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A Window and a Mirror: Summer Mentorship at Inspired Teaching

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A Space for Inquiry

It’s 2pm and I’m standing in a classroom in northwest DC holding a yo-yo.

Two brand new Inspired Teaching Fellows (teachers-in-training) are standing next to me, asking me questions.

“Do you, uh, think you can do a trick with the yo-yo called ‘walk the dog?’” one of the teachers asks.

The other one offers: “Could you maybe try, like, throwing it sideways?”

I try to throw the yo-yo sideways and end up dropping it on the floor. I walk away in frustration.

On this particular afternoon, I’ve volunteered to play the role of a student, and the Fellows have been instructed to teach me how to use a yo-yo — but only by asking questions. No statements allowed.

The Fellow pauses and then asks: “What do you think you need to do to be successful with a yo-yo?”

My eyes light up. Unlike her first few questions, she doesn’t know the answer to this one. It’s all on me. She may not realize it yet, but this is the space where the magic of learning happens.

“I think,” I say, after genuinely thinking about it, “that I need to just be able to do 5 regular swings without stopping.”

Now we have a new lesson plan – and I, the student, am in charge of my own learning.

This is what teacher training looks like in Inspired Teaching’s Summer Institute, a 3-week long jumpstart for teachers who are beginning the Inspired Teaching Residency.

This exercise helps new teachers learn how to provide a space for inquiry instead of a list of directions. And the reason I know this activity so well is because I was a brand new Inspired Teaching Fellow myself, standing in this very classroom, doing this exact activity, 5 summers ago.

This summer, however, I’m returning to play the role of the summer mentor. And while I’m stepping into the first year Fellows’ classroom to help out, my primary responsibility is to advise the second year Fellows.

The second-year Fellows have just completed their residency year. They’ve been learning from, assisting, and eventually taking over for their lead teacher, someone who has modeled great teaching practices. Now, they’re starting from scratch, in their own summer school classrooms, with a fellow cohort member. I’ve been assigned to help two teaching teams, four teachers total.

As the summer begins, I watch my mentees struggle with the fact that, with a brand new class coming in next week, there’s no veteran teacher to set everything up. It’s a bit like learning how to drive a car for an entire year and then finding out that you now need to build your own car out of spare parts. And quickly.

The Gap

Even though summer school is only a month long, it can sometimes feel like an entire school year stuffed into four weeks. It’s not uncommon for teachers in summer practicum to re-connect and disconnect multiple times with their passion for teaching. It’s not uncommon for teachers to discover just how much of a gap exists between the teacher that they are and the teacher that they want to be. And it’s not uncommon for those teachers to work excruciatingly hard to close that gap before the summer ends.

The result of all of this reflection and learning is evident because, by the end of the summer, I notice that the Fellows’ teaching powers that I am mentoring have grown. At the start of the summer, I would take copious notes while observing a mini-lesson. I’d analyze every movement the teacher made, every word that they said. And by the end, it’s hard to even find a place to take notes. Classrooms are bustling with students in every corner, working on interesting projects and directing their own learning.

During our final meeting, I ask one of the Fellows, “So now that it’s almost over, do you feel like you’re the teacher you want to be?”

“No,” she laughs. “That will take a while. But before the summer started, I hadn’t even thought about what kind of teacher I wanted to be. Now, I ask myself that question almost daily. My vision is much more clear.”

Remarkably, she is learning to ask herself questions that don’t have an immediate answer.

A Window and a Mirror

I’ve said before that the role of a teacher is to offer their students a window and a mirror. A window with which to see the world through many different lenses and perspectives, and a mirror to allow students to understand the power of their own perspective and potential.

But as a summer mentor, I came to terms with something else: a teacher must also stand in front of their own mirror. It is there, in the glow of their own reflection, where they will do their most challenging work. They will confront every imperfection. They will think about what they will do differently tomorrow. They will, simultaneously, berate themselves and strive for self-acceptance. They will do all of this for the good of themselves and the good of their students.

And it occurs to me that I, the summer mentor, have very little to do with the mirror. But maybe, I hold the window. If I was able to help these wonderful teachers catch a glimpse of all incredible possibilities that lie ahead, then, mission accomplished.

Written by –Zia Hassan

Students striving to make better lives for themselves and their communities.

