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Catalogue Blog

From the Field: Higher Achievement

by Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

A few weeks ago, I blogged about volunteering with a Catalogue nonprofit, , that encourages incarcerated young men to find their artistic voice and express themselves through poetry. This week, Catalogue’s Sherika Brooks and I had the privilege of not only spending another night immersed in Free Minds’ students’ poetry, but also celebrating the poetic achievements of another Catalogue nonprofits’ scholars. Higher Achievement, a rigorous after school and summer program for students in at-risk communities, hosted its annual Literary Love Poetry Performance on Monday, February 25th.

The event was a celebration of Higher Achievement’s work, but most importantly, a celebration of their middle school scholars’ writing from the past few months. After reading and exploring the work of well-known authors and poets, scholars wrote their own poems on the theme of love. A dozen students from Higher Achievement achievement centers across the DC Metro area were chosen as finalists and given the opportunity to perform their poems on stage at the Lansburgh Theatre.

If I hadn’t learned this lesson from Free Minds before, Monday night’s performances demonstrated once again that an inner poet resides in everyone. Students shared and declared their love for a range of things — from life, love, and Mom and Dad, to football and Queen Latifah. The overall message? Everyone loves — loves deeply and for real, regardless of education level, gender, class or age.

The talent, creativity, and bravery of the twelve students who performed Monday night showed the value of Higher Achievement’s program in their lives — on both their educational paths and personal development. During the program, Higher Achievement talked about the world it envisions, one where “all students’ potential and promise are realized, regardless of their circumstances.” I could not help but think, watching twelve mature and inspiring students take the stage and talk about love, that hundreds and thousands of other students wait in the wings for their turn to take the stage, and take advantage of opportunities that are yet out of reach.

Higher Achievement is always looking for more champions to show their love and share their vision — for more information on donating, volunteering or supporting the organization in other ways, check out Higher Achievement’s Catalogue page here. For more info on other Catalogue nonprofits working to improve the educational opportunities for youth in our area, check out the online Catalogue here.

In The News …

White House estimate spells out tough road for Washington region economy (Washington Post): “… the upcoming automatic spending cuts the Obama administration detailed Sunday would strike a tough blow, with nearly 150,000 civilian Defense Department employees facing furloughs and an estimated average loss of $7,500 in pay [...] funding for elementary and secondary education across the region would be slashed by $29 million.” Economist Anirban Basu (Sage Policy Group) points out that sequestration will have a deeper effect on this region than the nation as a whole, as DC, Maryland, and Virginia are “among the most reliant communities in the nation on federal spending.”

Nonprofit Branding 2013: What Has Changed? (Nonprofit Quarterly): “First, we needed to see information technology not as a peripheral function within our organization but central to our mission pursuits. Second, we needed to see our identity less as an extension of our mission statement, but more as a link between the public perception of the impact we create and our higher calling to strengthen communities.” Carlo Cuesta, founder of the Saint Paul-based firm Creation in Common, goes to point out that “We have access to the tools and resources needed to build meaningful relationships with our stakeholders, what we lack are the capabilities to do it in a way that advances authenticity and mobilizes the public will.” Do you agree?

Gray aims high with sustainability plan; can agencies deliver? (Greater Greater Washington): “Last week, the Gray administration unveiled its sustainability plan, which sets some very ambitious, yet very important objectives for 2032, like attracting 250,000 new residents and making 75% of trips happen by walking, biking, and transit.” GGW argues that “to achieve these goals, agencies will have to push forward not just on their existing laudable initiatives, but go beyond.” For example: “it would be better to focus more new housing near Metro stations, streetcars, and high-frequency bus corridors. To do that, though, some administration will have to modify the Comprehensive Plan and zoning to create denser areas somewhere.”

Universal Pre-School

The Washington Post points out that, “In DC, public school for 3-year-olds is already the norm:”

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for a dramatic shift in early childhood education: free public preschool for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds. [...] The District is already doing something more ambitious. Nearly 13,000 of the city?s roughly 15,000 3- and 4-year-olds are attending public preschool. [...]

So as national and state leaders consider a major expansion of public education, the city offers an example of how that that can play out on the ground.

Says Jack McCarthy, Managing Director of the AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation (a Catalogue nonprofit), “Here is a place where funding is in place, universal preschool is policy” [...] If the quality could be improved and ensured for all, “we could close the achievement gap here in five years.”

