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Building a Community within STEM: An unexpected result from our Latina SciGirls program


In 2016, the Children’s Science Center?was selected as one of sixteen science centers from across the U.S. to receive a grant from Twin Cities Public Television and the National Science Foundation to implement a program for young Latinas over the course of three years in conjunction with PBS SciGirls. We were confident that we could provide the girls in the program a fun, unique educational experience, but the unintended outcome of creating a supportive and caring community for these young girls, and the overall positive impact on staff and volunteers exceeded our expectations.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics 2012 report, Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study, only 3.5% of bachelor’s degrees in STEM were earned by Hispanic females in 2010. This systemic underachievement in STEM can be attributed to several issues including: limited awareness, opportunities, and resources; existing perceptions about STEM; and lack of family involvement. Our Latina SciGirls program to begin tackling this important issue.

Latina SciGirls is a free program for Hispanic girls in grades 3-5 and their families that takes place twice annually over the course of several weeks at the Children’s Science Center Lab in partnership with local Title I elementary schools in Northern Virginia. Latina SciGirls is a culturally responsive program designed to address barriers that prevent Hispanic girls and their families from engaging in STEM and to promote a positive STEM identity. Critical elements of the program provide young Latinas with opportunities to engage with Latina STEM professionals to foster mentoring relationships and a parent education component to support their daughters’ interest and achievement in STEM.

Childsci Photo 4

Latina SciGirls program begins with an open house event held at the elementary school. Students, parents, and families meet program staff and the Latina STEM mentors while participating in hands-on STEM activities. Each subsequent weekly session covers a different STEM topic: physical sciences, environmental science, engineering, forensics, biology, and chemistry. The Fiesta de la Familia event celebrates the end of the session with families, girls, program staff and the Latina STEM mentors for a night of hands-on STEM activities. The goals of the program are to increase access for Latinas and their families to positive STEM programming, and promote positive STEM identity development. To ensure regular attendance of the Latina SciGirls program, the Center provides complimentary dinner and transportation each week for the duration of the program.

Over the course of each session, the Center’s staff watch as the girls’ confidence in STEM grow. Our staff take pride in their ability to create a warm and safe environment where the girls feel empowered to take risks and share their thinking while exploring STEM. The girls are introduced to female role models that they would not otherwise encounter. Having access to professional Latina mentors who share their own stories of success and failure has proven beneficial to the program. Although the program focuses on STEM, the girls practice working collaboratively, and building relationships among peers and adults — important life skills for every child’s future. We hope the girls take this initial spark and continue their investigations into the world around them, especially as they enter the crucial middle-school years when STEM interest statistically plummets. We believe each girl leaves the program open to new experiences, ideas, and people, with increased confidence and a stronger sense of self. Many of the program’s alumna seek out additional STEM experiences to grow their newfound interest.


What started out as a program opportunity has evolved into a passion project. The Children’s Science Center has served over 100 young Latinas since 2016 and is grateful to Twin Cities Public Television, General Motors, and Leidos for their sponsorship. Latinos comprise 17% of Northern Virginia’s population. With this population steadily increasing, the Latina SciGirls program will continue to be in high demand. As the Center moves forward with the capital campaign to build a full-scale science center that will more adequately serve the region’s families, we also look forward to expanding the reach of significant programs like Latina SciGirls.

At the core of the Children’s Science Center’s educational mission is a dedication to meeting the needs of all children, in particular reaching underserved and economically disadvantaged children who traditionally do not have access to private enrichment opportunities. The Center impacts over 70,000 annually with its community programs and the Children’s Science Center Lab. The vision of the Center is to build the region’s first world-class children’s science museum on donated land in Dulles, VA.

The Center is grateful for the enthusiastic participation of a community of volunteer mentors, who have come in to lead and facilitate our STEM activities and tell their own stories of success and failure. STEM mentors have included women from NASA, USDA, PBS, FBI, and the Virginia House of Delegates. There are many opportunities through the Center to volunteer and make an impact on our local community. Information can be found here.