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For the past 4 years, After-School All-Stars (ASAS) has convened a leadership training event at the 4-H National Conference Center outside of the Nation’s Capital: All-Stars Leadership University (ASLU). ASAS is a national non-profit, providing free and comprehensive after-school programs to Title 1 middle school students, and the Washington DC chapter is the local office serving over 600 students at 7 schools within the district. 19 of our chapter cities are invited to send student and staff representation at ASLU. Each Chapter sends two youth, a Rising Youth Advisory Board Mentor (YABs) and a Returning YAB Mentor, as well as an Adult Mentor to come to DC and learn about self-leadership, serving others, and how to serve and advocate in their communities. YABs are selected for these positions based on their commitment to the program, as well as their academic performance and leadership abilities. The 4-day retreat includes leadership training, team building exercises, opportunities to create service projects for their local communities and thoughtful reflections on each student’s respective communities and the issues they all face.

ASAS DC was extremely proud to have 2 YAB students representing our chapter. Ajani Atkins from Somerset Prep DC and De’Quan Atchinson from Charles Hart Middle School (now a rising Freshman at Eastern High School) both attended earlier this summer. Ajani assumed the role of Rising YAB while De’Quann had the opportunity to be a returning YAB mentor.

De’Quan is a great example of an ideal YAB and ASAS DC student. He has been with the program since 6th grade and is now a proud graduate of both Hart MS and the ASAS DC program. He has grown immensely in that time, learning to be a better public speaker, convener, and leader amongst his peer group. We had the chance to speak with him about ASLU and his broader experience in the program.

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De’Quan, along with many of the other YAB participants, was particularly struck by one of the special presenters at ASLU. Thanks to our partnership with Essentia Water, Joe La Puma attended the event as a guest speaker. Joe is the Vice President of Content Strategy at Complex Magazine, and host of the magazine’s “Sneaker Shopping,” a program that takes you inside the sneaker shopping process for such celebrities as Wiz Khalifa, Kevin Hart, Antonio Brown, and A$AP Rocky. De’Quan has a myriad of interests ranging from athletics to community service, but he is also extremely passionate about fashion. It was invaluable for him to be exposed to someone like Joe, who has worked hard to make a name for himself in a progressive sector of work that resonates with our students. Across the country, we are intentional about exposing ASAS students to unique and accessible career paths. Joe’s journey was one that had a profound resonance with the YABS. De’Quan admitted that hearing Joe speak inspired and excited him. It was a narrative that he could genuinely connect with and aspire towards, whereas those sources of inspiration were previously hard to come by.

De’Quan looks back at his journey from 6th grade and acknowledges how much he has matured within the ASAS DC program. Initially, he didn’t dedicate enough time to his classes and homework, opting to spend evenings with his mother. Due to her intensive work schedule, they could only spend the late evenings together, and that wasn’t conducive to completing all his work and developing an interest in school. An attitude change was as simple as providing him with a safe space and a positive environment. ASAS DC dedicated academic time allowed him to progress more in his school work, and that culminated this past year when he made the honor roll for the first time in his academic career. He recalled his mother’s reaction, and that she was quite literally “in tears of joy,” overwhelmed by her son’s success.

The exciting thing about De’Quan as well as the ASAS DC chapter, is that this is just the beginning. In speaking with De’Quan it was as if his experience in the program gave him a new lease on life. Not only is he excited for high school, but he already has plans to join the track team and as many clubs as he can get his hands on. De’Quan’s 3.5 GPA is something he is proud of, but at Eastern, he wants to build off of that and achieve even higher marks in his first year. He has a strong desire to seriously pursue his interests at the next level in the fields of leadership, athletics, academics, and fashion.

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As De’Quan reflected back on his experience it was no surprise that above all else, personal connections were the most meaningful to him. He credits ASAS DC staff for “getting him out of his shell” and inspiring him to be a leader. On more than one occasion he referred to the ASAS DC Program Manager Tierra Stewart as “Superwoman,” a sentiment that many of her colleague’s share. He knows that in 6th grade he wasn’t the type “to open up to just anybody,” but with the help of mentors like Tierra he began to make that transition to a more outgoing and charismatic person. He made that change because he along with his fellow ASAS students understood that our instructors genuinely cared about their well-being and future. As is the case with many of our 600+ students in the district, our staff have close relationships with De’Qunn and his family, and that level of understanding and communication is inextricably connected to his growth and success.

