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Amplifying Voices for Racial Equity in Montgomery County

Written by Tyler French, Innovation and Partnerships Director of Story Tapestries

On October 5, 2019, a group of family, friends, new acquaintances, and strangers gathered at the Strathmore Mansion. We were there to share in poetry, storytelling, and conversations about race, difference, and connection. Holding together this constellation is the Amplify US! Initiative, a collaboration between Story Tapestries, Arts on the Block and Impact Silver Spring to unite the voices of the past with those of our future in a dynamic series of workshops, performances and community dialogue. Amplify US! is committed to furthering racial equity in Montgomery County by amplifying underrepresented voices, creating platforms for advocacy and connection, and bringing together community members for necessary conversations.

Amplify US! is a community-led initiative and, as such, is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn’t attended. It’s difficult to capture in words the feeling of the room. The conversations were not necessarily easy or without discomfort, but all were warm and caring. They felt urgent and necessary. Every person who showed up was meant to be there. People lingered longer than usual, already late for a Saturday evening. The performances and conversation created a kind of gravitational force and held us there.

Regie Cabico, Story Tapestries Master Teaching Artist, spoken word poet and performer, MCed the evening. He shared the stage with two professional performers, Jenny Lares and Dwyane B. and Story Tapestries youth and community members, Charles Stokes, Glory Egedigwe, Karina Gorham, and Mimi Hassanein. Each read poems or shared stories ranging in topics from immigration to our education system, the legacy of slavery in the United States, and spaces for finding joy and resilience. It was particularly striking to witness Glory’s excitement when she realized Jenny had performed for her when she was younger. Michelle Faulkner-Forson shared an excerpt from an in-process film project about Amplify US!, documenting the impact of these spaces for storytelling and listening.

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The second half of an Amplify US! event flips the script, asking audience members to join in by having facilitated conversations with each other. Carolyn Lowery of Impact Silver Spring facilitated the conversations, asking audience members to share with each other answers to questions about racial identity, moments of discomfort or disconnect, and moments of connection. Primed by the performances, audience members leapt into conversation with each other, discussing aspects of their lives rarely shared with strangers. The conversations engaged intergenerational connections across race and nationality and the event spilled over its end time as audience members were reluctant to end their conversations.

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Why this urgent need for dialogue?

In 2017, Montgomery County’s Police reported an 26% increase in bias incidents compared to the prior year. Of the incidents reported, roughly half were motivated by bias toward religion and half were motivated by bias toward a race or ethnicity. Story Tapestries took this report as a call to action and collaborated with other local organizations, including the Strathmore and Impact Silver Spring, to call upon our wide networks of concerned individuals to begin meeting and form a Task Force. These community meetings led to the design of what we now call the Amplify US! Initiative.

The statistics highlighted in the Montgomery County Police Department report not only guide the Amplify US! initiative but also filter into our programming across the county. We choose artists in whom youth can see themselves – so we’ve increased the number of male artists involved in these programs to serve as role models and mentors. We’ve also collaborated with organizations that serve the demographics most frequently involved in bias incidents – for example partnering with Latin American Youth Center and their GED program and with the Correctional Facility. Our artistic and administrative staff have been trained to lead dialogue circles and use conflict resolution techniques to support their ability to infuse this aspect into every program we lead and into how we operate and collaborate.

The October 5 performance kicked-off this year’s Amplify US! season. Starting in January, Amplify US! will offer free workshops in communities across Montgomery County. Participants in those workshops will work with artists in multiple art forms and a facilitator to cultivate and share their stories. Similar to the community members described above, those who wish to will have an opportunity to perform in free public performances alongside professional artists after this season’s workshops conclude in Spring 2020.

We want the texture of your voice and your experience to enrich our next conversations. To find out more about upcoming events for Amplify US! and Story Tapestries, please visit our website storytapestries.org – or reach out directly to me at tyler@storytapestries.org.

The October 5 workshop and performance event were made possible by funding from:

Alternate ROOTS

Poets & Writers

October Is National Bullying Prevention Month

Written by Rhonda Lee Thomas, President, DTWT’s Board of Directors

Bullying is an issue very close to the heart of both Do The Write Thing (DTWT) cofounders, Loretta (LoLo) Smith, and myself, Rhonda Lee Thomas.

