections in Action Youth Leadership Team with 26 young people to create opportunities for more DC youth to directly participate in the electoral arena of local politics. For example, for a week in October, EIA students canvassed neighborhoods around high schools in NW, NE, and SE Washington, DC knocking door-to-door to register community members to vote. In this process two students discovered that they were old enough to register to vote and did so for the first time. The fall programming culminated with EIA students serving as election poll workers in precincts around the city. Students greeted voters, learned the mechanics of ballot machines, verified voters’ personal information, and instructed voters on how to cast ballots on their full day of work, and in the process saw the electoral process first-hand and up-close. From last year’s Elections in Action Youth Leadership Team, 100% of students felt more knowledgeable about the political process after being part of Mikva DC programs, and 90% want to participate in elections in the future.

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Nationally, 88% of Mikva alumni are registered to vote compared to 53% of their peers, and 77% of Mikva alumni believe they have a responsibility to be involved in solving community issues, compared to 36% before the program.

Want to get involved in this project to make “democracy a verb” for DC youth? Here’s how you can help…

  • If you know of a high school student in DC who would be interested in this unique leadership program, please reach out to Voncia Monchais at voncia@mikvachallenge.org.
  • We are always looking for guest speakers from the political world to come meet with our students. If you, or someone you know, has a job in politics, and would be willing to talk with our students about your work, contact Voncia at voncia@mikvachallenge.org.
  • Have other ideas about ways to support Mikva DC’s Elections in Action Youth Fellows? Reach our Mikva DC’s Executive Director, Robyn Lingo, at robyn@mikvachallenge.org to share your thoughts.

Help us “grow” a new generation of informed, empowered & active civic leaders!

This post was written by Mikva Challenge DC, a Catalogue nonprofit partner

Back to School Means Healthy Relationships For Children… and Adults

With triggering stories of abuse in the news each day, and movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp still gaining momentum, children and adults alike are feeling the need to share their stories, talk about traumas they have suffered, and get help from trusted sources such as Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA)’s Helpline. In fact, the number of calls to JCADA increases daily with clients seeking culturally and faith sensitive counseling and legal services.

Ideally, we would like to catch unhealthy relationships before they even begin, so our counseling and legal services aren’t in such high demand! JCADA’s Prevention, Education and Training team provides workshops on a variety of topics with the goal of preventing abuse and harassment before it starts. Our AWARE programs, Education and Training workshops and Building Better Allies (BBA) initiative utilize the latest research and best practice to create an impactful, age appropriate experiences in multiple doses, with a comprehensive approach.

AWARE is a comprehensive abuse and harassment prevention initiative that engages over 3,000 people each year throughout the Washington DC Metropolitan area with interactive workshops for youth and young adults in grades 6-12, a campus training experience for college students and education and training for area congregations, public and private schools, youth groups, camps, and community organizations. AWARE is dedicated to empowering young people with the skills and knowledge they need to build healthy relationships, become active bystanders, understand consent and create culture change in their schools and communities.One student described her experience: “I learned that it is important to be aware of and understand the fact that not everyone has the same support options.”

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Along with AWARE, we are pleased to share our newest initiative, Building Better Allies (BBA). BBA is a certification program that helps organizations, agencies, and faith communities better understand, prevent, and respond to incidents of power-based violence. Through a series of interactive workshops, individualized consultations, and a review of internal policies and practices, BBA provides a training and education experience uniquely suited for each participating organization.

Together, we can help everyone in our community get empowered to advocate for their needs and feel safe!

Written by Laura Kovach, Prevention, Education & Training Director at JCADA

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Are you in love with dogs, but your apartment lease doesn’t allow animals? Do you wish you could have a pet, but your work schedule is too inconsistent? Do you want to help save a rescue dog from being put down? Then you should consider volunteering with the Catalogue’s nonprofit partner Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. That’s what I did recently, and it was a fantastic experience that I highly recommend.

The weekend was approaching and I considered two possible choices: watch Netflix or contribute to society. As much as I enjoy re-binging The Office, I decided to make the nonprofit-positive choice and began researching last-minute volunteer opportunities. I found a Lucky Dog adoption event just 7 minutes from my house. The signup process was really quick. How convenient!

Although Lucky Dog is based out of Arlington, they frequently host weekend adoption events all around the DC region. They rescue dogs from high-kill shelters, treat their medical needs, and place them with temporary foster homes while they search for forever families to match them with. Lucky Dog prides themselves on their matchmaking skills, placing their dogs with carefully vetted adoptive families that are perfect for them.

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At 11 am on Sunday morning, I arrived at the Rockville Petco, signed in, and received a brisk orientation from a more experienced volunteer, an Event Coordinator. My job for the day was a Volunteer Handler; I would learn my rescue dog’s bio, handle the leash, answer potential adopter questions, and keep the dog happy for the next several hours throughout the adoption event. If people had questions about fostering or adoption, I would send them to the informational tables outside. Some people had already gone through the pre-approval process, and others were stopping through on a whim.

