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Past, Present, and Future: Our Team is Our Greatest Treasure

Like all community-based nonprofits, Art Enables‘ team is our most important asset. We are small but mighty, with just four full-time and one part-time staff members to advance our mission of creating opportunities for artists with disabilities to make, market, and earn income from their original and compelling artwork.

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The process of growing to a staff of five has taken 15 years. In Art Enables first year in 2001, our founder, Joyce Muis-Lowery, accomplished the vast majority of our work with support from a small group of very committed volunteers. Art Enables at that time was focused on its studio arts and exhibitions programs, both very entrepreneurial in nature. Through the studio arts program, our resident artists experiment, develop, and create their artwork in a supported and professional studio environment. Our exhibitions program showcases and promotes our artists through large group, small group, and individual exhibitions both onsite in our galleries and through offsite shows at local, national, and international venues. In addition to fundraising and managing operations, Joyce, with the help of that small group of volunteers, led almost all aspects of our programs in those early days.

In 2002, Art Enables hired its first full-time employee, an Art Director, devoted to overseeing a significant portion of the operations elements of the program. This role was an important first hire because the organization had just moved into a new physical location, our first opportunity to really develop and expand our work. Managing the onsite programs, along with developing a public outlet for our artists’ work, required experience of and savvy with the broader arts community.

As we continued to build upon and improve our programs, we recognized there was still more we could do to engage the general public and to foster our artists’ success as professionals. We piloted our community arts program in 2012, and now we host a variety of workshops, joint art projects, events, and exhibitions as a way for the public to join our artists in the art making (and enjoyment!) process. A mainstay of the community arts program is our 2nd Saturday Workshops, which now regularly host hundreds of DC area residents, supporters, neighbors, families, art lovers, and passers-by at each free event. (We hope to see you at one check out our news and events page for upcoming happenings!)

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As the expansion of our program offerings show, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount since 2001. Art Enables artists have sold nearly $1 million in artwork since our founding, and have exhibited work in hundreds of exhibitions and shows. We’ve worked hard to find new ways to advance our mission and to enrich the lives and careers of our artists.

Yet there’s still so much more we can and want to do. As we look ahead to our next 15 years, we see incredible opportunity for us to strengthen our creative and vocational assistance to artists in the program, increase their income opportunities, and support them as they build their careers as professional artists. We are also driven to enhance and broaden our profile not only as a gallery and studio, but as an arts venue and community space that fosters artistic expression and collaboration as well. And through all our work, we want to strengthen our voice as a leader on issues that impact the disabilities and arts communities.

With those goals on the horizon, we have our work cut out for us! That’s why as a first step towards success on this next phase of our work, we’re excited to add our first-ever dedicated fundraising professional to our staff.

The role we created, Development and Communications Manager, is the result of much deliberation, conversation, and excitement for our future. Investing in a new staff member is always a big commitment. That said, I see all the ways that investing in development is critical to moving our work and our goals forward. Art Enables is committed to supporting the artists in our studio on their professional journey, and this exciting new position will be key to that effort.

Please help Art Enables find its new Development and Communications Manager. Share this link – Development and Communications Manager or apply yourself!

Mentoring Matters at Community Bridges

by Shannon Babe-Thomas, Executive Director, Community Bridges
image1Community Bridges is a local nonprofit with a mission to empower girls from diverse backgrounds to become exceptional students, positive leaders and healthy young women. We do so by addressing the developmental needs of immigrant and minority girls and their families living at or below the federal poverty level in Montgomery County, Maryland. Our integrated 4th through 12th grade after and out-of-school Girls Program supports the growth of our young women over a 9 year continuum by helping them understand their potential and life choices, learn creative strategies to become leaders and break their family’s cycle of poverty using education as a vehicle.
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We further extend our impact on Community Bridges girls by supporting them with one-on-one mentoring, college and career programming, service opportunities, educational learning trips and by offering workshops that provide resources and support for their families. Combined, our programs encourage the development of the entire girl so that she will have the greatest chance to reach her fullest potential.
image3The Community Bridges Mentoring Program connects positive female role models with diverse high school girls for an impactful mentoring experience. Throughout the course of the mentorship, mentor and mentee work together to achieve the mentee’s long- and short-term goals while developing a close, caring relationship based upon consistency, mutual respect and trust.