LoLo, a former teacher, saw firsthand the detrimental effects that being bullied had on child victims, including her own great nieces. They were bullied so badly that their mother withdrew them from a Missouri public school in January 2019 and sent them to DC so LoLo could homeschool them. Instead, LoLo enrolled them in a DC Public School where the principal had established a safe and warm environment for all students. The girls appear in one of DTWT’s kindness/antibullying books along with some of the friends they made in DC.

I faced bullying, racism, and other types of hatred and abuse early in life, growing up in the 1950s in South Dakota, where people of color were scarce. As a lifetime human rights activist, I always speak up against injustice on social media and through kindness/antibullying projects.

Unfortunately for humankind, in 2017, 20% of students age 12-18, reported being bullied at school according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Of students ages 12-18, about 13 percent reported being the subject of rumors; 13 percent reported being made fun of, called names, or insulted; 5 percent reported being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on; and 5 percent reported being excluded from activities on purpose. Parents, guardians, other teachers, and youth must help to develop strategies to handle bullying, which has serious consequences.

DTWT addresses the issue of bullying by teaching children to be kind to one another. We can change the world with one act of kindness at a time! We observed National Bullying Prevention Month in October by focusing our attention on solutions to the critical problem of bullying. As we do every year, DTWT kicked off our month‑long antibullying activities on the first Monday of October. For example, LoLo and I encourage our youth to perform ten acts of kindness during this month.

We also produce kindness/antibullying books, posters, and other materials with our students. Our personalized books feature DC Public School children dressed in superhero costumes; after all, we are superheroes who fight bullying with kindness! One six-year old girl loved her book so much that she slept with it under her pillow, ate with it at breakfast, and brought it to school every day! Our books are available for public consumption on Amazon, including the following titles:

DTWT Book Covers

This year, on October 5th, World Day of Bullying Prevention (also called Blue Shirt Day), DTWT students at Plummer Elementary School signed No-Bullying Pledges and posted them on their customized No‑Bullying Pledge Wall:

DTWT’s NO-BULLYING PLEDGE

  • I pledge to stop bullying my siblings at home.
  • I pledge to stop bullying my classmates at school.
  • I pledge to stop bullying my classmates on the playground.
  • I pledge to stop bullying on the Internet.
  • I pledge to tell an adult when I see someone being bullied.
  • I pledge to say no to bullying like a superhero.

DTWT Kids

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DTWT’s efforts to prevent bullying won’t stop tomorrow on October 31st when National Bullying Prevention Month ends. DTWT continues its bullying prevention efforts throughout the school year. DTWT has developed a unique Kindness Project that we implement year-round at elementary schools. The Kindness Project includes:

  • Personalization of a book about kindness
  • Independent readers recording the text of the book to create CDs
  • A kindness pledge
  • Friendship songs
  • Group writing stories about kindness
  • Reading books about friendship and kindness from a recommended list compiled by the DC Public Library, such as “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein
  • Creating posters with kindness slogans and transferring slogans onto tee shirts and other clothing. Advanced students have the opportunity to walk the runway in a fashion presentation that features girls and dolls in matching clothing with kindness slogans.

This year, Plummer Elementary School students will stage the anti-bullying musical, Corduroy: A Bear In Search of Acceptance and Friendship, during the December holiday season. The musical explores the issues of bullying and the importance of friendship.

DTWT is proud to continue promoting kindness among children during Bullying Prevention Month and year-round!

Visit DTWT’s page at the Catalogue For Philanthropy website.

 

A Typical Saturday

Written by Laura Beth Williams, OMM Program Manager at Josh Anderson Foundation

On a typical Saturday at 8:00 a.m., if I were to walk into a school building, it would likely be completely empty. On Saturday, October 5th, there were over 60 students who woke up early, organized transportation, and met at Fairfax High School just after sunrise. Why would they do such a thing? These students came together to work on common goals: practicing mindfulness, learning about protective and risk factors, performing coping skills exercises, and engaging in conversations to address the stigma around mental health at the third annual Our Minds Matter (OMM) Teen Summit hosted by the Josh Anderson Foundation.

When planning the annual summit, we wanted to reflect the values and goals OMM. Naturally, this meant the summit should be student-led. Five OMM student leaders facilitated our Mental Health 101 activity and coping skills stations. Seeing the students positively influencing their peers throughout the summit exemplified the importance of amplifying students’ voices and was a special thing to witness.