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I was paired with Baloo, a 1-2 year old shepherd mix. He was a real cutie. My informational paper explained a little about his medical history and some behavioral comments from his temporary foster family. They said that Baloo is gentle, sweet, and loves belly rubs. Spot-on observations! During my entire service experience, I never once heard him bark. And he loved snuggles.

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The day in question was hot. Outside were generous amounts of water bowls and baths for the dogs to stay cool in. Volunteers and their doggies huddled under canopy tents or hugged the side of the building. Like many others, I spent the majority of my time inside the air-conditioned Petco; I told myself that it was purely motivated by concern for Baloo’s comfort, but really I also appreciated a break from the oppressive sun.

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Adoption events are bustling, crowded fun! Everywhere you went were dogs being pet, playing, and getting their leashes tangled up together. It was one of the easiest volunteer experiences I have had; I leisurely spent my time walking around, hanging with Baloo on the floor, chatting with other volunteers, promoting Baloo to prospective families, and even sneaking a peak at the puppies section.

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Baloo had been randomly assigned to me, but I became pretty emotionally attached very quickly. Although there were so many diverse types of dogs at this event, I became convinced that my doggie was the best one there. But although he was clearly a favorite of a few families that day, he didn’t make the final cut for any of them. I felt indignant on his behalf; couldn’t people see how amazing he was? A few fellow volunteers coyly mentioned that I could foster or adopt Baloo, but my housing doesn’t allow animals.

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At 3:30pm, I said goodbye to Baloo and he returned to his foster placement, still without a permanent home. I was sad to see him go. I enjoyed my experience volunteering with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. I got to meet both wonderful people and some wonderful dogs. It was rewarding yet stress-free “work,” and it gave me a chance to meet a new community of animal lovers. As much as I love The Office, this had been the superior choice for a weekend activity!

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There were 68 dogs up for adoption this day, which is actually on the low end for Lucky Dog adoption events. Apparently some of their events have had up to 120 dogs! That means a big need for volunteers. There is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities at Lucky Dog that can accommodate just about any schedule or level of commitment.

In the week of the event that I volunteered, 27 Lucky Dogs (and 2 Lucky Cats) ended up getting adopted. A few weeks later I was delighted to learn that Baloo ended up getting adopted as well! I hope that he is giving his new family the same friendly cuddles that I got to enjoy during my brief time with him. If you are interested in adopting a dog in need of a home, you can also get started on their website.

 

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator at Catalogue for Philanthropy

The Most Critical Tool for Back To School? A Village of Support.

Every year during Back to School season, parents and caretakers dutifully stock up on school supplies to help their children thrive in the coming year, but there is another incredibly valuable, yet intangible, tool that many parents give their children as they head off to school: a network of support. This network can include parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends. These are the people the student will be able to rely on for homework help, a healthy snack after school, perhaps access to a specialist for a learning disability, or even a professional introduction when they’re looking for their first internship.

(Left to Right) Generation Hope Scholar Karen, Generation Hope Scholar Christina, and Generation Hope coach Sophie -

(Left to Right) Generation Hope Scholar Karen, Generation Hope Scholar Christina, and Generation Hope coach Sophie -

You may have heard of the expression “It takes a village to raise a child,” and this network — this social capital — is the secret sauce. But not every student heads into school with access to this kind of support.

At Generation Hope, we surround motivated teen parents and their children with the mentors, emotional support, and financial resources that they need to thrive in college and kindergarten, thereby driving a two-generation solution to poverty. I founded the organization on the belief — informed by my own experience as a teen mom — that young parents deserve to have their potential supported, and on a conviction that educational attainment can be transformative across multiple generations of a family.

The stories of hope and progress that I have witnessed at Generation Hope have confirmed what I know to be true from my own experience: when a parent walks across the graduation stage, the outcomes for their child and their family immediately skyrocket, opening doors that seemed impossible.

Just as parents try to ensure their children head off to school with a support network along with pencils, binders, and notebooks, Generation Hope connects our students and their young children who may not have access to that intangible but crucial network of support with “Resource Families” – volunteers who provide that critical social capital, which has such an impact on Scholars’ success. This is on top of the intensive parenting support for Scholars and early childhood interventions for their children through our new program, Next Generation Academy, and it’s one of the most impactful ways in which Generation Hope helps prepare families and children for the jump into kindergarten.

Karyn and her son at Alicia's graduation in May

Karyn and her son at Alicia’s graduation in May

Resource Families are a group of individuals, related or not, that act as a resource for a Scholar and their child. They make connections (perhaps recommending a reading specialist or introducing a Scholar to a professional in their chosen career field), provide tangible resources (Resource Families contribute $1,200 a year to our Education Fund, which allows Scholars to afford high-quality childcare for their children), and offer social support for their Scholar’s family — whether that is helping a Scholar learn how to prep healthy meals, or planning a visit to a museum with the Scholar and their children.