Hiring teachers with college and advanced degrees to create preschool centers of excellence in language and literacy, and guaranteeing the necessary training and professional development, is central to AppleTree’s mission. You can catch a glimpse inside an AppleTree classroom here.

Around Town: February 22-24

Apologies for the delay, friends! Check out some fun and local weekend ideas at …

Educational Theatre Company (AHC Hunter’s Park:, 2021 N. Nelson Street, Arlington, VA)

This year, ETC launched a new intergenerational model where seniors and college students participated in theatre exercises together to create a strong ensemble. Come check out the results this weekend! More information here.

Joy of Motion Dance Center (Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE)

On Friday at 10:30 PM, enjoy DCypher Dance’s hip hop fusion: contemporary hip hop theatre to the latest, hottest new school moves. Only one performance tonight — so be sure to nab tickets.

Dance Place (3225 8th Street NE)

On Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 4:00 PM, Israeli choreographer Idan Cohen presents an ecstatic piece set to the sound of W.A. Mozart’s Solo Piano Sonatas. Learn more this way.

Anacostia Watershed Society?(Huerich Park, 2916 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, MD) — Cancelled

AWS is working to restore a section of streambank along the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River on Saturday at 10:00 AM. Volunteer sign up right this way.

Guest Post: Seabury Resources for Aging

Since 1924, Seabury Resources for Aging has provided personalized, affordable services and housing options to help older adults in the greater Washington, DC area live with independence and dignity. Offering 355 units of the most affordable senior housing around, Seabury is dedicated to low-income seniors and those in need of assisted living in Greater Washington. Its retirement community has served over 1,200 seniors in 35 years and offers volunteer opportunities, activities, meals and even a hair salon for residents.

The following post comes from Seabury’s blog — check it out and learn about a great way to give back to the community through in-kind giving. This post was written by Monise W. Quidley, CFRE, the Director of Development for Seabury Resources for Aging.

Got Gifts?

The other day I was cleaning out my closet and garage (one of those must-do New Year’s resolution things) and was pretty amazed at some of the things I found. There were the usual suspects, the things with stains and that were broken, things “toooooo” small, things outdated, and those other things I just didn’t like or want. But what was so surprising, in the middle of all of the mess, I was finding lots of loot that still had tags and/or were brand new in the box items. Once looked at and never used items in pristine condition.

I guess in my best “thank you for the gift”, “this is exactly what I wanted”, “oh how beautiful” spirit, I had planned to re-gift some of those items. Nice things, just not necessarily for me. While taking a break, and drinking some sweet iced tea, it dawned on me. I can put these new, in the box, never been used gifts to a good use. I would give them to my favorite charity.

Most nonprofits have a great need for such things to use with and for their clients and staff as well as creating a beautiful basket for their silent auction or banquet event. So I decided I would start with Seabury and donate some of my findings, perfumes, baskets, art work, purses, cutlery, vases, and jewelry to name a few to our upcoming Leadership in Aging Celebration on June 6th. Can’t wait to see how nice my items will look all dressed up and ready to be auctioned. This is a terrific way to help a charity and also get credit for an in-kind donation which is tax-deductible.

Maybe my New Year’s resolution will inspire you (and your family and friends) to consider donating some of your brand new and stuck in-the-back-of-the-closet items to your favorite charity. If you would like to help Seabury Resources for Aging, please send me an email ( and I’ll make the most of your unwanted items by giving them new life and making someone else happy during the silent and live auctions at our reception. Remember, one man or woman’s trash is another man or woman’s treasure!

As mentioned in Seabury’s blog post, in kind donations can be used for Seabury’s Leadership in Aging Celebration on June 6th. The Seabury Leadership in Aging Celebration is Seabury’s signature event featuring the presentation of this year’s recipients of the Seabury Leadership in Aging Awards. The Awards are given to honor outstanding service to older adults in the greater Washington, DC area and nationally.

Previous honorees include Stuart Rosenthal, publisher and editor of The Beacon Newspapers, The Medical House Call Program at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; David N. Gamse, Executive Director, Jewish Council for the Aging; Steve Gurney, Founder and Publisher, Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook; Vera Waltman Mayer, Coordinator Emeritus of the DC Long Term Care Coalition; Dr. J.C. Hayward, Vice President for Media Outreach, WUSA9TV to name a few.