After-School All-Stars DC: Helping students become more active, healthy and empowered


Ward 8 is consistently burdened with the highest crime rates and lowest median incomes out of all wards within Washington DC, and while these instances are somewhat commonplace, the impact continues to be devastating. No group has been impacted more than the youth of the surrounding neighborhoods. Recent violence included a fatal shooting of a high school freshman, and a large fight immediately outside a DC public school called Somerset Prep DC. Somerset is one of seven school sites that After-School All-Stars Washington DC (ASAS DC) serves. While these events were occurring in Mid-May, our students at Somerset Prep DC, Leckie Education Campus, Charles Hart Middle School and John Hayden Johnson Middle School were provided a safe environment within their schools, and an opportunity to enrich themselves through education.

After-School All-Stars provides comprehensive after-school programming to middle school students in neglected regions of the country. The DC chapter provides opportunities for students to participate in dynamic courses at no cost to them, and that were not previously available at their schools (e.g. drone engineering, robotics, healthy cooking, yoga, and music production to name a few). It also provides a safe space for our students during the most dangerous time of day, between 3-6 PM when young people within the community are most vulnerable to nefarious activities.


But despite our in-school programming, tangible divides and bitter rivalries continue to permeate between the four schools we serve in Ward 8. This Spring our staff took it upon themselves to create events outside of our traditional programming, with an express focus on bridging the divide between the students at these schools. ASAS DC held a “carnival” Ward 8 field day event in response to the growing tension, where over 100 students and 25 parents were in attendance. Students participated in games, enjoyed performances from their peers, and were provided a chance to foster meaningful friendships with each other.

Beyond spending time together, we also tie in our own values and purpose into events/initiatives. Two weeks after the field day event, students from the four Ward 8 schools gathered at Oxon Run Park, in the heart of South East DC. They participated in a clean-up project to pick up trash and improve the appearance of the park itself. ASAS DC students also completed several community-building activities that required collaboration, and expelling negative preconceptions about their peers from other schools. Most importantly, each student was given an opportunity to share their thoughts with the larger group on how they would solve these issues facing their neighborhood. Profound and meaningful sentiments were shared, with the consistent theme being that they should work together and embrace one another in the face of division and violence.


ASAS DC is proud to serve the students of this diverse and vibrant community, and as we grow and build relationships throughout DC our hope is to bring these opportunities to every middle school student within the District.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Picture1by Aline Newman, Director of Marketing and Communication


My career in science peaked in 4th grade.

My first entry in the school science fair involved a fish bowl, a miniature landfill, a gallon of water, and a love of the environment and the art of improv. I created an elaborate 2-minute demonstration to show judges the effect of pollution on our groundwater supply. As I poured the “rainwater” into the landfill, I accidentally tipped over the water-soaked landfill into the lap of a judge, causing my demonstration to come to an abrupt end. The moral of the story? Pollution — whether in a landfill, or in your lap — affects us all. Nevertheless, my passion for the project and research behind it led me to win the Grand Prize.

Although I’m unlikely to win any future “grand prizes” for my contributions to science (my passions and talents are aligned with the communications field), I do still love to learn about new discoveries, and am grateful that I can indulge in this even more now that I have children of my own. I want many things for my children, and among those things, I want them to be able to pursue their interests and feel encouraged as they explore them. I can’t help but feel proud when I see my children intently reading a book about space, building an intricate object with magnets, or even asking curious questions about the weather (like,why is it so quiet after a snowfall?). Who knows…one day my daughter may be the next great environmental champion, and when she is…I’ll be there supporting her every step of the way.

