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All About Community: Encore’s Healthy Play Initiative

Encore Stage and Studio

In the spirit of community, sharing, and giving, we want you to hear from four of our teaching artists that work with “the Healthy Play Initiative” (HPI), a program created in 2016 to partner with the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) to provide enriching creative play for the children of families experiencing food insecurity in Arlington. Read on to find out– from those closest to the program — just what makes HPI so special.

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Mara Stewart, Teaching Artist:“HPI is one of my favorite classes to teach. I feel like I always leave with a smile and a new experience. It has taught me so much about communication. Even when we can’t speak the same language, we are able to create a positive experience and learn from one and another. For most of the kids, this is their first time in a classroom setting. Healthy play focuses on engaging and dynamic activities. We sing, we dance, we color, we play outside, and we learn about healthy food choices. We focus on transitioning from one activity to the next, sharing and expressing ourselves. This program helps us meet kids in the community that we otherwise might not ever get to know. It is an amazing experience to see these children week after week and watch them grow. The first day we meet a child, they often don’t participate or speak- and after a few weeks they blossom. They are engaged, singing, and are excited to come to HPI, and to me–that is the best part.”

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Caolan Eder, Arts Apprentice:“To me, HPI is all about community. The children who participate get a chance to play together in a safe setting and make new friends, learning to cooperate in a group as they prepare for the structured environment of school. The program also helps with communication skills. Many of the children live in non-English-speaking homes and struggle to connect with people outside of their families, so finding new ways of interacting really expands their worlds. I remember well how one child’s whole face lit up when she and I discovered that we spoke a common language and could explain ourselves to each other. The parents and caregivers build community through HPI, as well. In addition to giving them a breather from the responsibilities that come with raising a family, the program allows adults to form a network of people with shared experiences.”

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Madaline Langston, Education Programs Manager:“HPI has made me more patient. Most of the children that I have had the pleasure of serving are learning English and are trying to do their very best. In the classroom, we focus on listening, focus, and engaging students’ motor skills. HPI is a way to provide social interaction with peers. They learn how to make friends. When I first meet most of our HPI participants, I’ve noticed that they usually only interact with their families or friends. I recall one young boy who had just arrived from Peru and did not speak English. I used my cell phone to translate Spanish to him and he smiled and then slowly pronounced Spanish words to me and I spoke to him in English. So cute and funny at the same time. From that point on, he came to the classes with a smile on his face.”

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Alana Gibson, Arts Apprentice:“ I’ve become more attentive to the children as people and not just children who are unaware of their surroundings and circumstances. HPI is such a meaningful program because, for the most part, this is the only exposure to English speakers that the children get if they don’t go to classes. It’s also meaningful to Encore because it makes us more culturally aware and understanding, which helps us standout in the region and theater community. A few weeks ago, at the Arlington Mill location, we had a pair of siblings that came in because they didn’t have school. Mara, the lead teacher, told me that just a year ago, these siblings spoke almost no English. I was completely shocked because if she hadn’t told me that, I would have never known. So I’m sure that them coming to the program in combination with their language class helped with this amazing feat! In the classroom, I try to focus on being caring, but also keeping some structure. Most of the children are in the house all week with a parent so I want them to have a chance to run around, but I also want to start to help them get the understanding of how a classroom would work at a real preschool. I’m hopeful that HPI plays a real role in preparing these kids for school as they grow older.”

It’s through the generous support of our donors that we are able to bring programs like “the Healthy Play Initiative” to our community here in Arlington. We believe that this type of outreach and engagement is essential for our mission of bringing “Theatre by kids, for kids” to all types of children and families. The empathy, problem solving, and creativity born in the classroom extends far beyond remaining active in the arts–the skills gained through theatre education can last a lifetime.

Shout Mouse Press – Education: A Dream without Borders

“This is the story of how I got out of a hole.”

This is the opening line of an incredible story written and illustrated by Erminia, a young immigrant from El Salvador. At fifteen, Erminia’s mother gave her a stark choice: stay with the family but endure a life of poverty, violence, and a bleak future, or embark on a dangerous journey alone to America in pursuit of a good education and a better life.

