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Unwavering Belief in the Potential of Youth with BUILD MetroDC

by Bryce Jacobs, Executive Director, BUILD Metro DC

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BUILD was created with the audacious notion that students at the highest risk of dropping out of high school have the power to become self-starters who can change the trajectory of their lives. BUILD has seen that holistic academic support, combined with business training, leads to long-term success both in the classroom and beyond high school. We like to say that, “entrepreneurship is the hook; college is the goal.”

Through the process of developing and managing their own businesses, BUILD students experience first-hand how their academics are not only relevant, but also crucial, to life beyond the classroom. The result is a vital sense of ownership over their education and careers. As the applicability of school to “real life” becomes clear, and as students gain important skills, the BUILD program stimulates their motivation, challenges them to set high expectations for themselves, and empowers them to succeed.
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BUILD holds an unwavering belief in the potential of youth. Unlike many other youth programs, BUILD Metro DC targets students who are not are not on-track academically and might not consider college an option. Furthermore, many BUILD students are at a socio-economic disadvantage, and will be the first generation in their family to earn a college degree.

For this school year, BUILD is serving nearly 350 students at six schools in the Metro DC area: Columbia Heights Education Campus, Eastern Senior High School, Friendship Collegiate Academy, Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy, Roosevelt Senior High School, and The SEED School of Washington, D.C. And, for the first time ever, BUILD is also working with the entire 8th grade class at Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy Middle School.

In Washington, DC, only 69% of high school students graduate high school on time compared to the national average of 78%. Of those who do graduate on time, only 50% enroll in college. With such low graduation rates in DC, the dropout crisis does not just impact individual lives, it cripples our local economy and sets our city’s competitiveness behind. BUILD Metro DC launched in 2008 to stem the tide of high school dropouts and prepare students for college.

Our nation’s education system itself is woefully outdated. Students are not being taught the skills they need to thrive in the 21st Century, particularly in under-resourced communities in urban environments. BUILD aims to change that. With a focus on skills like creative problem solving, effective communication, self-management, collaborating effectively with others, grit and determination – what we describe as the “entrepreneurial mindset”. BUILD uses entrepreneurship to prepare young people for the Innovation Era and to get them engaged in their education.

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While I’m passionate about BUILD’s curriculum and how it engages our students with a very hands-on, experiential learning model, what truly inspires me are our students. There’s Jada and Imani, and Daniel, to name a few. They came to BUILD uncertain of the possibilities and opportunities available in their future, and exceeded their own expectations.

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For us, our outcomes speak for themselves. The impact of BUILD’s program on the achievement of low-income students is notable even after only one year: in the lowest performing schools in which BUILD serves students, BUILDers with just one year of BUILD graduate at a rate up to 56% higher than their peers. In higher-performing schools, BUILDers graduation attainment is 12-15% above the average for their low-income school peers.

The results of BUILD’s program speak to the impact of our model on student achievement and success. Since BUILD Metro DC’s first class of students became high school seniors in 2012, 95% of seniors have graduated from high school on time and 95% have been accepted to a college or university. In the 2016-17 school year, BUILD Metro DC’s accomplishments included a 100% on-time graduation rate for seniors and a 100% rate of acceptance to at least one college. Collectively, BUILD seniors were accepted to 100 colleges and won $1.4m in scholarships.

Further, BUILD students persist in college at a higher average than their peers. Research conducted by BUILD demonstrated that BUILD’s 2013 graduates enrolled in more four-year colleges, compared to two-year colleges, than their peers at the national level. For BUILD’s target demographic of low income, 100% minority, urban high school students, 75% of BUILD students in 2013 enrolled in a four-year college compared to 57% nationally. Moreover, BUILD students are on track to have higher college graduation rates within six years than the national average for both the target demographic of low-income minority students, and overall nationally.

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Because the nature of our work is so collaborative, a great day at BUILD is when everyone – program staff, BUILD teachers, mentors, and students – are in sync. In practice, that means teachers, staff and mentors are creating a safe and inclusive space for learning, collaboration and creativity. It means students are not just dreaming about but acting on their desire to start a business, tour prospective colleges and experience potential careers with professionals who host them throughout the city. It means that we are working relentlessly to reduce the opportunity gap for our students and work together to collectively impact our student’s success.