For more information on volunteering or donating to nonprofits like Seabury that serve the elderly, check out Catalogue’s online catalogue here.

In The News …

Plan to close VA institutions stokes worry for families of the developmentally disabled (Washington Post): “Virginia is among the last states to begin dismantling its large institutions for the developmentally disabled, a decision that was made as part of a year-old settlement agreement with the Justice Department [...] All but one of the commonwealth’s five training centers, as the state calls them, are to be shuttered by 2020.” Judith Korf, the mother of a resident of the Northern Virginia Training Center, points out that “I think the past has shown that is the only thing that works.” While Virginia officials remain “confident that the training centers’ residents can be properly cared for in the community, [..] there is deep concern that the state is rushing the process to meet unrealistic, arbitrary closure deadlines.”

Leaders of metro counties urge Congress to act on budget (Gazette: Prince George’s): “Impending federal sequestration could damage the fiscal stability of Maryland’s metro counties and leaders of those counties are urging congressional action [...] county executives Isiah Leggett, Rushern L. Baker III and Kenneth S. Ulman gathered Tuesday to call on Congress to compromise and stop sequestration.” Montgomery County executive Leggett argued that “the the federal job loss piece alone could cost the county as much as $500,000 a day in local income tax revenue” for his county and Prince George’s county executive Baker “said about 10 percent of Prince George’s jobs are federal.”

Gates, Buffett push Giving Pledge international (Seattle Times): “British billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and his wife Joan are among the newest philanthropists who have pledged to give away half their wealth to charity.” This year, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett-initiated Giving Pledge, has grown to include “its first international members, including 12 wealthy individuals and couples from Russia, South Africa, Australia, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and Malaysia.” Since 2010, over 100 individuals and families have signed the Pledge.

Around Town: February 15-17

Happy day-after Valentine’s Day! We certainly heart our local nonprofits …

Dance Place (3225 8th Street NE)

SpeakeasyDC returns to Dance Place to celebrate Valentine’s Day though hilarious and moving true stories about romance, relationships, and sex. Nab “Sucker for Love” tickets right here; performances on Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM.

We Are Family Senior Outreach Network (at Metropolitan Community Church, 474 Ridge Street NW)

Volunteers will help assemble and deliver grocery bags to low-income seniors near North Capitol Street and Shaw on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Sign up here (scroll down a bit).

Constellation Theatre Company (at Source, 1835 14th Street NW)

Final weekend! Zorro, the masked avenger, is born when quiet, bookish Diego must find a way to fight corruption and injustice. Catch performances on Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 2:00 PM.

Washington Bach Consort (at National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Avenue NW)

In honor of the 35th Season, and by popular demand, WBC presents “Bach for All Seasons,” all-Bach program built around the “Great Eighteen Chorales” on Sunday at 3:00 PM. Purchase tickets right here.

Growing Your Nonprofit Online

Google seems to be on the front lines of everything these days. This week, Google hosted a forum on “Getting Your Business Online” in DC — one in a series of small business growth workshops hosted by Google across the country. While the Catalogue and its member nonprofits are not strictly “small businesses”, the growth of small nonprofits mirrors that of small for-profits in many ways. We all struggle with building an online presence and continually spreading the word about our services. (Google also offers special products and services to nonprofits, many at a discount – something worth looking into!)

Catalogue staff attended the workshop on February 12th, and took away some great tips for making the most of our online presence:

- A variety of tools are available online for monitoring who visits your website, where they come from, and which pages they visit most often. While ‘web analytics’ may sound like an intimidating term, tools like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster can break the stats down into digestible nuggets of information that any business owner or nonprofit ED can understand.

- Even if you don’t buy into the Google suite of tools, Google Alerts can help you keep tabs on your unearned online presence. You can create an Alert (for free) that will notify you any time your nonprofit or business name appears on the web — a great way to keep tabs on potential PR hits and misses.

- Google AdWords is one tool that offers special deals for nonprofits — check out Google Grants to apply for free advertising through Google AdWords. If you’re approved, you can create a Google AdWords campaign for free and promote your organization in the ads that pop up at the top of search pages.

Again, whether Google is your online guru of choice or not, staying in tune with the latest trends in online business/nonprofit growth and promotion can have huge benefits for your organization. For more information on resources from Google, as well as registration information for the upcoming GYBO session in Falls Church, VA, check out