Nobody succeeds on their own: each young person’s strength and resilience is fostered by those who have taught them they can do anything they put their mind to. Barack Obama, National Mentoring Month Proclamation 2017

January is National Mentoring Month. Research has shown that youth with mentors are more likely to enroll in college, volunteer in their community, and hold leadership positions than youth without mentors. In short, mentoring matters.
image1 (1)Below, read the story of Community Bridges mentor Margo and her mentee Etsube to find out why mentoring matters to them.

“Etsube says that when I walked into the room she had hoped I’d be her mentor. When I was, in fact, paired with Etsube, we talked readily about , the freedom that comes with a driver’s license, about her Ethiopian family. Etsube surprised me with her intensity it was a glimpse of her resolve to embrace opportunities to express herself.

I was not sure what to expect , but I know what I have found: richness and meaning through a warm new friendship.

In our first month I asked to meet Etsube’s parents. I arrived at their home and we enjoyed in the traditional way using homemade injera to pick up the vegetables. We talked about technology in kids lives, the classic masinko stringed instrument, and the importance of developing our own strengths in life.

In a fractured world, mentoring offers ways to knit together lives and cultures.”

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Margo and Etsube are one of many mentoring pairs in the Community Bridges Mentoring Program, and theirs is one of many stories showing why mentoring matters. You too can make a difference in your community through mentoring. Help inspire the next generation of leaders by becoming a mentor today! To learn more about Community Bridges go to www.communitybridges-md.org.

What’s the next big idea? Young Social Entrepreneurs Pitch at LearnServe

by Emma Strother, Development Manager, LearnServe International
cfpdc2015-LearnServeInternational-5955-1840Immigration. Gentrification. Environmental issues. Teen mental health. Where will the next big idea originate? They can’t yet vote. They are years from becoming credentialed doctors, lawyers, and teachers. They may compete for jobs that have not yet been invented. But today they can begin as changemakers. In a moment when adults often feel powerless – overwhelmed by daunting social, environmental, and political challenges – how can we set a different tone for our young people? How do we challenge them to empathize, innovate, and persist when others say it can’t be done? How do we remind them that social change begins with them?

LearnServe Community 3 (1) At LearnServe, middle and high school students are not just the leaders of tomorrow. They’re the leaders of today. And in 30-second “elevator pitches” on December 7th, they will debut their plans to make a positive impact in their communities and schools.

LearnServe International believes in the power of young people to create change, and in the power of change work to shape young leaders. Through interconnected in-school, after school, and summer abroad trip programs, we train DC-area middle and high school students to be social entrepreneurs and global citizens, equipping them with the business skills, vision, and tenacity to tackle social challenges at home and abroad.
#StartsWithMe 2018 Fellows 1The LearnServe Innovator’s Coffee House is an opportunity to witness the start of our students’ social venture projects, meet the LearnServe community, and promote youth-led social innovation in the DC area. The event was held Thursday, December 7th at Impact Hub DC. Here is a video of the event. A special thanks to Impact Hub DC for providing the space for this event.

This is video from last year’s LearnServe Coffee House and some of the students most inspiring stories: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQtxZITQkps&t=5s.

If you are inspired by what you see, we would love to meet you at the Coffee House! To learn more, visit our website at learn-serve.org, send an email to info@learn-serve.org, or connect with us on social media #learnserve @learnserve.