Despite her love for her family, Erminia decided her only choice was to leave El Salvador so she could further her education. She spent five days in a detention center in Mexico but persisted. She walked for three days and two nights across the desert– in her socks, with one small bottle of water. After several weeks, she managed to cross the Rio Grande and find her way to the United States.

As Erminia explains, “I want people to understand that we are here because we are fighting for education, for opportunity. We are not criminals. In reality, I’m here fighting for my dreams.”

When Erminia asked her immigration lawyer what she could do to compensate for her services, the lawyer answered with a challenge: become a lawyer herself. Erminia has taken this to heart and is currently a freshman in college, studying to become an immigration lawyer so she can help others find their way out of their own “holes.”

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I met Erminia a few weeks ago at our launch event for Voces sin Fronteras (Voices without Borders) — a remarkable book written and illustrated in graphic novel form by sixteen teenage immigrants from Latin America. Proceeds from the book sales support a scholarship fund for Latino youth immigrants.

Amidst today’s highly charged debate on immigration, this book provides a rare chance to hear directly from youth who are often in the headlines but whose stories aren’t told in full. This collaboration between young people from the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in Washington, D.C. and Shout Mouse Press, a nonprofit writing program and publishing house dedicated to amplifying unheard voices, has produced a powerful collection of stories about family, loss, ambition, and change that provide a much-needed human connection to the immigration crisis. These moving personal accounts challenge us and inspire greater empathy for the individuals who leave everything behind for an education.

As Erminia, Rosa, and Sebastian — three of these courageous authors — shared their stories in the back corner of a DC bookstore, my eyes welled up with tears more than once as I listened to the hardships and heartache they endured in search of a better life in this country.

Their quest for a better life that hinged upon the opportunity for a quality education has borne fruit. Erminia, Rosa, and Sebastian are all currently enrolled in college, pursuing their dreams of becoming a lawyer, a doctor, and a graphic designer.

I am the daughter of Chinese immigrants. My father left Taiwan with a few dollars in his pocket and journeyed in a cramped freighter for 52 days to further his education in America. His story is not uncommon, as the desire to educate children for a brighter future is universal. Immigrants from all corners of the globe uproot their lives and leave everything behind with this simple goal in mind.

As former UK Prime Minister and Education Commission Chair Gordon Brown has said: “Potential is best developed, talents best unleashed, and dreams best fulfilled at the point a child and teacher are brought together. Most of all, it is education — our ability to plan and prepare for the future — that gives us hope.”

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Providing this hope to the world’s children should not require the sacrifices that Erminia and countless others have made. What my own children take for granted — a free, quality education — should not be a matter of life or death for so many others.

Today, more than 260 million children are not in school. If the world does not wake up to this tragedy, by 2030, half of the world’s young people — 825 million — will be unprepared for the workplace of the future. We must recognize the full human and economic costs of an uneducated populace, and find the will in developing and donor countries alike to prioritize and increase the funding of education.

Children should not have to choose between their families and an education. They should not have to risk their lives and walk across the desert without shoes to get a place in a decent school. The world must recognize education as a human right, a civil right, and an economic imperative — and act accordingly.

The hopes and dreams sparked by educating hungry young minds know no bounds. As Rosa, the young immigrant from Guatemala studying to be a doctor, writes:

“No matter where you start from, those who dream of the impossible can achieve the unthinkable.”

Lana Wong is the Community Impact and Partnerships Director at Shout Mouse Press.

Mikva Challenge DC: Project Soapbox

In a place like Washington DC, when people think of power and politics, they think of the President, Congress, CEOs, or lobbying chiefs, but Mikva Challenge DC is on a mission to reshape that perception. Mikva DC exists to enhance the expertise and power of young people to create change, and to inform both local and national policy making. Modeled after the successful civic engagement programming developed for youth in Chicago, Mikva Challenge DC develops youth to be empowered, informed, and active citizens who will promote a just and equitable society.