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BUILD could not do our work without the involvement of committed volunteers. Mentors play a critical role by working with students on a weekly basis to support their businesses and academics. Annually, BUILD recruits and trains 100 mentors who fulfill their mentor requirements of working with students (10th – 12th graders) on a weekly basis, starting in the 6th week of the school year, for 1.5 hours per week, to support their business and academic pursuits. Mentors are college-educated professionals who expose students to different career options while serving as reliable, caring adults.

BUILD also offers one-time volunteer opportunities where professionals from the community serve as judges at Business Pitch Competitions or serve on college and career panels.

Individuals interested in volunteering and supporting BUILD should contact us at builddcinfo@build.org.

Washington Improv Theater: The Case for Laughter

by Sarah Marksteiner, Washington Improv Theater
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A Need for Laughter
In Washington, D.C. (and throughout the country), people crave connection and community – yet we increasingly isolate ourselves. While our world becomes more digitally connected, we grow increasingly disconnected from one another, caught up in the grind of DC life. Now, more than ever, we need to find common ground and engage. We need to laugh and communicate with one another.

Washington Improv Theater has created a space that ignites genuine human connection – a community fueled by the deeply impactful nature of longform improv. At WIT, improv brings people from diverse backgrounds, often with seemingly little in common, together to learn and play in a safe and judgement-free zone. Through improv that WIT aims to unleash the creativity of Washingtonians.

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Inspiring levity through dynamic, one-of-a-kind performances
Artists at WIT practice longform improv, an exercise of live, collaborative theater in which actors can weave complex stories set in any space and cast themselves in any role. Each performance becomes an unscripted, thrilling world premiere. Washington Improv Theater hosts over 300 performances per year.

Improvisation as a form uniquely engages audiences by sharing with them the moment of creation. Our community of six company ensembles and seven Harold teams establishes warm rapport with our audiences as they create one-night-only works of art. WIT also stages special project shows including the satirical mock election POTUS Among Us where improvisers lobby for audience votes and the dark, dramatic murder mystery Citizens’ Watch inspired by the British TV series Broadchurch.

A treasured patron tradition is our weekly free Harold Night, where our teams bring new life to the classic format. Each night ends in a community-wide improv ‘jam’ where novice audience members can try their hand at improv alongside seasoned performers and current students.

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Creating connecting through arts education
At WIT, we believe improv is for everyone. Our inclusive classes program, which enrolls 1,500 annually, attracts a student body spanning age, career, and economic background to its curriculum. And we take accessibility seriously. We offer at least two free Improv for All workshops monthly, reaching every ward of the District. This year, we proudly launched our first Diversity Scholarship toward tuition in the classes program with the aim to ensure more diverse communities can pursue improv.

The benefits of improv skills like confidence, creativity, and supportive collaboration are universal. Our WIT@Work program enhances these skills in the professional sphere by conducting applied improv training seminars in the workplace. WIT@Work more than doubled in scope last year alone, bringing a spirit of “Yes, and” to organizations like Deloitte, Goodwill, NIH, The American Red Cross, and NPR.

Our growing youth programming teaches the District’s kids the power of positive collaboration and creativity. Our work includes engagements at DC Public Elementary Schools such as a semester-long after-school program at Marie Reed Elementary School.

Get involved in our community
There are a myriad of ways you can get involved with Washington Improv Theater.

Preparing Students for a Complex and Changing World With Center for Inspired Teaching

By Rebecca Bauer, Project Manager, Inspired Teaching
BlogPhoto1Only weeks after beginning my job at Inspired Teaching, I had the opportunity to participate in the Summer Intensive component of the organization’s signature program, the Inspired Teaching Institute. At the Institute, educators participate in hands-on, improvisation-based activities to align themselves around best-practices for engagement-based instruction.