Promoting Healthy Food and Culinary Careers with La Cocina VA

By Rocio Caicedo & Carol Duffy Clay, La Cocina VA

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La Cocina VA works to promote healthy food and empower immigrants with culinary jobs and entrepreneurship skills. We generate social and economic change by helping vulnerable individuals to develop careers and to open businesses within the food service and hospitality industries. Additionally, the organization facilitates access to healthy and nutritious food for neighbors in need.

Patricia Funegra founded the organization in 2014 with the purpose of empowering unemployed members of the Latino community to secure a job by offering comprehensive bilingual Spanish/English culinary training and by giving back to the community through preparing meals for the Food Assistance Program. Recently, La Cocina VA has expanded its reach to offer an additional Small Business Development Program.

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Since operations began in September 2014, La Cocina VA has served 74 individuals; 90% of these individuals have been immigrant women, most of whom come from backgrounds of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and severe financial insecurity. To date 86% of the students graduating from the job training program are fully employed throughout the Metropolitan area and are working with some of the largest corporations in the region.

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Take Karina Herrera, for example, who five years ago didn’t know how to break free from a very problematic marriage while living in a foreign country and culture she didn’t understand. She faced a battle for her own economic independence and the ability to take care of three young children on her own.

A year ago, Karina was referred to La Cocina VA to participate in the full-time 13-week culinary job-training program. It was during the training that she received instruction in culinary techniques, vocational English, food safety, and job readiness. She also completed five days of on-the-job mentoring and a one-month paid internship at one of the organization’s employer partners from the food industry.

At the end of the training, Karina obtained two industry-recognized certifications: a Completion in Bilingual Culinary Job Training Program from Northern Virginia Community College, and a Workforce Development and Food Protection Manager Certification, ServSafe, from the National Restaurant Association.

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Today Karina’s world has changed. She is now supporting her children as a financially independent mother and food service professional. She currently works at the Hyatt Regency Washington as a Second Cook making $22/hr and receives benefits and health insurance coverage for her and her family; she is advancing her career in the culinary arts and serves as a model for not only her own children but also to the other students and families that enter the kitchen at La Cocina VA.

Success stories like Karina’s are the fuel that keeps the staff and volunteers at La Cocina VA working hard to continuing affecting change within the lives of more students – the next generation of cooks.

For volunteering and other engagement opportunities, please contact Daniela Hurtado danielahurtado@lacocinava.org

Around Town

Copy of Around town template (1)Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Poetry Slam! (night 1) *This event is accepting volunteers
DC SCORES

The DC SCORES Poetry Slam! is the largest youth slam in Washington, DC, and the culminating event of the DC SCORES fall season. The two-night event showcases original works of poetry written by over 2,000 students representing District of Columbia public and public charter schools in seven of the city’s eight wards. In a competitive format, each school takes the stage for five minutes to perform group and individual poems in front of capacity crowds. The DC SCORES Poetry Slam! funnels the energy and creativity of youth into self-expression as a means of improving their literacy rates and raising their self-esteem. The event has been featured in The Washington Post &n Capital Community News, and participants have read their poems on NBC-4.

When: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (5:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Where: Columbia Heights Education Campus (auditorium), 3101 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20010 map
Volunteer Info: Volunteers are needed for setup, breakdown, ushering special guests, and more.
Contact: Lindsey Sharp, (202) 393-6999 ext 310
For more information: click here

Maryland Solar Info Session
Solar United Neighbors

This info session will cover everything a you need to know if you’re interested in going solar. Solar United Neighbors of Maryland will present on solar technology, financing options, and the basics of solar policy & markets. We will also discuss our solar co-op process, which works like a bulk purchase. Co-ops bring together a group of homeowners to get the best quality installations for the best price, plus free 1-on-1 support from Solar United Neighbors, a neutral nonprofit solar expert.