The DC chapter is proud to showcase De’Quan’s story. It is a unique and compelling narrative, and at the same time, we know that there are tens of thousands of ASAS students across the country having a similar experience. He didn’t have time to complete his homework, ASAS DC provided him that time and space, he was shy and unmotivated, he is now going off to high school as a leader with aspirations to be the captain of every team and club he joins, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, ASAS DC showed him what it looks like to succeed in school and have an attractive career. As he reflected back on his own journey at the 4-H center, eyes welling with tears, his heart was full: for his family, his ASAS mentors, and mostly for his fellow students that are striving to make better lives for themselves and their communities.

Adams Morgan was a Completely Different Place 45 Years Ago

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Before the close proximity to public transportation and nightlife, a few hopeful members of the Church of the Savior saw promise in the 20009 zip code. They saw a need for safe, clean, affordable housing and responded.

Eventually they pooled their resources and purchased two buildings in Adams Morgan — The Ritz and The Mozart. This was the start of what we now know as Jubilee Housing. Since then, the organization has purchased and developed nine buildings with a tenth building under construction. In addition to providing permanent, deeply affordable housing in a thriving neighborhood, Jubilee also provides after-school programming and summer camp for the children of working families, counseling for individuals looking to stabilize their financial status, and supportive housing for people returning home after incarceration.

Washington, DC?is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth and development. Unfortunately, not everyone is benefiting from this prosperity. Today, one-fourth of DC residents earn less than a living wage. Market-rate rents in Adams Morgan range between $2,500 to $4,000 a month, which is far beyond the reach of District residents with the lowest incomes.

With a new?five-year plan, Jubilee Housing is determined to create a city where everyone can thrive. One of the most ambitious goals of the plan is to create an additional 100 units of deeply affordable housing, in Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights, over the next five years.

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In a city where big developers are fighting for the chance to turn old properties into luxury condos, this is a tall order. To make these 100 units a reality Jubilee launched an innovative financing tool — the Justice Housing Partners Fund. This $5 million dollar fund will provide quick-strike acquisition capital for bridge financing, enabling Jubilee Housing to compete with market forces and build 100 units of deeply affordable housing in high cost neighborhoods.

Jubilee is seeking social impact capital for the Justice Housing Partners Fund for three-year investment terms, with a 2 percent capped return. This will provide Jubilee the critical time needed to assemble permanent financing. Once Jubilee obtains construction financing for a project, the original investment can be repaid with interest or reinvested, if desired.

The Share Fund — a donor-advised fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region — led the way with a $1 million match investment, which inspired other institutional investors such as United Bank, which committed $250,000. To date, Jubilee Housing has raised over $2 million in commitments for the Justice Housing Partners Fund.

Jubilee Housing maintains that justice housingsm?– deeply affordable housing in thriving neighborhoods with onsite or nearby services — is a proven model that can keep our city diverse and make its communities equitable. Justice housing allows long-time DC residents to stay in their neighborhoods despite soaring rents, and for our city’s lowest income residents to move to communities with the most opportunity. The Justice Housing Fund makes it possible for DC to be a city where all races, ages, and incomes can thrive.

Registration Open for 6th Annual Teddy Bear 5K & 1K Walk/Run!

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Registration is currently open for runners and walkers of all ages for the 6th AnnualTeddy Bear 5K & 1K Walk/Run?on Sunday, September 23, 2018. The race that awards all participants a pint-size teddy bear when they cross the finish line this year moves to the morning with the 5K starting at 8 a.m. and the 1K starting at 9:15 a.m.

To register to run or walk, or to volunteer at the event, go to www.tinyurl.com/TeddyBear5K-1KWalk-Run

Note that children under 12 must be accompanied by a registered adult in either the 1K or the 5K. The 5K also includes a stroller division.

The 5K course takes runners through the shaded Pimmit Hills neighborhood, west of Falls Church City. Runners are urged to check in at the registration booth behind the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center at 7230 Idylwood Road and participate in the Teddy Bear parade at 7:45 pm to the 5K Start/Finish Line in Pimmit Hills Park, between Arch Drive and Griffith Road.

The 1K course follows awards to 5K winners, starting on the field behind the Children’s Center (also home of Lemon Road Elementary School.)

5K runners, boys and girls in 6 age groups for children, from ages 6 to 18, and males and females in 7 age groups for adults, will be eligible for prizes from local businesses, including gift certificates to: Panjshir Restaurant and Hilton Garden Inn of Falls Church; The Greek Taverna, Assaggi Osteria, Cafe Oggi, and Kazan Restaurant of McLean. For kids: A shopping spree at Doodlehopper Toy Store, a Soccer Party with Golden Boot, and more.