When I arrived on Day 1, I didn’t know exactly what that meant or what I should expect, but I’d been told the Institute is something I had to experience to truly understand. Less than two weeks later, I’d bonded with a cohort of amazing teachers, danced and sang, lesson planned and discussed ways to address students’ needs.

I’d used yo-yos to learn about inquiry-based education. I’d honed my ability to think creatively by overcoming obstacles while climbing imaginary mountains. Now, I was beginning to truly understand: when colleagues had told me that Inspired Teaching leads transformative teacher trainings, they really meant transformative.

A particularly impactful activity challenged teachers to examine their understanding of discipline and what that word means and looks like. Gathered around two sheets of chart paper, the facilitator sternly said, “This school needs more discipline,” and asked the group to share what words come to mind when they think of “discipline.” Teachers began shouting out words. Punishment. Consequences. Control. They had no trouble brainstorming a vast list. Suspension. No Recess. Phone call home. After the sheet of chart paper was covered in words that gave many flashbacks to their own days of being sent to the principal’s office, the facilitator told us to close our eyes. “Imagine you are a skilled artist,” she said. We sat focusing on this idea for a moment, envisioning our crafts, the skills that we’d honed. “Now open your eyes. Tell me what words come to mind when I say discipline.” An entirely new list began to form. Dedication. Focus. Self-control. Sacrifice. Passion. We examined the two lists, noting the stark differences, pointing out that the lists had very few words in common. The activity left participants thinking about how schools need to shift from enforcing a rigid set of rules to preparing students to be good citizens of our complex and rapidly changing world.

FILE2369Through thought provoking activities like this one, as well as many others that required more flexibility (physically, emotionally, and mentally), the Institute demonstrated that – for both teachers and students – creativity and rigor are not mutually exclusive, but rather go hand in hand.

In addition to being a fun, joyful and refreshing program, it was inspiring to witness the teachers engage in serious reflection on their practices, learning about themselves and discovering new ways to reach their students. One teacher commented, “Institute has helped me look at the types of ways I can elevate my teaching practices emotionally, psychologically, and physically.” Another shared, “Institute has fine-tuned my metacognition and skills of perception.” Most importantly, while teachers celebrated the growth that took place at the intensive, they also acknowledged that there is always more work to be done – which is why the Institute includes seminars and ongoing support throughout the year.

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The Inspired Teaching Institute, comprised of the summer Intensive and seminars throughout the school year, is only one of Inspired Teaching’s many programs that serve teachers and students in the DC area. From the Residency program that prepares pre-service teachers for successful, sustainable careers to Real World History, a hands-on course that provides students an internship experience where they cultivate the skills of an historian, all of our programs authentically engage participants to become changemakers in their schools, districts, and communities.

Given that students report feeling bored during 70% of their time in school and stressed for 80% of it, we need changemakers now more than ever. If you’re questioning whether Inspired Teaching’s professional development can really impact these bleak statistics, if you’re skeptical that we can create meaningful changes to our education system, one teacher at a time, I hear you. Two weeks ago, I was skeptical, too, but I’ll tell you what my colleagues told me: You have to experience it to truly understand.

Knowing that seeing is believing, we host visits to our programs each month. If you’d like to see Inspired Teaching in action, sign up for our newsletter for the latest updates!

Youth-Led Social Innovation at Home and Abroad

by Emma Strother, Development Manager, LearnServe International.

LearnServe is creating a culture of youth-led social innovation in the Washington, DC area. We believe in the power of young people to affect social change, and in the power of social change work to shape young leaders. We provide in-school, extracurricular, and abroad trip-based social entrepreneurship training to middle and high school students from public, charter, and independent schools in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
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[I] recently had a debate about whether or not Washington, DC had the same genuineness as Paraguay. Andrenae -rising Junior at Ballou High School-having just returned from a LearnServe Abroad trip to Paraguay.