Today, on the inaugural International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the Catalogue invites you to discover some local charities in our network that provide STEM education for all children. We’re also sharing some charities that focus on instilling confidence in young girls and encouraging them to pursue their passion:

  • ReSET: Places volunteer scientists in PreK-6 schools to teach hands-on science.
  • Passion for Learning: Strives to close academic achievement gap through literacy and technology programs.
  • Washington School for Girls: Transforms lives of girls through tuition-free private education.
  • Girls on the Run (DC) (MoCo) (NoVa): Helps girls build confidence through physical activity.

The following charities have STEM-related wishlist items:

And of course, when you choose to support a Catalogue for Philanthropy charity, you can do so with confidence: each organization in our network has been vetted for excellence.

7 Questions with 826DC Executive Director Joe Callahan

Joe Callahan

What brought me to 826DC was the opportunity to help thousands of students in the District find their voices, to tell their stories, and to develop of love for writing and words”

In honor of National Poetry Month we welcome Joe Callahan, Executive Director of 826DC. 826DC is dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. They provide drop-in tutoring, field trips, after-school workshops, in-schools tutoring, help for English language learners, and assistance with student publications. Joe Callahanjoined 826DC in June of 2010. Prior to this, he worked as a writing professor at both American University and the George Washington University. In addition to teaching, he has worked and consulted for a wide range of non-profit organizations, including public policy institutions, museums, and a renowned literary magazine.

  1. What motivated you to begin working with your organization?

Before joining 826DC, I was an adjunct professor teaching writing at two local universities. I loved being in front of a classroom, but I witnessed students at the college level struggle significantly with writing, organizing their thoughts, and crafting arguments. I thought about my experience learning to write having a couple great teachers who took the extra time to encourage me to explore, discover, and create arguments. I thought about my experience as a young student having teachers who encouraged me to dream up imaginative stories, and reinforced a love and power of words. Finally, I thought about those who might not have those opportunities or those teachers. It drew me to 826DC, then in its infancy. I started as a volunteer and eventually joined the staff, and soon thereafter became the Executive Director. What brought me to 826DC was the opportunity to help thousands of students in the District find their voices, to tell their stories, and to develop of love for writing and words.

  1. What exciting change or innovation is on your mind?

At 826DC we have a small staff and we can only do what we do because of an amazing army of supremely dedicated volunteers. Locally, we have about 1,200 volunteers in our database, and each of them bring a unique blend of skills (and availability) to our work. I am excited about finding creative ways for engaging, recruiting, managing, and appreciating our volunteers one that leverages technology but doesn’t eliminate the important personal side of community building. Nonprofits need to re-think how they engage volunteers and how they provide opportunities for volunteers to contribute whether it be micro volunteering, skills-based, or direct service. By creating an environment that supports and encourages volunteering, we can better deliver our services to our students.

  1. Who inspires you (in the philanthropy world or otherwise)? Do you have a hero?

This is a tough one. There are so many people out there that I respect who are doing such great work. I really look up to the disrupters that are trying to change philanthropy for the better – I am thinking about people like Clarence Wardell III and Karan Jain of tinyGive, who are using technology to create systems to make donating easy and seamless. By eliminating barriers to philanthropy and making it accessible, we can motivate more and more people to participate in philanthropy. As for my hero, I’d say Kurt Vonnegut. Not only my favorite author, he was a fearless storyteller. He ignored genres and conventions and wrote as only he knew how, telling his stories the way he wanted to tell them.

  1. What was your most interesting recent project/partnership?

This spring, 826 National released a STEM and creative writing book called STEM to Story. It is a series of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) experiments that connect with creative writing, like writing the zombie apocalypse, that are structured to help enliven STEM programming while also inspiring students to take on scientific exploration. Locally, we are working with the Points of Light Foundation to recruit a VISTA to help us launch the curriculum. I’m looking forward to working with writing teachers to bring science to their classrooms, and reaching science teachers who may not be familiar with our work.

  1. What is the single greatest challenge that your organization faces (besides finances) and how are you dealing with this challenge?