When: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (7:00 PM – 8:30 PM)
Where: Rockville City Hall, 111 Maryland Ave, Rockville, MD 20850 map
Contact: Andrea Hylant, (202) 888-3601
For more information: click here

Thursday, November 16, 2017
Poetry Slam! (night 2) *This event is accepting volunteers
DC SCORES

The DC SCORES Poetry Slam! is the largest youth slam in Washington, DC, and the culminating event of the DC SCORES fall season. The two-night event showcases original works of poetry written by over 2,000 students representing District of Columbia public and public charter schools in seven of the city’s eight wards. In a competitive format, each school takes the stage for five minutes to perform group and individual poems in front of capacity crowds. The DC SCORES Poetry Slam! funnels the energy and creativity of youth into self-expression as a means of improving their literacy rates and raising their self-esteem. The event has been featured in The Washington Post & Capital Community News, and participants have read their poems on NBC-4

When: Thursday, November 16, 2017 (5:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Where: H.D. Woodson High School, 540 55th St. NE, Washington, DC 20019 map
Volunteer Info: Volunteers are needed for setup, breakdown, ushering special guests, and more.
Contact: Lindsey Sharp, (202) 393-6999 ext 310
For more information: click here

Reach’s Book Release Party *This event is accepting volunteers
Reach Incorporated

Each summer, selected Reach teens author children’s books as part of our Summer Leadership Academy. On November 16th, we will celebrate these teen authors at our annual Book Release Party. The event will take place at Pepco Edison Place Gallery, near Chinatown, and will provide an opportunity to honor our young people, celebrate their new books, and raise funds to support our continued work.

When: Thursday, November 16, 2017 (5:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Where: Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 8th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001 map
Fee: Tickets start at $50. Volunteers are free.
Volunteer Info: We are seeking volunteers to run our registration table and assist with book sales.
Contact: William Ross, (202) 827-3795
For more information: click here

Saturday, November 18, 2017

What’s Going On

Dance Place

Returning home after a sold-out nationwide tour, What’s Going On is Dance Place’s critically acclaimed producing debut that offers the sweetest solace possible: people coming together. (The Washington Post). Artistic Director Vincent E. Thomas looks through the lens of Marvin Gaye’s transcendent music and finds a reflection of the world today. Taking inspiration from 1971′s inimitable What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye’s insights into life, love and social justice are given fresh perspectives with choreography by Vincent E. Thomas, Ralph Glenmore and Sylvia Soumah.

This evening-length work features Modern, Jazz and West African dance. What’s Going On seeks to provoke thoughtfulness and spark conversations to ignite change in each community it touches.

When: Saturday, November 18, 2017 (8:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 map
Fee: $15 -$30
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1601
For more information: click here

Sunday, November 19, 2017
Girls on the Run – DC Fall 2017 5K presented by PepsiCo *This event is accepting volunteers
Girls on the Run – DC

Join us for the fall 5K on Sunday, November 19th, at Anacostia Park. Girls on the Run – DC brings the community together to support and celebrate girls across the city. The race is open to the community and there are many ways to get involved — from being a buddy runner for a girl who doesn’t have an adult to run with, a community participant or a volunteer who makes the day memorable for a girl.

When: Sunday, November 19, 2017 (10:00 AM – 11:30 AM)
Where: Anacostia Park, 1101 Howard Rd, SE, Washington, DC 20020 map
Fee: $35 race entry
Volunteer Info: Various 5K volunteer opportunities include: course safety marshal, information team, general volunteer, parking metro guide, photographer, and race packet pick-up.
Contact: Kelly Makimaa, (202) 607-2288
For more information: click here

What’s Going On
Dance Place

Returning home after a sold-out nationwide tour, What’s Going On is Dance Place’s critically acclaimed producing debut that offers the sweetest solace possible: people coming together. (The Washington Post). Artistic Director Vincent E. Thomas looks through the lens of Marvin Gaye’s transcendent music and finds a reflection of the world today. Taking inspiration from 1971′s inimitable What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye’s insights into life, love and social justice are given fresh perspectives with choreography by Vincent E. Thomas, Ralph Glenmore and Sylvia Soumah.