In a blog post, she urges her readers to let new experiences put their lives in perspective. Here’s my opinion, if you haven’t opened up your thoughts, your heart, and your mind to new people and new things, you will never fully experience the opportunities given to you.
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Andrenae is one of 54 students and teachers who returned on Wednesday from LearnServe Abroad trips to Jamaica, Paraguay, Zambia, and (for the first time!) South Africa. Her insights remind us why LearnServe International takes young social entrepreneurs abroad. Our students build the courage to travel far outside their comfort zones, and the strength to grow as leaders through these experiences.

This year for the first time, LearnServe is proud to partner with Eastern High School, the DC Public Schools, Empowering Males of Color initiative, and the organization Empowering Men of Excellence to send 14 students and 1 teacher on a LearnServe trip to South Africa. The group explored the vibrant social enterprise scene in Johannesburg and Cape Town, conducted a human-centered design workshop with their South African peers, and volunteered with local organizations.

Across the trips, our students worked with dynamic community leaders and entrepreneurs to deepen their understanding of local solutions to global issues. On the LearnServe Blog, they reflected on the implications of their experiences for their communities back home and their personal growth.
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As Jayme-rising Junior at Eastern High School-put it, “I want you to think about how your presence can affect the lives of others who may not have the same opportunities as you. Think about how whenever you meet and spend time with new people, you are creating memories.”

You can access an in-depth look at our students – and teachers – experiences in Jamaica, Paraguay, Zambia, and South Africa on the LearnServe Blog (learn-serve.org/blog) and in our online photo albums (flickr.com/people/cie-wis).

Skills for the Future with Washington Youth Garden

by Crystal Williams, Communications and Events Manager, Washington Youth Garden
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Washington Youth Garden (WYG) is a program of Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) on the grounds of the US National Arboretum and uses the garden cycle to enrich science learning, inspire environmental stewardship and cultivate healthy food choices in youth and families. WYG has three subprograms within the organization; SPROUT (Science Program Reaching Out) – field trip program, Green Ambassador Program- high school internship program, and Garden Science – school garden development program.

In 2016, 3,140 students visited the garden on nearly 100 SPROUT trips while 90% of SPROUT participants tasted something new from the garden.

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This year from April through June, we’ve already served 2,500 students through our SPROUT program and 15 new high school Green Ambassadors joined us for the busy summer ahead!

Gardening and carpentry skills are not the only thing our students gain in the garden, as illustrated by the following quote:

“The Green Ambassador Program] gave me a lot of skills for future jobs and helped me grow as a person as well. A lot of my peers come from very different backgrounds, so it gave me a lot of new perspectives.”
-DeWayne Walker, Green Ambassador Program 2016

This year we celebrate our new education pavilion. The new pavilion at Washington Youth Garden’s demonstration garden is the result of a partnership between the Weissberg Foundation, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations working together to benefit school groups and families from underserved D.C. neighborhoods and other communities in the region. The pavilion is dedicated to the late Judith Morris, who was passionate about sharing nature and the Arboretum with surrounding communities and underserved youth. The pavilion provides a much-needed outdoor classroom space for young people coming to our demonstration plot to learn about environmental science and nutrition.
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We encourage the community to be a part of Washington Youth Garden by either attending an event such as Family Garden Day on August 12th or volunteering with us. Volunteer as an individual or bring a group. Individuals should sign-up for an orientation here. Volunteering as a group with Washington Youth Garden is a fun and active outdoor experience that is sure to build staff cohesion outside the office. For more information visit our website at www.washingtonyouthgarden.org

Around Town

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Monday, June 19, 2017
The Young Playwrights’ Workshop Presents…
Young Playwrights’ Theater

The Young Playwrights’ Workshop is YPT’s award-winning student theater ensemble. Members work together to create, develop, rehearse and perform an original play. A professional teaching artist helps the ensemble develop a foundation of theater skills that form the basis for creating new work. Students learn a diverse set of skills: improvisation, stage combat, clowning, solo performance and playwriting. The final performance is presented as part of CulturalDC’s prestigious Source Festival. This performance is free and open to the public. 6:30pm Reception 7pm Performance