Strategic Capacity Building. The need for our services is clear. Over the last five years, we have grown from serving a few hundred students to now more than 4,000. In the upcoming school year we hope to serve 5,000 DC public and public charter school students. This growth needs to be thoughtful. It needs to make sense for us as an organization. This growth requires more staff, more volunteers, a larger and more comprehensive infrastructure, and yes, of course, more money. By having a strong strategic plan, and a commitment to our vision, we are able to find the right partners to help us grow steadily but strategically. Our board and staff are passionate about this plan and this growth, and their involvement and investment is imperative. But, this growth takes constant vigilance in order to be successful.

  1. What advice do you have for other people in your position?

I have two major pieces of advice first, being an executive director can be lonely. Build a network of people who understand what you are going through, and what you have to do. They will be huge resources, and don’t undervalue that type of contribution. Second, find something you love that has absolutely nothing to do with work and do it. You need to make time for it. It’s unsustainable if you don’t. For me, my creative passion is writing. I need to do it. I need to create worlds and characters and stories that have nothing to do with my job. I love to play golf and go to baseball games. When I do these things, I can forget about work for a little while and I get to create some distance. And when I get back to the office I am refreshed.

  1. What’s next/coming up for you?

April, National Poetry Month, is a really exciting month. We are partnering with the Academy of American Poets on a project, Read This Poem, which features local poets and their work. It is a great way for us to connect professional poets to our students and to shine a light on the creative community here in D.C.

To read more about Catalogue nonprofits that help grow the writing and poetry community in our DC-Metro Region, click here!

7 Questions: James Woody, Executive Director of Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys

James Woody headshot “I’m hopeful that systemic change will take root, offering the promise of the American Dream to a subset of our society for whom that dream remains particularly elusive.”

In honor of Black History month we welcome James Woody, Executive Director of Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys. The Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys is an Episcopal School for children of low-income families that welcomes boys of all faith traditions. James talks about how the Bishop T Walker School?exists uniquely in the DC education landscape and how he’s working to provide high quality education to boys of color in South East DC.

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7 Questions with Adam Levner, Executive Director of Critical Exposure

AdamAs we wrap up blogs for Artist Awareness Month, we welcome Adam Levner, Executive Director of Critical Exposure to 7 Questions. Critical Exposure trains youth to use photography and advocacy to make real change in their schools and communities. Previously, Adam worked as a fifth grade teacher and then as a community organizer with Stand for Children, where he led successful reform efforts that resulted in over $20 million annually in additional revenue for Prince George’s County, MD school district.

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The Importance of Arts in Youth Empowerment

August is Artist Appreciation Month and we welcome Executive Director Nancy Schwalb from to speak about the important influence of artistic creativity on youth development and empowerment. The D.C. Creative Writing Workshop, based in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Southeast D.C., unites parents, teachers and professional writers-in-residence to transform the lives of youth through self-expression and the power of the written word.

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Helping Nonprofits Build Their Brand

On Tuesday, May 6th,the Catalogue’s Marketing Communications Workshop Series culminated with a session focused on brand-building for nonprofits. The series, sponsored by Integrity Management Consulting, was designed to help nonprofits strengthen their storytelling and value propositions through their writing, imagery, and branding.

Aline Newman, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Catalogue for Philanthropy, presented this session to 40 Catalogue nonprofit attendees. The discussion focused on understanding what a brand is, why branding is important for nonprofits, how it differs from corporate branding, and how nonprofits can use their brand to accelerate their mission. Attendees shared their takeaways from the event on social media with the hashtag #cfpstorytelling.

#cfpstorytelling tweet from Joe's Movement Emporium

It spite of resistance to branding among some in the nonprofit sector (some fear that it is too “corporate” or distracts from activities such as fundraising and program management), the truth is that a brand is one of the most valuable assets in any nonprofit organization. When rooted firmly in an organization’s mission and values, a brand has potential to unite staff, donors and volunteers, as well as attract partners who are best suited to broaden overall impact.