One way Mikva DC students ‘do civics’ is by speaking out on how to address issues in their communities via an annual citywide speech competition called Project Soapbox. This past December, students took to the stage to speak about a range of deeply important topics, like mental health support, LGBTQ discrimination, racism & xenophobia, food deserts, and homelessness.

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One of this year’s competition winners, Nehemiah Jackson, enthralled the room when he proclaimed from his soapbox:

“When I grow up, I want to put an end to this nonsense. I believe that police officers need a punishment for brutality. My solution is for police to have better training on how to deal with the public. Better and longer training would help police understand that people might have mental illnesses or might be nervous when stopped by police. During training police learn state laws, criminal investigations, patrol procedures, firearms training, traffic control, defensive driving, self defense, first aid, and computer skills. But something they don’t learn is how to help people with mental illnesses. Something they don’t learn is how to deal with scared citizens, something they don’t learn is how to handle their own anger. Also, how about we can create non-deadly weapons that don’t kill. It seems to me if you can send Rovers to Mars, have cars that drive themselves, then why can’t we make weapons that don’t kill?”

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After experiencing a day of these incredible speeches, one student remarked: “I am not done in this fight. There are others struggling like I am and our challenges united us. I feel inspired seeing my peers use their stories and identities to fight for change.”

It was not just students and the Mikva DC staff who felt the power in the room. As Jenny Abamu of our local NPR station, WAMU, said: “Though there is only one winner, students didn’t treat the event like a contest. They encouraged each other – judges listened and responded to some impassioned performances by noting resources for students dealing with crises. Many students said they wanted to raise awareness. In this way, they were already winners.”

Mikva Challenge DC’s credo is that young people who do civics will help make the nation become its very best democratic self. And who can argue against that when you hear, see, and experience the vision and power of DC youth for yourself?

La Cocina VA: Eliminating the Barriers to Better Futures

On any given night when you go to a restaurant in the DC metro area, take a quick look at who is preparing your meals, cleaning your tables, or maintaining the restaurant’s facilities. There is a high probability that those individuals are of Hispanic descent. That is because the U.S. restaurant industry is comprised of roughly 2.3 million foreign-born workers. According to the findings of a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data, U.S. eating and drinking establishments in 2014 employed more foreign-born workers than almost any other industry, second only to the construction sector. One of the biggest challenges for many of these workers is the lack of relevant training and limited English proficiency. This often leaves them stuck in dead-end work with very little room to grow financially. It’s quite a contrast to imagine the trendy vibrant front-end of some DC restaurants versus the ‘back of the house’ where folks are putting in long hours of hard work in the kitchen unable to earn enough to support their families.

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La Cocina VA has seen the dire need to confront this challenge for the workforce in the food and hospitality industry. Since its founding in 2014, La Cocina VA has harnessed the power of food to transform lives and create change for the low-income communities in the Washington D.C. region. We are a nonprofit organization that generates workforce and economic development opportunities for unemployed immigrants, minorities, low-income individuals, and veterans. We provide structured training that helps these individuals obtain real living wage jobs in the food and hospitality industry where they can create a career and become financially independent. At the same time, we are looking to the future of a growing industry, where there’s a huge gap for skilled, motivated, and dependable workers.

During our 4 years of operation, over 100 La Cocina VA graduates have completed the organization’s bilingual culinary training program. Moreover, 85% of those graduates have been placed in steady jobs within the restaurant and hospitality industries. Our vocational and technical training program provides students with instruction in the culinary arts, English language skills, industry certification, and a paid internship that often results in a full-time job.

Consider Karina Herrera, who is presently a line cook at a Hyatt Regency Hotel in the D.C. area. She is a shining example of the program’s success. Five years ago, desperate to find a way to take care of her three young children, she came to La Cocina VA and enrolled in our bilingual culinary program. She currently earns $22/hr and has enrolled in a college culinary arts program subsidized by her employer with the goal of becoming an executive chef. Like most La Cocina VA participants, Karina has overcome extreme hardships.”It’s been a huge help having a bilingual program like this,” Herrera said. “My English has improved a lot and La Cocina VA has given me financial independence. It’s an excellent investment in a better future for me and my kids.”