Event Information

When: Monday, June 19, 2017 (6:30 PM – 8:30 PM)
Where: Source Theater, 1835 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 map
Fee: all tickets are Pay-What-You-Can
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will help check in guests, set up and run the reception and clean up after the event. All volunteers are welcome to watch the performance.
Contact: Laura Wood, (202) 387-9173

Around Town 5/18-26

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

CASA in the Community: Stream Clean-up

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Prince George’s County
Join CASA for a day in the community! As part of our events in honor of National Foster Care Month, CASA staff and volunteers as well as other members of our neighborhood will work to clean up the stream behind our office which is a part of the Anacostia watershed. We will have support from the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, Sustainable Initiatives Division. Come join us for a day of giving back as we contribute to the beautification of our neighborhood and cleanliness of the Anacostia watershed. Lunch for volunteers will be sponsored by Douglas Development. Sign up to join us!

When: Thu May 18 2017 (11:30 AM – 3:00 PM)
Where: CASA Headquarters, 6811 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737
Fee: no
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will use provided tools and supplies to help to clean litter out of the stream and nearby embankment
Contact: Kara Bundy, (301) 209-0491
For more information: click here

The Crucible

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s retelling of hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials written when America was experiencing similar fears over communism. Long considered an American classic.

When: Thu May 18 2017 (7:30 PM)
Where: The Theatre Lab, 733 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Fee: yes $15 – Adults $10 – Students
Volunteer Info: Ushering, concession sales, etc.
Contact: Dane Petersen, (202) 824-0449
For more information: click here

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Crucible

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s retelling of hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials written when America was experiencing similar fears over communism. Long considered an American classic.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Kids to Parks Day

National Park Trust
Kids to Parks Day is a nation-wide day of outdoor play organized by National Park Trust (NPT) in cooperation with a host of local and national collaborators. Next year’s KTP Day will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2017, the week before the official start of summer. NPT is encouraging childrenacross the country to explore their neighborhood parks and discover science, history, nature and adventure right around the corner or just across town. Visit us at kidstoparks.org. Note: The address listed is the National Park Trust corporate office. Events will be held nationwide.

When:Sat May 20 2017 (00:00 AM – 11:45 PM)
Where:Nationwide, 401 E. Jefferson St., Rockville, MD 20850
Fee:no
Contact:Chris Reif, (301) 279-7275
For more information:click here

Laurel Community Day 5K & 1 Mile Walk

First Generation College Bound
Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services, Inc. (LARS) and First Generation College Bound (FGCB) are joining forces for a 5K to kick off Laurel High School’s Community Day! The 5K run and 1 mile walk begin at McCullough Field on Saturday, May 20th, starting at 8AM and following Laurel’s official5K course through Riverfront Park and Old Towne. All proceeds from this joint fundraiser will be split between LARS and FGCB to help advance our shared vision for the Laurel community: a place where everyone has the support they need to rise above difficult economic circumstances. After the 5K, the fun continues just up the road at Laurel High School, including a car show, food trucks, a moon bounce, and more from 11-3PM. Pick up your race packet and t-shirt on Friday, May 19th from 3-6PM at LARS (311 Laurel Ave, Laurel MD 20707). Registration and packet pick-up is also available on the morning of the race at McCullough Field, starting at 7AM. Registration for runners and walkers is $35 after May 1 and includes a commemorative race t-shirt. Visit www.laureladvocacy.org to register online or to download a paper registration form. Can’t make it this year? Register as a “sleepwalker” and you’ll still receive a race t-shirt! Contact Laura Wellford at (301) 776-0442 ext. 27 or lwellford@laureladvocacy.org for more information or Nickole Conyngham at (301) 490-0911 or nconyngham@fgcb.org on sponsoring, participating, or volunteering.