During the workshop, attendees explored the initial steps needed to build a strong brand. A strong brand is not built primarily on logos, colors, or websites, but instead on a thorough understanding of internal identity and external image, and aligning these to establish a sense of trust.

Following the presentation was a lively Q&A and brainstorming session in which nonprofits shared their challenges — and insights — with one another based on recent experiences. Due to the large amount of interest in the topic of branding, the Catalogue is exploring the possibility of developing a new series of workshops devoted to the many areas of this topic. Stay tuned!

Guest Post: One World Education

Today we welcome Eric Goldstein, Founder & Executive Director of One World Education (OWEd) to GoodWorks. OWEd provides middle and high school common core literacy programs and publishes student essays about cultural and global issues, promoting peer-to-peer learning and building skills for college and career writing. Founded in 2007, the teacher-created nonprofit has been recognized throughout the Capital Region as an outstanding literacy program that improves and celebrates student writing. Nationally, OWEd has been featured on Edutopia, ASCD’s Education Blog, Huffington Post, Comcast Newsmakers, and CBS News. In 2013, OWEd was selected as the first writing program to be adopted for all DC Public High Schools.Prior to One World Education, Eric was a middle and high school teacher in a DC Charter School. We’re delighted to welcome Eric & the OWEd team as a new 2013/14 Catalogue partner!

Step Back & Move Forward

by Eric Goldstein, Founder & Executive Director, One World Education

Sometimes the most effective step an organization can take toward improving its programming is to improve the organization behind its programming. Seven years ago in an 8th grade Charter School classroom, where One World Education (OWEd) was created with my 8th grade students, thinking about anything other than involving more students in our successful writing project wasn’t even a speck on the radar.

The success of that classroom project propelled OWEd’s expansion into a citywide organization. Now the organization provides in DC middle and high schools. As students strengthen the skills needed for college and career-level writing, they learn to write and frame arguments about cultural and global issues that they care about. The organization then on its website with aligned curriculum, so students can read and learn about these topics from the perspective of their peers.

Just as our programs ensure that teachers have strong plans for their students, OWEd followed suit and used the last school year to preparing its own strategic goals. The results have spearheaded program improvements, expansion, and more efficient partner collaboration. As a new member organization in the Catalogue of Philanthropy Community, I’ll use this blog post to share some of One World Education’s goals for long-term success and sustainability.

First, schools had asked OWEd about offering more in-school, professional development (PD). We realized that a higher quality of writing was coming from students whose teachers had participated in our trainings. In response, OWEd developed a Teacher Trainer Academy where our educator team trains a teacher from each partner school. These teachers then lead OWEd’s PD in their own schools – creating leadership opportunities, fostering collaboration, and ensuring program expertise exists in each partner school.

Second, OWEd needed to change its partnership model to be more effective. This year the organization transitioned from working with individual schools to working with school districts and Charter school networks. For the 2013-2014 school year, OWEd partnered with DC Public Schools (DCPS) to implement a citywide, high school writing program. Every 9th and 10th grade DCPS student and teacher has the opportunity to participate in the One World Writing Program this year.

OWEd’s third goal was to deepen its commitment to evaluation. With the DCPS partnership in place, OWEd needed a strong evaluation partner to assess our work with 3,500 DCPS high school students and their teachers. This summer, OWEd contracted the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University to lead this citywide evaluation.

The importance of having a strong, long-term plan is often overlooked in the face of short-term gains. As OWEd programs have demonstrated the ability to create successful teaching and learning experiences in classrooms, the organization was also successful in accomplishing its own goals over the past year. I want to thank those of you who have been a part of this accomplishment.

Thank you for your commitment to education and philanthropy.

To learn more about One World Education, please visit, and keep up with Eric’s monthly blog here.

Around Town 10/25-10/31

We are in the final stretch of October (can you believe it?)! See what these great nonprofits are doing to help October go out with a bang! Continue reading