Before joining La Cocina VA’s training program, 70% of our students were unemployed and 30% were under-employed. Over 90% of our training participants have been women from challenging circumstances, survivors of domestic abuse, human trafficking, chronic unemployment and/or poverty who have now obtained financial independence through our unique training programs.

Our work uplifts those often left behind by our economy–individuals full of potential and capable of incredible transformation when they are provided the appropriate resources and opportunities. There is enormous capacity within our local communities that has gone untapped for far too long.

While La Cocina VA’s roots have been to work closely with the Hispanic community, La Cocina VA is now expanding its programs aggressively in 2019 to serve even more immigrant and minority communities, refugees, and veterans. We are also increasing our efforts to support and train entrepreneurs to create their own small culinary businesses.

As part of a recently announced partnership with Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), we will establish the Zero Barriers Training and Entrepreneurship Center (TEC). TEC will be a new 5,000 square foot facility designed to offer services, resources, and support to help eliminate the many barriers our clients face, such as access to child care, financial advice, and counseling. The new facility will also include a culinary small business incubator, a catering service, and a community cafe. TEC will be located in Gilliam Place, APAH’s new affordable housing development in the vibrant Columbia Pike corridor in Arlington, Virginia. La Cocina VA expects to open TEC in late 2019. Through our capital campaign, we have already raised $1.6M of our $2.5M fundraising goal for the construction of the Zero Barriers Training and Entrepreneurship Center, and we are working to raise the remaining amount by the spring of 2019.

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We aim to continue to tap into this undiscovered pool of talent, entrepreneurs, and leaders that exist within our communities, all while helping to solve social issues like unemployment, lack of access to entrepreneurship opportunities, and food insecurity. What are we waiting for? The time to make a change is now.

To learn more about our work and how you can get involved, please contact our CEO Patricia Funegra at patyfunegra@lacocinava.org or visit our website at www.lacocinava.org.

 

Center for Inspired Teaching: A Year of Teaching and Inspiration

Center for Inspired Teaching is proud to be recognized by the Catalogue for Philanthropy as one of the best local nonprofits in the DC area. At Inspired Teaching, we envision a future in which every person is prepared to thrive in and contribute to our ever-changing world. Our mission is to transform the preK-12 school system by cultivating and partnering with change-making educators who authentically engage their students as active learners and empathetic critical thinkers. Pic 2 As we begin 2019, all of us at Inspired Teaching are deeply appreciative of the educators and students who made 2018 a joyful and meaningful year of learning. We are proud to share some of our favorite highlights from the last twelve months as we reflect on the moments that inspired us:

Inspired Teaching Youth Lead Dialogues on Social Issues at Speak Truth

Inspired Teaching Youth kicked off 2018 with an International Night of Dialogue via Speak Truth, a program which brings students across the District together to engage in discussions meant to expose one another to new perspectives. High school students spent the year enthusiastically leading and participating in discussions around a variety of social justice topics, like: gun violence, toxic masculinity, the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Colin Kaepernick and the Nike boycott, and many others. One student remarked, “I’ve talked about issues like this before, but went deeper than conversations in the past.” Pic 1 Inspired Teaching Fellows Create Engaging Learning Opportunities

Over the summer, the 2017 Fellows created interactive educational experiences for students at Capital City Public Charter School. These experiences culminated in a learning showcase where students proudly shared their STEM projects: from exploring ways that humans can lessen or reverse the effects of climate change to creating inventions inspired by animal adaptations, students connected their learning to their own lives in meaningful and fun ways. After finishing the summer on a high note, the Inspired Teachers embarked on another exciting journey – beginning their first years as teachers of record at 13 schools throughout the District.