When:Sat May 20 2017 (08:00 AM)
Where:McCullough Field, Montgomery & 8th Street, Laurel, MD 20707
Fee:yes $35
Volunteer Info:course marshals, clean up, set up, refreshments
Contact:Nickole Conyngham, (301) 490-0911

Eiko Otake

Dance Place
A Body in Places is Eiko Otake’s first solo project, the scale of which varies radically between locations and incorporates both performative and non-performative elements. Central to the project is a drive to explore non-traditional venues and to respond to the innate characteristics of each specificplace. At the core of each variant is Eiko alone on a colorful futon, projecting and exploring solitude, gaze, fragility and intimacy. In Eiko & Komas performances, two bodies represent drama even when the other was absent. A Body in Places does not offer such drama. Performing as a soloist, Eiko Otake willfully partners with the particularities of places and viewers. In October 2014, Eiko Otake launched A Body in Places project with the photo exhibition A Body in Fukushima and her performance A Body in a Station in 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. The durational performances began Eiko’s exploration of how the fragility of the body within public places mutually affects and is affected by the gaze of passers by. Eiko Otake will be bringing her A Body in Places project to 8th St NE for a residency: Saturday, May 20 11:00 am: FREE Outdoor Performance of A Body in Places at the Brookland’s Monroe Street Farmer’s Market on the Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market (716 Monroe St NE) 7:00pm: FREE Outdoor performance of A Body in Places on 8th St NE, concluding in Dance Place’s Cafritz Foundation Theater and followed by A Body in Fukushima lecture / photo demonstration (Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE)

When:Sat May 20 2017 (11:00 AM)
Where:Dance Place 8th Street Arts Park, 3225 8th Street NE, Washington, District Of Columbia 20017
Fee:no
Contact:Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1608
For more information:click here

The Crucible

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s retelling of hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials written when America was experiencing similar fears over communism. Long considered an American classic.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Red Shoe 5K Run and Walk

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC
7th Annual Red Shoe 5K Run and Walk. Kids Fun

When:Sun May 21 2017 (09:00 AM)
Where:Dulles Station, Herndon, VA, Dulles Station, Herndon, VA 20171
Fee:yes $35 for adult participation ($40 day of)
Volunteer Info:General race assistance, manning sign-in tables, distributing refreshments etc
Contact:Kristen Claus, (202) 529-8204
For more information:click here

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Senior PGA Championship

LIFT-DC
Volunteer on behalf of LIFT-DC to staff one of the food vending stations during the Senior PGA Championship. Each completed 6-8 hour volunteer shift on behalf of LIFT-DC results in a donation to our organization. Volunteers receive one parking passes and one meal during the day of their shift, as wellas a non-transferable complimentary pass that allows volunteers to watch tournament play before/after their shifts.

When:Thu May 25 2017 (07:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Where:20391 Lowes Island Blvd, Potomac Falls, VA 20165
Fee:no
Volunteer Info:Volunteers will staff food vending stations for 6-8 hour shifts where they will take food orders, serve food and/or helping staff the cash register.
Contact:David Wyman, (202) 750-8417

Friday, May 26, 2017

Senior PGA Championship

LIFT-DC
Volunteer on behalf of LIFT-DC to staff one of the food vending stations during the Senior PGA Championship. Each completed 6-8 hour volunteer shift on behalf of LIFT-DC results in a donation to our organization. Volunteers receive one parking passes and one meal during the day of their shift, as wellas a non-transferable complimentary pass that allows volunteers to watch tournament play before/after their shifts.

When:Fri May 26 2017 (07:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Where:20391 Lowes Island Blvd, Potomac Falls, VA 20165
Fee:no
Volunteer Info:Volunteers will staff food vending stations for 6-8 hour shifts where they will take food orders, serve food and/or helping staff the cash register.
Contact:David Wyman, (202) 750-8417

A Local Recipe for Healthy Kids

by Emma Boel, City Blossoms
IMG_6151 City Blossoms is a nonprofit dedicated to fostering healthy, diverse communities by developing creative, kid-driven green spaces and innovative resources.

