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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.

Learning Life Lessons with Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena

by Ty Newberry, Executive Director, Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena
annual appeal photo 1Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena (FFDIA) is located in the heart of Ward 7 and serves 2,500 children annually; introducing them to ice skating, providing advanced instruction in ice hockey, synchronized skating, figure skating, and speed skating.
Approximately 60% of these children and teens live in or attend schools in underserved neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River in Washington, DC.

Kids On Ice (KOI) is a youth development program that uses sports to instill a positive self-image and the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle in children and youth ages 5-18. KOI teaches valuable life lessons beginning with a participant’s first steps on the ice. In the past 20 years, the number of skaters in our programs has grown from 11 to 2,500.

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Skating provides multiple character-building opportunities and participants in KOI programs gain self-esteem while learning respect, fairness, reliability, courtesy, responsibility, sportsmanship, and the value of practice, and perseverance. Classes are taught in a group setting with children and youth ranging in age from 5 – 18 years, representing diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena (FDIA) was established in 1996 to rescue the Fort Dupont Ice Arena in Southeast Washington, DC from closure. FDIA revitalized the arena and now operates the facility, providing a traditionally underserved neighborhood with an NHL-size ice rink, recreational and cultural activities, skating instruction and regular physical education programming for District schools.

The Fort Dupont Ice Arena is the only public indoor ice arena located in Washington, DC and is the only skating facility in the region that provides free skating programs to disadvantaged children. Our mission is to provide increased opportunity, education and inspiration to young people in Washington, DC and the surrounding area through ice skating and educational activities.

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KOI consists of Learn To Skate or basic ice skating instruction, P.L.U.S. or advanced ice skating instruction, and Schools Skate For Fitness in which approximately 30 schools participate in physical education classes during the week. The Schools Skate For Fitness program allows for DCPS and Public Charter Schools to alternate typical gym time with an ice skating lesson. Camps are also available throughout the summer months. When kids succeed here, they know they can take that feeling and succeed in other places.

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The opportunity to access a full-size ice rink in the inner city opens up a world of choices for kids who traditionally would not be able to participate due to the cost associated with ice sports. The best part of working at FFDIA is watching kids progress in skill level both on and off the ice while developing new friendships and learning life lessons in the process. Making a difference close to home happens every day in our warm, welcoming, supportive, diverse environment. Kids learn how to get up after falling down time and time again. They build critical self-confidence and self-esteem through off-ice programming that complements on-ice activities, all while being embraced by staff, volunteers, program participants, instructors, and parents.

Visit our website at fdia.org and call the rink at (202) 584-5007 to register your child for classes. Registration forms and complete information is readily available and accessible. All of our programming is from volunteer instructors; we truly value all of our volunteers because we know we could not do it alone. Volunteer opportunities vary and information can be provided upon request. Helping out our basic skills program or hosting a community service day with your company are just two of the various options. The facility is open to anyone during public skate times. Please follow us on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.

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.

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

A Transformative & Empowering Community with Calvary Women’s Services

By Daniela Jungova, Development Associate, Calvary Women’s Services

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Calvary Women’s Services offers housing, health, employment and education programs that empower homeless women in Washington, DC to change their lives.

As the state of homelessness in DC continues to be critical, Calvary reaches women who are most likely to be trapped in cycles of poverty and homelessness, women who have experienced domestic violence, are struggling with substance addiction and are living with mental illness.

Calvary’s programs address the root causes of homelessness, so women can take control of their lives and plan for their future. In addition to meeting women’s basic needs by providing safe housing, meals and other amenities, all women in our programs have access to services that empower them to regain their health, build new life skills, and achieve financial independence.

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Our comprehensive services for women include personalized case management, life skills, education and arts classes (LEAP), health services, addiction recovery meetings, and job placement services (Step Up DC). Women who obtain jobs through Step Up DC have an average hourly wage of $13, and 90% of those who secure employment with Step Up DC’s support transition into stable housing.

“Calvary is a great place to live if you’re serious about making a change. I’m working on changing my life from the inside out. Nothing will stop me from doing what I need to do to turn my life around,” says Calvary resident Adrienne.

Now that summer is in full swing, women love to spend time on Calvary’s back patio. Just a couple of weeks ago, the patio got a major makeover thanks to the generous support of the U.S. Green Building Council – National Capital Area.

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The patio has undergone improvement projects that include the planting of new vegetable plants (such as peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes), herbs and three beautiful peach trees, as well as the installment of a “green wall” with climbing vines.

The patio quickly became a welcome respite from women’s busy days. Women now enjoy their education classes outside at the tables, and take ownership over maintaining and watering the garden. Every day, they check on the growing vegetables and find joy in tasting the results of their work.

CFP4But the new garden is not the only place where women’s hard work is paying off. Calvary’s safe, respectful community as a whole is a truly amazing place of transformation – a place where it is possible for women to heal from histories of trauma, build supportive relationships, and gain the skills and confidence to live independently.

We believe that every woman has the strengths and gifts that allow her to make these positive changes. Thanks to Calvary’s small, intimate environment, we are able to meet each woman as an individual and give her the support she deserves as she works to overcome her challenges. Our model works – every five days, a woman moves from Calvary into her own home.

CFP1I invite you to learn more about Calvary at www.calvaryservices.org. We are currently looking for volunteers who can lead various life skills, education and arts classes, assist women with job applications, prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals, and staff the front desk. We have opportunities for groups and individuals alike – check out all of our volunteer opportunities here. You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on social media to stay up-to-date with all of Calvary’s happenings.

We hope you will join our transformative, empowering community!

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