Inspired Teaching Alumni Influence the Broader Education Landscape

2018 has also been an exciting year for Inspired Teaching alumni who have received recognition on the local and national levels. 2014 Inspired Teacher Leader Paul Howard was selected by OSSE as the 2018 DC Teacher of the Year. In addition, several Inspired Teachers were featured as presenters at conferences led by Education Week, EmpowerED DC, and EL Education. During the EmpowerED Teacher Voice Summit, Inspired Teacher James Tandaric (’16) spoke during the keynote about a moment that fueled his passion for advocacy:”Recently, I was talking to another teacher about how DC’s wards are very racially segregated, and he said that he hadn’t known that was an issue. This was shocking to me. As a person of color, and as a person who has worked in a variety of school settings, including Ward 8, I wondered, how can he not see this? The discussion made me more determined to help all teachers be more aware of these racial divides.”

Inspired Teaching Staff Travel the Globe to Share Engagement-Based Education Practices

In 2018, Inspired Teaching leaders have traveled internationally to spread Inspired Teaching’s message far and wide. Our travels have included leading a teacher training in Chiang Mai, Thailand, contributing to an education thought leadership summit in Oxford, England, and participating in a gathering of educational change-makers in Lyon, France. The launch of the National Alliance for Engagement-Based Education has also prompted Inspired Teaching to travel the country exploring engagement-based teaching & learning practices. Staff had the opportunity to observe classes in several different schools across the nation, discovering effective strategies for building strong school communities.

2019 and Beyond

We look forward to seeing all that our staff, students, and Inspired Teachers will accomplish next year. We are especially appreciative of supporters who help our efforts to transform education.

Catalogue for Philanthropy Expands Resources to All Nonprofits With Online Learning Commons

Check out the latest news from the Catalogue:

Washington-Jan. 7, 2019: The Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, which is beginning its 16th year as the only locally-focused guide to giving, is growing its efforts to help the entire nonprofit community, no matter the size or location of the organization.

The Catalogue is launching the online Learning Commons to further its belief in the power of nonprofits and the need to invest in effective professional development in order to increase their impact.

The online Learning Commons builds on the Catalogue’s existing in-person training sessions for nonprofit leaders. The web-enabled version is a capacity building and professional development program that covers five core topics important to nonprofit management: Board Development, Communications, Development, Program Evaluation and Volunteer Management.

The Learning Commons, created by nonprofit professionals, offers a whole set of services, ranging from a thank you letter template and a short video refresher on the key elements of a thank you letter, to an entire workshop about how to steward donors. It’s free to nonprofits vetted and featured in the Catalogue and offered at minimal cost to other nonprofits.

Bob Wittig, executive director, Catalogue for Philanthropy, says, “Our number one goal is that our content and support is realistic given the other demands and resource limitations nonprofit leaders are facing. The online Learning Commons is action oriented and designed to drive real change.”

Tamela Aldridge, executive director, Only Make Believe, says Catalogue support in the past has made a difference. “Our organization has changed because we’ve been able to attend Catalogue workshops and have taken on better practices that have increased our day-to-day work strategies.”

The Catalogue seeks to create visibility for its network of charities, fuel their growth with philanthropic dollars, and create a movement for social good in the region. The Catalogue has raised over $40 million for its network of small, community-based charities in the Washington region and provides capacity building programs to support the mission and growth of the nonprofit community.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Adam Shapiro
202-427-3603
Adam.Shapiro@ASPR.bz

After-School All-Stars: Students Participate in Culinary Competition Hosted by Marriott

Last month, After-School All-Stars, Washington DC (ASAS DC) hosted a field trip to Marriott HQ in Bethesda, MD for a “top chef” competition. This activity was the culmination of work that students engaged in all semester in their ASAS DC cooking classes. Thirteen students from three schools – Stuart-Hobson Middle School, Leckie Education Campus, and Charles Hart Middle School – participated in the competition and they expressed a combination of excitement and confidence leading up to the event. The group from Hart, in particular, remarked that they wanted to do a great job to “represent well for Hart and Southeast” – and that they had faith in their ability to win.