Working out of Washington DC as its home base, City Blossoms innovates new resources and techniques in urban, educational gardening and youth empowerment. City Blossoms facilitates local empowerment within predominantly black and Latino populations by partnering with schools and organizations, maintaining Community Green Spaces, and offering tools and trainings to educators and community leaders. Their holistic approach incorporates art, gardens, science, cooking, healthy living, and community building into one joyful and educational experience for people of all ages.
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The nonprofit reached a total of 3,500 students at its gardens in 2016, and boasted 300 hours of free programming at its two community green spaces in the same year. Washingtonians rave about the results. One garden parent, a city native, insists, “Programs like City Blossoms are absolutely vital to the youth of DC.”

This impactful work has recently resulted in an exciting new outcome: City Blossoms just printed a cookbook.
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Garden Gastronomy, Gastronomia del Jardin is a vibrant collection of bilingual recipes designed to help children become enthusiastic and healthy chefs. Perfect for the educator, parent, or veggie enthusiast interested in sharing the joy of cooking with kids, this artfully constructed book is full of colorful photographer and cheerful illustration to make it an appealing treat for readers of all ages. The book includes 32 bilingual garden recipes, guidance on cooking seasonally with local produce, and tips for preparing food with kids.

The recipes include snacks and dishes like Sunflower Seed Pesto, Strawberry Mint Salad, and Garden Ramen. It’s a valuable product in-and-of-itself, however, the book’s most important feature may be its local roots.

Every recipe has been made time and time again by thousands of little hands. Every dish comes with the approval of young DC gardeners, who have built this book in the same way they have built their gardens: themselves. City Blossoms wrote and published the book after testing and tasting each recipe in the gardens with young chefs. They hope it will reach educators, gardeners, parents, and food justice activists. They hope it will find readership around the country. However, they know that these dishes have already made their way into the homes of the children who provided the energy for its creation, and that feels like a great start.
FullSizeRender 8The best days at City Blossoms are those full of community. We love to have volunteers at our garden work days, participants in our Open Time programming, and visitors at our public Community Green Spaces. To buy a copy of the cookbook, to connect with us, or to become a member of our essential team of donors and partners, visit our website at cityblossoms.org.

Nourishing Body and Soul at Thrive DC

By Greg Rockwell, Community Relations Manager, Thrive DC

Thrive DC is a “one-stop shop” for homeless services in Columbia Heights. We provide a range of services to help clients take their next step out of homelessness AND avoid becoming homeless in the first place.
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Since 2002, the average rent has gone up $3,000. At the same time, DC has lost HALF of its affordable housing to gentrification and luxury condos.

For the 8,000 – 10,000 already homeless individuals, and the many more living on the edge of poverty, that means DC has literally no room for them. We are experiencing a crisis where people are living on the street without resources and people in housing are just trying to hang on.

Thrive DC acts as an anchor and support system to these people to help them take their next step out of homelessness.

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“There is a spirit of community that infuses the organization. The direct services provided are necessary for the body, but the community serves the soul. Who’s to say which is the more valuable? Both are necessary and both can be found in great measure at Thrive DC.” — Volunteer

In 2019 we will celebrate 40 years of service to DC’s homeless population. In honor of that milestone we are also looking for a new space that we can grow in and provide even better service to our clients.

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Our clients are our inspiration, and our relationships with them drive everything we do. We get so excited to see them succeed!

When clients achieve the goals they set for themselves; to get sober, to get a job, to get housing, to re-establish their lives after years of incarceration – that’s what success looks like for us.

A great day includes a client achieving their goals, a big donation of socks or underwear, and a fresh baked plate of our Development Director’s world famous macaroons.

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Thrive DC is located in Columbia Heights, on the bottom level of St. Stephen’s Church at 16th St & Newton St NW. We love volunteers, and need around 20 volunteers a day to help with our breakfast & dinner programs, employment programs, and front desk work.

One of the biggest things people can do is to take our business cards and keep them in their wallet, purse, or pocket. We encourage people to interact with panhandlers as their conscience dictates, but also to always let clients know the next place to get more help.

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Defend Waterways of the Potomac with Potomac Riverkeeper Network

By Nathan Ackerman, VP Communication & Creative, Potomac Riverkeeper Network

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Photography: Lindsay Bernal, courtesy of Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a non-profit environmental organization fighting to keep pollution out of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers through grassroots organizing and legal advocacy.