This evening-length work features Modern, Jazz and West African dance. What’s Going On seeks to provoke thoughtfulness and spark conversations to ignite change in each community it touches.

When: Sunday, November 19, 2017 (4:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 map
Fee: $15 -$30
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1601
For more information: click here

Thursday, November 23, 2017
13th Annual Turkey Trot This event is accepting volunteers
Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services

This Thanksgiving Morning, over 800 runners, walkers, and spectators will flock to Laurel’s Historic District for the 13th Annual 5K Turkey Trot to Benefit Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services, Inc. (LARS). This event has gained a loyal following and continues to grow each year, raising crucial funds for LARS, a non-profit organization helping homeless and low-income families and individuals achieve stability and self-sufficiency. This event is LARS’ biggest fundraiser, raising over $50,000 last year to help us provide food, financial help, and housing to Laurel residents in crisis.

When: Thursday, November 23, 2017 (8:00 AM – 10:00 AM)
Where: McCullough Field, 7th & Montgomery St, Laurel, MD 20707 map
Fee: $35 through end of October; $40 Nov 1-Race Day
Volunteer Info: Registration, course marshaling, set up/clean up, cheer on race participants
Contact: Laura Wellford, (301) 776-0442 ext 27
For more information: click here

Excellence is Attainable with Young Artists of America

by Rolando Sanz, Producing Artistic Director & Co-Founder,Young Artists of America at Strathmore
Young Artists of America perform at The Strathmore

Young Artists of America at Strathmore (YAA) is the region’s premier training organization for collaborative performing artists. It is the only known program in the nation where high school students receive mentorship and individualized instruction from renowned artists while training to perform fully-orchestrated works of music-theatre in state-of-the-art venues.

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The heart of the work at Young Artists of America that it teaches students that excellence is attainable with disciplined hard work and focus. The lessons they learn at YAA about work ethic and finding joy in music and stagecraft are something that they will carry with them throughout their lives regardless of what they dedicate themselves to in college and beyond.


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For both my brother, Kristofer, and I, we were very fortunate to receive wonderful professional level training at the collegiate level from our mentors in our respective fields of orchestral music and voice. We wanted to create this same opportunity for high school and middle school students here in the D.C. community where we grew up and where we have chosen to raise our own families. Now, alongside our wonderful extended YAA family of teachers and professionals, we could not be more pleased to see our students blossoming on stage as well as in their own personal lives.

Come see us perform! Our students work incredibly hard and we love to share their efforts with as many people as possible. We hope you’ll be as moved by their work as we are!

There are occasional volunteer opportunities, but really, the most helpful thing people can do is spread the word about our mission and come out to support the student performances.

We’re always happy to take a phone call and can be reached at: (301) 272-8604.

 

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.

Back to School For Young Social Entrepreneurs

by Emma Strother, Development Manager, LearnServe International

As the DC area heads back to school, LearnServe International is preparing to help a new year of changemakers take action on pressing social issues. Imagine if every student graduated high school with the business skills, vision, and tenacity to launch social ventures to benefit their communities.

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Our 60 new LearnServe Fellows represent 30 public, independent, and charter schools from across the region. How do we build a cohesive community? Get them outdoors!

We are thrilled to have built a partnership with another Catalogue for Philanthropy member organization For Love of Children (FLOC). This is our 10th year working together, and we look forward to many more! Through ziplining, ropes courses, team-building activities, and an overnight stay–complete with a campfire and marshmallows, of course–our LearnServe Fellows build trust and understanding during a weekend at FLOC’s outdoor campus.

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LearnServe Fellows use this inspiration and collaborative spirit to create social change projects to serve their communities and schools. In the past, our students have launched a concussion detection app, a fleet of electric school buses, and a college scholarship fund for children of incarcerated parents, among many other ventures. Young people’s calls to action, understanding, and hope are more important than ever — so LearnServe is creating a culture of youth-led social innovation in our region.