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The students and their ASAS DC instructors arrived at the Bethesda office and immediately went down to the kitchen area. They were greeted by various Marriott staff and Chef Brad Nelson, VP Global Operations in Marriott International?s Culinary division. Brad facilitated the event and provided instructions to the students. He spoke about his connection to cooking and why it is important for young people to learn it as a necessary skill. And he laid out the rules for the competition: students would have 45 minutes to create two plates for judging, using only the ingredients presented to them by Marriott. Brad and his colleagues also revealed 2 “secret” ingredients: boneless chicken breast and cauliflower. He urged the students in their preparation to “think about flavor, being creative, and what you would like to eat yourself.” Brad eloquently explained that to him “food is about family, hospitality, and sharing” and that was the backdrop for the competition that followed.

Once the rules were explained, students split up into 6 teams and promptly filled their trays with ingredients. With support from Marriott culinary professionals, teams started to create their dishes and delicious aromas filled the room. They were involved in every stage of the preparation from the planning, cutting/preparing, seasoning, and ultimately the baking or sauteing. While they all had to use the same ingredients, there was a broad range of final dishes presented?- from Cesar Salad, to pan fried chicken with sauted vegetables, and array of different sauces and spices. Mariame, a 6th grader from Leckie had a revelation after tasting her final product:”it’s DELICIOUS! It finally has real flavor!”

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ASAS DC board member Jessica Flugge (also a VP within the company) supported the production of the event and worked side by side with several student teams. Along with Jessica, two Marriott senior staff members visited the group as they presented their final dishes. They acted as top chef judges and sampled each plate, meticulously going through every nuance of each dish. They did this in a private setting while students completed one of the most essential culinary practices: cleaning up after themselves! The staff had high praise for all the dishes, describing them as “eloquent” and “well presented”. One judge frequently remarked that she did not like vegetables, but the students had “made a convert out of her.”

Ultimately the top 3 teams were selected by the judges and chef Brad, based on a combination of presentation, creativity, and overall taste. One of the teams from Stuart-Hobson came in 3rd place, another pair from Leckie was given the 2nd place award, and two young ladies from Hart Middle School took home the 1st place trophy. These accolades will go back to their respective schools to be displayed. In the end, as one of the judges noted, all of the students here were winners,” and each participant was given a culinary-themed parting gift courtesy of ASAS DC: chef aprons and hats, two cookbooks, and a slate of cooking utensils to help them create their own meals in the future!

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As a non-profit that provides free after-school programs to low-income DC middle schools, we place a high value on life-skills, teamwork, and career exploration. All three of those important principles were brought to bear at Marriott, and we have their dedicated professionals and our students to thank for that! Students left in extremely high spirits, excited at the possibility of participating in this competition next semester. Our staff reported that the bus transporting students from Hart sang the entire ride home, a fitting conclusion to a successful field trip!

Joe’s Movement Emporium: Bringing Arts to Life in Prince George’s County

Joe’s Movement Emporium is proud to be included in the Catalogue. This nonprofit is open year round for classes, rehearsals, performances, and arts education programs. Joe’s is a hub of cultural and community activity; it’s the largest independent performing arts center in Prince George’s County. Joe’s is a safe after-school haven for youth, offering arts activities that nurture self-confidence and self-esteem.

Recently, WHUR-TV’s Artico program stopped by and interviewed Neena Narayanan, the organization’s marketing director. Click on this YouTube video and go to 12:00 to see what makes Joe’s so special.

The Grassroots Project Coach Spotlight

Lucia Rose is a senior Track and Field & Cross Country athlete at American University and a volunteer at The Grassroot Project (TGP), part of the Catalogue for Philanthropy. While balancing school work and her practice schedule, she facilitates sexual health and nutrition education programs in 4 DC middle schools. She has also served as a key contributor to TGP’s new nutrition curriculum. In this blog, she reflects on what she has learned through her work with TGP.

As a student-athlete, and a runner in particular, I often experience a difficult relationship with nutrition. On important workout days, I will often catch myself not eating past a certain time in the day, morning runs are often completed without any fuel in my body, and often the number of calories I burn throughout a day are not replaced throughout my daily meals. Often it is not malicious, rather there may not be a suitable amount of time to eat full meals between practices, classes, meetings, weight room, etc.

unspecified-1While I intellectually understand the importance of healthy eating, especially for competitive performance both on the track and in the classroom, I still struggle with nutrition. I remember learning about food groups in school, have had access to team presentations regarding nutrition, and have done plenty of my own research regarding the best types and combinations of food to put in my body to help me run faster, but I still struggle with providing nutrients to my body.