Proceeds of the event support Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, a high-quality, nonprofit preschool dedicated to giving young children from low- and moderate-income, working families the strong start they need to be ready for success in school and in life.

Several local individuals and businesses are generously sponsoring the event including Ric and Jean Edelman, Anne Kanter, State Farm Insurance Agent Lynn Heinrichs, VA Delegate Marcus Simon, Hyphen Group, Chain Bridge Bank, Net E, Senior Housing Analytics, Susan and Donald Poretz, Powell Piper Radomsky, Berman & Lee Orthodontics, Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, Drs. Love and Miller, Digital Office Products, and VA 529. Sponsorships are still available by calling 703/534-4907 before August 30 to have logos printed on runner t-shirts.

Founded in 1969, Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center is celebrating its 50th year of providing an affordable, comprehensive, full-time early childhood education program designed to give all children, regardless of their family’s financial resources, a strong foundation on which to build the rest of their lives. For inquiries about openings this fall, call 703/534-4907.

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!

Around Town 8/12-20

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Children of Eden

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts

An epic musical with a large and diverse cast of characters, Children of Eden starts with the very beginning: the creation of the universe. Drawing from the Book of Genesis, its authors have examined the familiar stories of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel and many other iconic figures through a family lens exploring themes of parenting, personal choices, the value of questioning and, ultimately, the need for “letting go” of the ones you love. With music that is at turns soaring (The Spark of Creation), foot-stomping (Ain’t It Good) and deeply moving (In Whatever Time We Have), Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) and John Caird (Les Miserables) have created a musical that is joyful, inspiring, poignant, and full of humor.

Event Information

  • When: Thursday, August 17, 2017 (7:30 PM)
  • Where: The Theatre Lab, 733 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20001 map
  • Fee: $15 – Adults $10 – Students
  • Volunteer Info: Ushering, concession sales, etc.
  • Contact: Dane Petersen, (202) 824-0449
  • For more information: click here

 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Macbeth

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts

A unique vision of Shakespeare’s tragedy, this production of Macbeth will be told through the eyes of the three witches who create a story and then must deal its consequences. Always present, these witches create worlds and shape the tides of fate around the characters, birthing a tale about revenge and ambition’s terrible cost.

Event Information

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

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.

Bringing Summer’s Bounty to Our Older Neighbors with We Are Family

By Tulin Ozdeger, Co-Executive Director, We Are Family
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Summer is one of my favorite times of year. I love the warmer weather, the longer days, and the chance just to spend more time outside. As an avid gardener and cook, I also love the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that arrive in my garden and at the farmers market this time of year.

My background is Turkish and I grew up tagging along with my parents at the amazing farmers markets in Turkey, marveling at all of the delicious foods we would soon bring home to cook and eat. I know that good ingredients make really good food.

I am Co-Executive Director of We Are Family, an outreach and advocacy organization that serves low-income older residents of the North Capital, Shaw, Columbia Heights, Petworth, and Adams Morgan neighborhoods of DC. When I got a call from Dalila Boclin at Community Foodworks two years ago to discuss collaborating with their Columbia Heights Farmers Market, I jumped at the chance.

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We Are Family serves over 700 seniors each month, with year-round monthly non-perishable grocery deliveries, visits, transportation, Thanksgiving and holiday gift deliveries, and a whole lot more. Most of our seniors are living at or below the poverty line and many are isolated, lacking any nearby family. So, We Are Family walks beside them to help them age in place with a good quality of life.

IMG_4489I know how popular our monthly grocery deliveries are with our seniors, as each month the list grows and grows right now we deliver to over 725 seniors each month. Given our seniors’ meager incomes and the fact that DC recently ranked as the 4th worst place in the nation for older adult food insecurity, the great need for free food deliveries is hardly surprising.

I had long dreamed of bringing free, high quality farmers market produce to our seniors, as I know that many simply do not have the money or the mobility to get the fresh produce they desperately want and need. I also loved the idea of supporting local farmers and the Columbia Heights Farmers Market, given how important they are to our local food systems and to the health of our community and environment.

IMG_3436The response from our seniors to the produce deliveries has been tremendous. They love getting such delicious, healthy food each week! After our very first delivery, I got several calls from seniors raving about the produce and telling me how excited they were to cook with it. One of them said she eagerly got up extra early the next day to start cooking the greens she had gotten in her bag.