LearnServe International relies on volunteer support, email us here to learn how to connect with us and learn more about our innovative and empowering programs

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!

Developing New Solutions With Food Recovery Network

by Regina Northouse, Executive Director, Food Recovery Network

File_000 (1)Food Recovery Network (FRN) is the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America. FRN unites and empowers college students to recover surplus food from their campus dining halls and surrounding food businesses and donate that food to hunger-fighting nonprofits who feed those most in need. With 230 university chapters across the country and growing, FRN’s goal is to support higher education in being the first sector where food recovery is the norm and not the exception. Through the power of highly motivated student leaders, FRN has recovered and donated more than 2.1 million pounds of food since 2011.

FRN positively impacts our communities. Our student leaders support over 350 hunger-fighting partners including homeless shelters, food banks and food pantries, providing them with wholesome, nutritious meals to give to their clients.

The U.S. food system is marked by an alarming paradox: nearly 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste, while 48.1 million Americans experience food insecurity each year, one out of seven of whom are children (NRDC 2016; USDA 2015).

Food Recovery Network was formed in 2011 by college students at the University of Maryland who wanted to address these issues of food waste and food insecurity, and their social and environmental impacts. These impacts include wasting 23% of potable water and 18% of valuable cropland, as well as emitting methane into the atmosphere, contributing to the rise of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change.

What sets FRN apart, is our innovative model which empowers and educates young leaders and breaks down barriers between college campuses by helping students develop new solutions to problems in their communities, to connect with nonprofits in their area and help and build relationships with their neighbors who also happen to be in need. Through our model, our civic-minded student leaders gain confidence in their own abilities to challenge the status quo and fight for what is right.

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Food Recovery Network is a national nonprofit that applies local solutions to specific communities to ensure surplus food gets to those who need it most. I know I speak for my amazing team at FRN headquarters in College Park, Maryland, when I say we are continually inspired by our hard-working student leaders all over the country.

Many of FRN’s students often do more than volunteer with their FRN chapter. Our students pursue other opportunities in the food recovery movement, such as gleaning from local farms, recovering nonperishable food items during the days when students on their college campus move out for the semester, and participate in summer recoveries. The student leaders also volunteer with the nonprofit where they donate their surplus food by tutoring, preparing and serving meals and helping with cleanup initiatives.

We talk to our leaders all the time and there are so many inspiring stories. Actually, when asked about her relationship with her chapter’s partner nonprofit, one student from Michigan said, “Every time I brought food to our partner agency, I would meet one of the residents and they would be so kind and grateful! I loved being a part of this amazing organization and movement! It has made me realize that I want to incorporate more awareness and advocacy in my future career.”

Recently, we were told by an FRN alum that one of her limiting criteria for searching for which grad schools she wanted to apply to was whether that the school had an FRN chapter so she could remain engaged as a graduate student.

At the heart of what drives FRN to pursue the work we do is two things. First, being able to provide a source of nutritious food to those who would otherwise not have access. We’re here to be part of our communities. Second, we want to change behavior to reduce food waste at the source post production. This is one of the highest instances of food waste (versus food wasting on the vine for example). We don’t want to overproduce food in order to donate it, we want to ensure good food isn’t wasted to begin with, and when there happens to be surplus, which, let’s be honest, much of the time there will be, that food should feed our fellow neighbors in need.

In addition to recovering food from their campuses, students have the opportunity to volunteer their time with the hunger-fighting partners and the individuals they serve, highlighted by Lighthouse Outreach Ministries, “Everyone likes to see the college kids ride up! The homeless have families that they are separated from and it makes everyone smile to know they are not invisible.”

FRN is dedicated to continuing our work in the food recovery space and to expand the movement, as we continue to provide support and resources for driven, civic-minded students seeking opportunities to engage with their communities and build their leadership skills. I look forward to collaborating and partnering with individuals and other organizations to move the needle on the issue of food waste and food loss. I hope those reading this post know they can be part of the conversation with us!