We believe experiencing our rivers builds appreciation for them. We defend and enhance public access to the waterways of the Potomac watershed through Riverkeepers, who identify and address threats to the Potomac, Upper Potomac, and the Shenandoah.

We serve the 6 million people who rely on our rivers as the source of their drinking water, the thousands of recreational users of the rivers, and the many more who may never spend time on our rivers but appreciate their beauty, and the vital role they play in our economy and the ecosystems they sustain.

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Photography: Lindsay Bernal, courtesy of Potomac Riverkeeper Network

We protect and defend our rivers because they sustain life. Our rivers supply our drinking water and put food on the table. Keeping our rivers healthy keeps the Chesapeake Bay healthy – which generates 33 billion in recreational and economic benefits each year. But beyond the economic benefits, we believe our rivers have intrinsic value that merits protection.

The work we do is important because our country still allows industry, municipalities and agricultural operations to externalize significant costs by using our rivers to dispose of their waste and pollution. Proposed rollbacks of federal clean water protections make our work more important than ever – local vigilance, citizen action, public education and engagement are the last lines of defense.

Our work in Alexandria, Virginia kept nearly a billion gallons of sewage and contaminated stormwater out of the Potomac by exposing the extent to which the city was polluting our nation’s river. Generating pressure through the media and raising public awareness cut over a decade off of the original plan for fixing the problem.

When we discovered families in Dumfries, Virginia were being poisoned by toxic coal ash leaking into their drinking water, we organized the community, and worked to get a law passed to address the situation.

We are inspired by the belief that people have a fundamental right to clean water. We are inspired by single moms working two jobs who find time to speak up for the environment at public hearings. We are inspired by the fact that nearly 50 years ago President Lyndon Johnson called the Potomac River “a national disgrace” but today long lines lead to the Key Bridge boathouse filled with people who can’t wait to get out on the river, thanks to the Clean Water Act.

Here in Washington, we’re seeing a dramatic change in the public perception of the river – urban planners see it an an amenity, not an afterthought.

“Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss.”

(David Bolling, How to Save a River: Handbook for Citizen Action)

Our biggest outreach event of the year, RiverPalooza, kicks off June 3rd with a day of paddling followed by a BBQ and Bluegrass party in Harpers Ferry. RiverPalooza runs most weekends through the summer and will feature 14 river adventures for all ages and skill levels – kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, canoe and camping trips. For those looking for ways to experience our rivers, this is the way to do it.

On the campaign front, we just committed to taking a leadership role in fighting a pipeline project that would carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania through the Maryland panhandle, and under the Potomac River. The company proposing this doesn’t have a great safety record. There’s no need for Maryland to risk their natural resources, tourism and recreation dollars on a pipeline that does nothing for them – the gas isn’t going to Maryland, it’s going through Maryland. Banning fracking in Maryland was the first step. Keeping pipelines out is next.

  • Success for Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a healthy Shenandoah and Potomac River, made possible by holding polluters accountable and building public awareness and appreciation for the role rivers play in our lives.
  • Success would be never reading another headline about how the swimming portion of the National Triathlon was cancelled because the water was unsafe for human contact.
  • Success is stopping cities from dumping raw sewage into the river. Success would be building the next generation of advocates for our rivers, setting their expectations high, and giving them the tools to win.
  • A perfect day is bringing a group of people to a scenic stretch of the Shenandoah for the first time and seeing their faces light up as they discover what we fight for and why – without any explanation.

We can be reached by calling 202 888 2037 or by emailing nathan@prknetwork.org or maria@prknetwork.org. Our website has information about our priority issues, links to take action, to volunteer and to join our organization. A great way to engage with us is to participate in one of our RiverPalooza trips, which are led by our Riverkeepers or liking us on Facebook.

“Keep your rivers flowing as they will, and you will continue to know the most important of all freedoms – the boundless scope of the human mind to contemplate wonders, and to begin to understand their meaning. “

(David Brower, The Foreword to Oregon Rivers by Larry Olson and John Daniel)