I believe that having the tools that Grassroots teaches to middle school students is something that all college athletes (and individuals generally) could have greatly benefited from when we were in middle school.

As Grassroots coaches, my fellow athletes and I often reflect that very few of us were ever exposed to the in-depth, interactive, and unique sexual health literacy that we provide to 6th graders that focuses on empowering students with the ability to make informed, healthy, and confident decisions about their health. This semester, we have expanded the “Grassroots pipeline” to pilot 7th grade nutrition and physical health. The curriculum provides students with the facts: what nutrients your body needs, what constitutes “healthy,” and why certain foods like Takis are unhealthy.

However, what makes Grassroots different is its ability to bridge the gap between understanding information and applying it to personal autonomy. Not a single one of our coaches can stand up in front of kids and preach that they should never have a bag of chips or an extra cookie at dinner; it would be unrealistic and hypocritical. Rather, we teach students about balance and what steps you can take to level out an unhealthy decision. Most importantly, we link every nutrient with the function it provides in the body, and we show what really happens when you are missing that function. In Practice 3 of our new nutrition curriculum, for example, we play a relay game in which students connect the ways protein, carbs, and vitamins and minerals fuel your everyday actions, and the students see what happens when you are missing any single one.

As an athlete and a college student, I still am learning some of our curriculum pieces and making those connections for myself. I am grateful that I get to be a part of an organization that is equipping young people to hold more agency in their lives, especially when I see what I hope to be budding female athletes that will be better equipped to confront the challenges of being a female athlete? it’s incredible to think of what records they may break.

Aspire Counseling — 40 Years of Mental Health!

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For forty years, Aspire Counseling, a mental health non-profit based in Gaithersburg, has been helping Montgomery County residents grow, change, and thrive.

It began in 1978 with Maryrose Rogolsky and a small, rented office in the Rockville Seventh-day Adventist Church. Rogolsky, lovingly known as “Posey,” set out with a vision to start an agency specializing in low cost, high-quality mental health care, to children in need. From that room, Posey and her three staff members founded what was then known as the Child Center and began their legacy and transformed access to affordable mental health care in Montgomery County.

Posey was a true visionary. She served children during a time when there was little recognition of children’s mental health needs. She bravely did battle with insurance companies that questioned how a child of six years could be experiencing emotional problems. Fast forward 40 years and it can be very difficult to find an appointment with a child therapist, especially if you are uninsured and face financial and cultural barriers.

“With a firm foundation based on the belief that all individuals, regardless of race, age and income, deserve access to affordable, evidence-based, excellent mental health care she built an organization that has helped thousands overcome personal mental health challenges,” said Carrie Zilcoski, Aspire’s Executive Director.

Over its 40 years, the Child Center evolved, expanding to become Child Center and Adult Services, and now Aspire Counseling, but it continues to be guided by Posey’s vision. “What would Posey have done?” has become a mantra as Aspire’s staff continue to adapt to Montgomery County’s, and society’s, ever-changing needs.

In 2018, Aspire Counseling’s Main Clinic is on pace to set a record of 1,400 unique patient encounters and nearly the same volume of patients in the community. Aspire’s newest program has brought services back into schools, training hundreds of educators and school employees on becoming a Trauma-Informed School with a goal of placing therapists in each school who specialize in trauma and helping students who have experienced Adverse Childhood Events.

Aspire Counseling also offers programs dedicated to new mothers who are suffering from or at risk for postpartum depression. The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program connects families to community services and provides a therapist who will make 12, no-cost, home therapy visits.

Committed to transforming lives and building resilience regardless of ability to pay, Aspire has found its place in Montgomery County’s growing and diverse community. To learn more visit we-aspire.org or call (301) 978-9750. Regardless of the challenges, you’re facing or your ability to pay, Aspire is here for you.