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FRN hopes to see our network expand to 350 chapters across the country, and our ability to recover 1 million pounds of perfectly good food year-over-year. We’re working to expand our Food Recovery Verified (FRV) program that recognizes and rewards food businesses of any type that are working to fight waste and feed people through food recovery. FRV serves as a third party that verifies that food businesses are donating surplus food to hunger fighting non-profits. We list those businesses on our website, we have a communications strategy to give voice to those businesses, and each business receives a window sticker to display on their doors or on marketing materials to tell patrons their business does the right thing with their surplus food. To date, FRN has over 90 food businesses that have been verified including Adidas, Zulily, and Twitter Inc.

Success is when each point within our food system has decreased food waste by implementing better practices to avoid overproduction of food–meaning at the farm level, the producer and purchasing level, at the retail level and individual consumer level. I know that as this conversation takes hold in the consciousness of more people, FRN is part of that behavior change.

Success is having the proper logistics in place for when there is surplus food to properly and effectively distribute that food to those who need it most across the country. We also want our student leaders to be part of the full process. Our students are the future entering into literally every sector in our country as business owners, chefs, teachers, engineers, technicians and farmers who all share the FRN experience. That experience has shaped their thinking about their ability to positively impact the lives of their community members, as well as how to reduce food waste. That’s the FRN lens. We want that FRN voice to continue to speak even once our students have graduated from college.

A great day at FRN features our small but mighty team at the national office working to support and expand the national network. That includes connecting with existing chapters on the phone, social media, emails and getting them what they need to go out and recover, or move closer to achieving their newest goals for the semester.

FRN works closely with our hunger-fighting partners collecting vital information, analyzing it, and then passing along new resources to our chapter leaders. At FRN, we’re constantly refining our work–what can we do better, what have we learned from our previous projects, what didn’t we do well, and where did we knock it out of the park?

As we grow, how we scale has to change, and how are we addressing those needs? Hearing the hum of our feedback loop in the office–during our project planning meetings is important, too. Additionally, our staff works with non-university food businesses that recover food to recognize them for their efforts and inspire other businesses to begin recovering through our Food Recovery Verified program.

All of these variations operations take place in our national office, made possible by our dedicated, passionate, and collaborative staff!

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There are plenty of ways to be involved, and we need you to be involved with us!

  • FRN welcomes all interested volunteers, including non-students, to help out with their local chapters!
  • Non-student volunteers are encouraged to reach out to their local chapter leaders, as many chapters seek the help of additional volunteers as drivers or mentors, if not during the actual recoveries as well. A list of chapters by state and their respective chapter leaders, contact information can be accessed here.
  • The national office is always here to make connections, too. FRN national is setting up gleaning dates throughout the fall in and around the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. We would love for you to help us recover perfectly good food right at the farm!Contact our national office now to put your name on the list for more information.
  • Help us expand! If you’re alma mater isn’t on the FRN map and you know students who attend and would make a great leader, put them in touch with us! Students can start by filling out our very short application.
  • Support our second annual National Food Recovery Dialogue. This is our annual conference that brings together our student leaders, industry experts, and community members to put into context the bigger picture of our work, and is a space to roll up our sleeves to problem solve on-the-ground problems, share resources, and break bread with one another.
  • Have some fun and start a “Zero Waste Challenge” for FRN. That can mean reducing your waste by eliminating plastic straws from your daily use, or paper napkins like our national board member Jessica did, or it could mean trying to go completely zero waste like our other national board member, Claire did. Anyone can do it, and it’s quite the amazing experience!
  • If you have an expertise that you think can help FRN, please reach out to us. We’re growing and need dedicated support in several areas. Please contact FRN headquarters by emailing info@foodrecoverynetwork.org or phone +1 (240) 615-8813 with any questions, or to be involved.