In 2015, we started out serving 35 seniors each week with our produce deliveries and, as of this week, we are now delivering bags of fresh produce to just over 160 seniors. Through our partnership with Community Foodworks, We Are Family is able to purchase the produce for our seniors from the Market at a wholesale price.

Community Foodworks orders the food and makes the bags for us each week. With help from our volunteers, We Are Family picks up the bags from the farmers market and delivers them to our seniors in three nearby buildings we serve in Columbia Heights.

One bit of feedback we got from some seniors last year was that they were not always sure what the vegetables were in their bags or how to prepare them. So, this year, I decided to include a flier from We Are Family listing the bag’s items with pictures, along with some simple recipe ideas each week. Like many of us, sometimes our seniors aren’t quite sure what to do with the produce when they get it. Coming up with recipes has even helped me get a little more creative in my kitchen. (My 7-year-old son was surprised when he actually liked the swiss chard omelet recipe I put on one flier!)

Given our lean paid staff of only 2, We Are Family relies tremendously on the help of volunteers. There is no way we could deliver food to over 700 seniors each month without them! We will be delivering produce each Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 through October 11th and welcome you to join us.

We also have regular Saturday morning volunteer events all throughout the year, including grocery deliveries, visits, and grocery bag assemblies. (A calendar and sign up for our events can be found here: www.wearefamilydc.org/events.)Ms Glover produce pic

The volunteer experience can be a powerful, even transformative one. My life is a testament to that truth. I came to DC for law school a little over 20 years ago and started volunteering with older DC residents several years later. The seniors I have met have had such a profound impact on my life. When I first moved here, I didn’t think I would stay, much less find myself co-directing a group like We Are Family – but here I am! We know how much your volunteer time will mean to our seniors, but you might well be surprised how much it will mean in your life too.
We hope you can join us in spreading good food and caring community!

“It’s Pay It Forward Time . . . “

Aerospace Engineer Charles Cisneros Gives Back as a RESET Volunteer
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Charles helps students set up the “wheel and axle” experiment, using his granddaughter’s tricycle.

By Charles Cisneros

A couple of years ago, I began volunteering with RESET, an education nonprofit that introduces children to real scientists and provides hands-on science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) learning opportunities to children between the ages of 4 and 12. RESET is an ideal match for my background and my desire to “pay it forward” in a meaningful way.

I am a former aerospace engineer. I worked for 33 years as an Air Force officer and 13 years for SAIC as a system test planner for the National Missile defense program. I retired in 2009. I had done other kinds of volunteer work over the years, but when I ran across a RESET recruitment ad in The Washington Post, I was instantly intrigued. After chatting with Executive Director John Meagher, I liked what I heard about the program. I felt RESET’s investment was well focused and that it did a great job of fostering an exchange of ideas and in providing resources and STEM curriculum support for schools in the DC area.

RESET’s work is so critical for our country’s future. We will always need highly trained scientists and engineers to solve complex technical, health, and engineering problems. When I first started with RESET, I volunteered at Moorefield Station Elementary School. At the time, I had also been doing a lot of local charity golf tournaments. One of the charities we supported was Sugarland Elementary School, a low-income school, located in Loudoun County.

I went home and did a little research on schools in the area. I checked out some government sources on scholastic performance and discovered that Sugarland, a Title 1 school, was one of the lowest performing schools in the county. Sugarland is not an affluent school, so it can be challenging for them to compete in a high-income county like Loudoun. Having come from a low-income background myself, I felt a strong pull towards bringing RESET programs to these students. I contacted John and offered to expand my volunteer work to Sugarland. John very quickly set up a meeting with school officials. They accepted our help and we will soon complete our first school year there, leading RESET programs for a diverse student body that includes many Hispanic students. Now, I volunteer at both schools, working mostly with third-graders.

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Charles’ class at Sugarland Elementary during a session on renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Following a scavenger hunt where the class was divided into “coal miners” and “wind millers,” Charles surprised his students with lab coats, to their obvious delight. One of RESET’s primary goals is to get children to think and behave like real scientists.

I was fortunate to have had several adults in my life who believed in me and encouraged me. That’s why I was so eager to work with students from less advantaged backgrounds. I thought, “Now it’s time to give something back.” From personal experience I know it just takes one spark to ignite an interest and a passion for science, one that can grow into a future career and life path. My own inspiration came from two sources: As a child in the 1950s, I used to watch Walt Disney TV programs about the challenges of breaking into outer space. This, along with the national alarm after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, motivated me towards a science or engineering career.

