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7 Questions – Tim Payne (For Love of Children)

Welcome … Tim Payne, Executive Director of For Love of Children. For hundreds of children and teens, FLOC offers carefully paced, one-on-one tutoring that bring them to grade-level proficiency in reading and math and after-school workshops teach teamwork, leadership, and community service. Learn more!

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

Our biggest news is that for the sixth consecutive year, 100% of FLOC seniors have graduated from high school on time and have enrolled in postsecondary institutions for the fall. We celebrated this news with many great projects and partnerships. Among the most exciting is a donation from TerpSys, an amazing corporate donor and partner. TerpSys, led by CEO Ed Woods, gifted a laptop to every graduating senior in FLOC’s 2011 class. Owning their own computers would have been impossible for these students, but TerpSys’s generous donation made it a reality for each of them. We hosted an inspiring event at our headquarters where Ed and his team presented the laptops to students.

I am also extremely proud that FLOC awarded scholarships to all of our 2011 graduates through our own Fred Taylor Scholarship Fund. We celebrated this news at the annual Fred Taylor Scholarship Dinner, which featured an extremely moving media project that used film and photography to tell the story of each graduating scholar. Our scholars helped create this project through a grant awarded to us by Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts. It was a fantastic evening where students, families, volunteers, staff and supporters came together to celebrate another successful year at FLOC. Check out the video here.

It is truly amazing to watch our students graduate from high school prepared academically, financially, and technologically for postsecondary success.

2. What else are you up to?

Up next, we are headed back to school! The start of the school year is an exciting time at FLOC. Our 550 students return from summer break to participate in math and reading tutoring, college preparatory programs, leadership development, and environmental education classes. In tandem with back to school time, we are working with volunteers from FLOC’s partner company Acumen Solutions on process improvement and technology projects that will help us upgrade our systems and serve our students more efficiently. Their expertise and pro-bono support will make FLOC an even more high-impact place. Additionally, FLOC is a beneficiary of the Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause 8K and 1 mile Fun Run on October 16th. Currently, we are in the process of recruiting volunteers to run this 8K and designate FLOC as their beneficiary.

3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?

Eleven years ago I walked into Room 221 at Garrison Elementary School as a FLOC tutor. I met my first student — a third grader named Erica. She was enthusiastic, energetic, and brimming with potential. But Erica was also more than two years below grade level. Surprisingly, teaching a third grader the basic concepts of how to sound out letters was hard. But caring about Erica was easy. In eight months, we made significant progress and she inched closer to grade level competency. Over the last 11 years, I have had the opportunity to watch Erica grow into the confident woman she is today. In every step of her journey, FLOC has been there. When she struggled with even and odd numbers, I was there to teach her. As she dealt with the challenges of adolescence, in the chaos of Shaw Junior High, we were there to show her alternatives and support her self-esteem. Today, as she completes her second year of college on the Dean?s List, I continue to encourage her as she transforms her future. Also, Erica is a volunteer tutor at FLOC this summer! Helping Erica, and the hundreds of students like her that FLOC supports each year, to succeed is my most important achievement.

4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?

There are so many. How do you pick just one? Vikki Betancourt at The World Bank Group, for her commitment to the sector as a whole and the amazing honesty and candor that she uses to approach her efforts. Suzanne Martin at John Edward Fowler Memorial Foundation, for her decades of investment in the DC philanthropic community and the nonprofits with whom they partner. Ed Woods at TerpSys, for his loyalty, guidance and incredible investments in FLOC. Alan Meltzer, founder of the Meltzer Group, for his indefatigable commitment to the social sector — especially to FLOC’s students. Fred Taylor, FLOC’s founding Executive Director, board member, mentor, and friend. His vision led the organization for 37 years and his passion is as strong today as it was in 1965. Lastly, Michael O’Neil, a FLOC tutor who has given nearly every Saturday morning for the last 11 years to serve as a reading and math tutor for many incredible students; his dedication is certainly heroic.

5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?

FLOC depends on volunteers to provide students with high quality, individualized tutoring and each year we recruit as many volunteers as we can. However, it seems impossible to have enough volunteers to serve every student in need in DC. Every semester we have to make difficult choices about how many students –and which students — we can accept, and which must be put on our waiting list. I can tell you that there is nothing harder than looking a parent in the eye and telling them that we just don’t have a spot for their child, and that they just have to wait. We had to have 92 of those conversations last year alone. But with the remarkable support from our community, we strive to no longer have those types of conversations. Every volunteer tutor literally means one more child who is served. Every contribution of time means more opportunities for children and youth in our communities.

6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?

Never lose touch with the passion that inspires you to be involved today. Times can be tough, situations can be challenging, but my hope and inspiration are renewed every day when I see the promise and potential of the students walking through our doors. Of course, you have to be flexible, get a mentor, praise success, thank those who help, be an active listener, document and evaluate what is working and what is not, and look for opportunities to partner with other great organizations. But always remember to celebrate and re-connect with the passion that inspires you.

7. What’s next?

Erica is on-track to graduate from college in two short years, with hundreds of her peers from FLOC following in her footsteps. As such, we have committed additional resources to ensuring that our postsecondary scholars receive the highest quality support. One exciting adventure on the horizon is a project we are working on with pro-bono consultants at The Advisory Board Company. They are guiding us in the research and development of a web-based distance learning series for our postsecondary scholars. This program will enhance FLOC’s ability to support students in their navigation of college, internships, and networking opportunities and ultimately aid in their successful transition to the workforce upon earning a postsecondary degree.

EXTRA:?If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?

Atticus Finch, Bobby Kennedy, and Bruce Springsteen. Although, to be honest, we wouldn’t do a power breakfast. We’d make for an interesting boy’s night out.