Resource Families build relationships with Scholars and their children through “family dinners” six times per year, where Generation Hope brings Scholar families and Resource Families together to learn from one another’s life experiences.

Resource Family Alex (left) and Karyn (right) with Generation Hope Scholar Alicia (middle)

Resource Family Alex (left) and Karyn (right) with Generation Hope Scholar Alicia (middle)

Sid Nazareth, who serves as a Resource Family with his wife and young sons, sees their role as providing unconditional support to their Scholar, and sharing their own lessons learned. “We forget how hard it was to be in college just by itself, and go through that change of learning. Knowing that we have resources that other folks may not have access to allows us to say, ‘Yeah, we went through that, and this is information we can share to help you out in any way we can.’”

Resource Families are key to our Scholars’ success. By sharing such a meaningful and authentic bond with not just a Scholar, but their family, Resource Families have the opportunity to truly make a substantial difference for two generations.

Can you be a connector for our Scholars and their children as they head back to school this fall? For more information on becoming a Resource Family or volunteering with Generation Hope, please contact Volunteer and Outreach Associate, Michelle Avelino, at michelle@supportgenerationhope.org, or visit our website at supportgenerationhope.org.

The needs of the world can feel overwhelming at times, but the difference that each of us can make is powerful. Generation Hope was built on this premise — that each of us has the ability to change the world one person and one family at a time. We’d love to have you join us!

Written by Nicole Lynn Lewis, Generation Hope’s Founder & Chief Executive Officer. Generation Hope surrounds motivated teen parents and their children with the mentors, emotional support, and financial resources that they need to thrive in college and kindergarten, thereby driving a two-generation solution to poverty. Visit supportgenerationhope.org to learn more.

Back to School with Reading Partners

What would your life look like if you didn’t know how to read? How would it impact your ability to get around in this world? Your education, career, and social life? How would it impact your confidence?

Literacy is an essential life skill and the foundation of all future learning. The ability to read is the one factor that can so dramatically shape one’s life trajectory and future success. Nationwide, 80% of students from low-income homes are not reading proficiently by the fourth grade. Once students start to fall behind in reading, they tend to fall faster and further behind their peers every year. Alarmingly, students who are not reading proficiently by the end of fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

To help combat the literacy crisis in our country, Reading Partners works with schools and communities to provide individualized tutoring to students who struggle with reading. We use an evidence-based curriculum, delivered by trained volunteers, that has been found to have a positive and statistically significant impact not only on students’ reading proficiency but also on their social-emotional learning skills.

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Our work stems from the belief that every child has the right to learn how to read, regardless of where they live, their parents’ income, or any perceived biases regarding their abilities. We understand the tremendous impact the ability to read has on a person’s quality of life, and we are committed to providing young students with the opportunity to gain the critical reading skills that will put them on a path to success.

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This upcoming school year, Reading Partners will serve 925 students at 19 elementary schools across the District. However, we recognize that the lack of high-quality literacy intervention disproportionately affects students residing in Wards 7 and 8, which is why 11 of our 19 partner schools are located east of the river. Being deeply committed to educational equity in our city, it’s crucial we make literacy support accessible to students who need it most.

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Adam,* a first-grader from Nalle Elementary School in Ward 7, was enrolled in Reading Partners because he was reading far below his grade level. He struggled with fluency and comprehension, and, not surprisingly, lacked the confidence to speak in front of others. He was so quiet and timid in a classroom that he never got the opportunity to show what he was capable of.

The one-on-one attention Adam got from his reading partner was overwhelming for him at first. Yet he responded well to games and told his tutor he really liked aquatic animals, especially sharks. Playing games to reinforce his lessons, and having more control over them by being able to pick the games himself, turned out to really boost his confidence. Soon, he was engaged during the entire lesson, stopped guessing, started sounding out words he was unfamiliar with, and became really good at blending sounds. He even invented his own game which included (you guessed it) a shark and a fish.

At the end of the year, Adam was assessed by a Reading Partners site coordinator who told him that he was now on grade level. She was so excited that she told him, “Adam, you should tell your teacher!” Adam responded, “No, I don’t want to.” So she replied, “Well, I’m going to tell her myself.” And with the biggest smile she had ever seen on his face, he simply said, “OK.”

Adam’s story proves that when students are given the attention, support, and opportunities they deserve, they are ready and eager to unlock their own potential. As students’ confidence grows and they start to develop a love of reading, every week, they are getting closer to mastering the literacy skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

Reading Partners DC mobilizes over 1,100 community volunteers each year. We’re currently recruiting volunteers for the 2019-20 school year. If you want to make a difference in the life of a struggling reader, sign up to become a reading partner today! No previous tutoring experience is necessary (training will be provided). Please email volunteerdc@readingpartners.org or call 202-701-9110 to get started.

*Name has been changed to protect the student’s identity.
Written by Daniela Jungova, Development & Communications Manager at Reading Partners