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Students at Moorefield Station Elementary School confer on an experiment on a block and tackle pulley.

My experiences with my students have been wonderful. The one thing I am always delighted and amazed to discover is how bright and precocious they are. Young minds are naturally curious and open, no matter where they come from or how much they have. They are limited only by resources and opportunity.

And some classroom experiences are definitely more memorable than others. For example, during one session with my third graders, I intended to demonstrate the pull of the moon’s gravity on the oceans using a balloon filled with water. Typically, the normally spherical balloon would be pulled out of shape by the force of gravity, thus illustrating my point. I’ve performed this demo many times, but this time I allowed a student to hold the water-filled balloon by the top end. Unexpectedly, he bounced the balloon up and down. Not surprisingly, it burst, dousing him, me, and the floor with water (and there may have been some additional collateral damage). We all had a good laugh and achieved a much better appreciation of the force of gravity than if the experiment had gone off without a hitch.

Gail Brady, Principal at Sugarland, and STEAM lab teacher Darielle Robinson recently shared with me what RESET has meant to Sugarland students this year:

“Working with RESET has been such a valuable experience for our students. Through RESET our students often have had the chance to be exposed to individuals that share their ethnic background and have had careers in the field of science. Charles has given our students the chance to see an individual that has overcome certain circumstances and used education has a means of living a full life. It’s been especially helpful having Charles bring to life the concepts that our students learn in class. He has been pivotal in providing our students with learning experiences that they may not otherwise experience outside of school.”

RESET serves Pre-Kindergarten through 8th-grade. We offer in-school, after-school, and summer and weekend programs. There are many options for volunteering, including working as a team through your workplace. Volunteers are working and professional scientists, engineers, and technologists, ranging in age from 18 through 90. Our volunteers have a professional background or educational interest in STEM professions, and we represent a wide range of fields, from forensic anthropology to computer science, but you need not have teaching experience to volunteer with us. RESET does an excellent job of providing training, resources, and feedback so you go into the classroom confident and prepared.

To volunteer for RESET, please contact John Meagher at 703-250-0236. Have a fundraising idea? Contact Development Director Lyndi Schrecengost at 202-365-5963.

A great way to engage with RESET is to “like” and share our posts on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/RESETDC/
https://twitter.com/ReSETonline
https://www.youtube.com/user/resetonlinevideo
https://www.linkedin.com/company/reset-organization
http://resetonline.org/blog/

Volunteers and Tutors Make a Difference at Bridges to Independence

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Bridges to Independence has been working with and for people experiencing homelessness since 1985, when we were founded as the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. In 2016, Bridges served a total of 460 individuals: 248 through our housing programs (emergency shelter and rapid re-housing) and 212 in other programs and services (financial literacy, employment services, etc.).

Our mission is to lead individuals and families out of homelessness and into stable, independent futures. We offer aid and support for all family members, helping them attain financial security and move forward into self-sufficiency. As homelessness is often episodic, we work not only with people who are currently experiencing homelessness, but also with former participants to ensure they are able to remain securely housed and do not fall into homelessness again.

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Former client Mohammed, his wife, and their 5 daughters invited us to their home for a visit. It was wonderful to see the family thriving!

Our vision is to end the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Two-thirds of the people we serve are under the age of 18. We provide youth with opportunities to increase self-esteem, gain leadership skills, and improve their overall health/well-being. We strive to give older students the confidence, skills, and tools needed to pursue and complete post-secondary education or vocational training, providing them with a pathway to economic security.

After many years of helping people move into their own homes, we’ll soon get to experience a homecoming of our own! In September, we will move into a brand-new 4,700 square foot training center, directly adjacent to our Sullivan House emergency shelter. The new space will be a hive of activity and will include a children’s room for youth activities, classrooms for job training, a personal counseling suite, and offices for our staff to continue their crucial work to support families in need. We’ll be able to serve more people, carry out programming more effectively, and explore new and innovative solutions for reducing homelessness.

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Gather a team for our Kickball Tournament or volunteer at the event!

Our 12th annual SAFE AT HOME Kickball Tournament will be Saturday, August 5, 2017. Teams, sponsors and volunteers can sign up now at https://bridges2.org/kickball/. We also need volunteers to serve as mentors or tutors, represent Bridges at events, help with office work, and more. For details, see www.bridges2.org or contact Lawson Craighill at lcraighill@bridges2.org.