If you have ever worked with students you know that they can easily become disengaged or distracted. One of the most remarkable aspects of the day spent with these students was seeing how they stayed engaged throughout the entire four-hour summit.

We concluded the day with our guest speaker, Dr. Marc Brackett from the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence. When adults (especially doctors) speak to teens, they can oftentimes be perceived as a little boring, but not Dr. Brackett. In fact, the students reported that learning “name it to tame it” was one of their favorite parts of the summit. Plus, you always get brownie points for free swag. Especially when it’s a book that teaches you how to unlock the power of emotions to help kids, ourselves, and our society.

Why does any of this matter? Suicide has grown to become the second leading cause of youth deaths in the United States. Teens today are reporting the highest levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than in recent decades. We at the Josh Anderson Foundation believe it is critical to reverse this trend by providing training and material support that empowers student leaders to effectively deliver OMM activities to their peers on topics such as Mental Health 101, Stigma Reduction, Resource Awareness, Healthy Habits and Healthy Mindset.

The OMM model is student-led and is the first of its kind to offer structure and support for the high school population. If it’s anything we are learning as we develop this program, it’s that our kids want to support each other. They care for one another, and sometimes all it takes is providing them with opportunity. We see it every day, and we want as many people to see it as possible.

If you would like to learn more about the OMM program, please visit www.ourmindsmatter.org. To learn more about the Josh Anderson Foundation, visit www.joshandersonfoundation.org.

“I had so much fun and especially loved the guest speaker. The summit left me super inspired and excited for the future of OMM” – Edison High School

“Thank you so much for coming I really needed to hear it” -Oakton High School

Executive Director of the Josh Anderson Foundation, Lauren Anderson, welcoming students.  Photo: Donnie Biggs/Fairfax County Public Schools

Executive Director of the Josh Anderson Foundation, Lauren Anderson, welcoming students.
Photo: Donnie Biggs/Fairfax County Public Schools

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.

Nate Green - CFP Blog

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.

 

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.

Is Democracy a Verb?

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

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!

 

Back to School Means Healthy Relationships For Children… and Adults

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

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!

 

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

Written by Nicole Lynn Lewis, Generation Hope’s Founder & Chief Executive Officer.?

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!

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

Written by Daniela Jungova, Development & Communications Manager at 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.

“It’s surprising what I can do when I can understand the language.”

What makes you feel like an integral part of a community?

It is not only the ability to work, live, and support yourself through daily routines, but more importantly, it is being connected with the environment around you, and being able to easily access the lifestyle you want. These basic needs — which come so naturally that they often go unnoticed for many of us – can be a huge barrier for someone for whom English is not their first language.

During back-to-school season, we would like to share Diana’s story with you. As Diana first settled down in the United States, she felt “isolated” from the community and was not able to do anything without her fiance. However, after she started to learn English and improve her language skills, she could once again access what she enjoys in life. At the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV), we are delighted to see that as Diana improves her English and is able to access more resources, she is gradually more connected to the community she lives in, and can finally call where she lives “home.” Here is Diana’s story in her own words:

“Hi, my name is Diana. I’m from Colombia. I arrived here one year ago. I live in Springfield, VA, with my fiance. I’m going to get married soon. I’m so excited to be able to say my vows in English. My native tongue is Spanish. By learning English I can do many things that I couldn’t do in my community, school, work and my daily life.

“Since taking English classes, I can buy groceries, toiletries, shoes, clothes, and different things in many places. If my fiance can’t take me to work, I can take the bus or train and can ask how to get back home. Also, I like it when I go to restaurants and can get my favorite food the way I like it.

“Sincerely, by knowing English, I feel more confident talking with different people about the weather, news and hobbies. I like that I now understand movies or series from Netflix, TV, and theaters. I love to read so I can expand my knowledge with new vocabulary each day.

“In my job, I can be involved with the customers, friends, new people, and my boss, of course. My favorite part is that now I can hang out with friends and go out with them. It’s surprising what I can do when I can understand the language.

“English has transformed my life. If I keep learning it, I know that I’m going to college to validate my career to be able to get a better life to help my family, friends and society.”

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LCNV believes that by providing adults the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English, they can access employment and educational opportunities and more fully and equitably participate in the community. If you know someone who wants to improve their English skills to more fully participate in the community, visit our website and become a learner with LCNV this fall. View our Fall Schedule here and attend one of our many registrations, running now through Thursday, September 12.