Scholars Program

From Mentee to Mentor

Scholars after volunteering
Scholars after volunteering

This year I have the privilege and the pleasure of facilitating an outstanding group of eleventh grade Scholars, who not only visibly love FLOC and the adults who work here, but who love and care for each other. As a new FLOC adult in their lives, I am touched by the ways they share themselves with me, and the bird’s eye view they offer me into their lives and their beings. In my role as an advisor, as I listen to their goals and aspirations, what they dream about and succeed in or are challenged by, I am reminded of how simultaneously difficult and wonderful it is to be in high school, and the importance of having adults who believe in you: adults that are willing to hold you accountable and ask you to push yourself, but who haven’t forgotten the unique experience of being a teenager.

During advising I try mostly to listen, and what I’ve heard is largely to be celebrated. What most strikes me about this group of students is their joy in and hunger for giving back; beyond their required community service hours to graduate, many students volunteer in meaningful ways, and additionally are exploring non-profit work. A number of this year’s eleventh grade scholars are involved in Learn Serve, which is a program that helps educate students about social issues and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field, and equip students to become advocates and youth leaders who generate sustainable social change in their communities. As part of the Learn Serve experience, students are tasked to develop a nonprofit proposal and mission statement as well as a way to implement it; examples from FLOC students include providing trauma relief for victims of sexual violence between the ages of 11 and 14, and implementing younger, student-led STEM field education that prepares youth to be leaders in these fields.

Beyond involvement in Learn Serve, which is a program that FLOC connects Scholars with, students also express a desire to birth and run their own non-profit businesses. They currently act as tutors and mentors, “Field of Dreams” counselors and captains of student organizations, advocates for youth homelessness and suicide prevention, cheerleading coaches and competitive dancers, film makers and entrepreneurs, future noise makers and practitioners of law, engineering or medicine, etc. These students are already engaged as developing youth leaders and voices of empowerment, and much of this is due to influential adults calling out their gifts, nurturing them, and offering their vote of confidence and investment in their growth as people. I am excited by the individuals they are, the Scholars community they embody, and the things we will learn from and about each other.  I anticipate the great things they will accomplish and inspire. I am blessed to have had an arsenal of mentors and adult advocates who supported me through my teenage years and support me now as a young adult, and I am excited to continue the cycle through my work at FLOC, and thankful for the potential I am now blessed to encourage and watch unfold.

(Amanda Lindamood is a Scholars Program Instructor at FLOC).

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Tutor Spotlight, Volunteer Spotlight

Meet FLOC Tutor Emma Turnbull

Emma and Fab

It is easy to see why FLOC students and staff members like Emma Turnbull.  The 19-year-old work-study tutor was bright-eyed and cheery when we met for our interview; some would say especially so, given the fact that she had just spent her whole Saturday tutoring in our math and reading programs.

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Emma moved to DC last year to become a pre-med student at The George Washington University.  She began tutoring at FLOC when she was a freshman because it was really important to her not to have a “typical” work-study job.  Instead, she wanted to give back to her community and work with kids, and when she found out that FLOC’s schedule worked well with hers, she knew it was a great fit.

This year, Emma is a tutor in three of our programs: Thursday Night Math, Saturday Morning Math, and Saturday Afternoon Reading.  When I met her, she was with her Saturday Afternoon Reading student, Fabiola.  Later Emma told me, “I work with Fabiola on her reading – we call her Fab.  She has one of the best attitudes I have ever seen in a student and she’s always willing to give 110%.”  This was evident when I went to take a picture of the two of them and Fabiola hardly looked up from the book she was reading out loud.

Emma enjoys getting creative with her lesson plans and games, especially when she finds a game that “really clicks” with one of her students.  For example, she says that the student she tutors on Thursdays is very active, so they play “Red Light, Green Light” with flashcards so she can run around.  Her Saturday morning student, on the other hand, is quite artistic and loves to draw, so Emma always tries to incorporate drawing into his lesson plans.

In her free time, Emma likes to get out of what she calls the “Foggy Bottom bubble” and explore other places in DC.  She sees FLOC’s location in Adams Morgan as a positive, because it encourages her to discover a new area.  In fact, as we wrapped up the interview she informed me that she was going with a couple of friends to try out a cupcake place just a few blocks away.  To me, a cupcake seemed like a well-deserved end to Emma’s day.  We are extremely lucky to have such a committed, imaginative and enthusiastic tutor in our organization.

(Rachel Baxter is the Bilingual Recruitment and Outreach Assistant at FLOC).

Neighborhood Tutoring Program

Jalen’s Rap

NTP Student Jalen

Click here to see Jalen’s Rap about FLOC.

I have had the pleasure of not only seeing our students improve in our curricula, but also having the chance to get to know them on a personal level. When I was supervising FLOC’s annual trip to Butler’s Orchard, I got to spend some time with Jalen. Jalen is a great student here at FLOC, as well as an aspiring writer and rapper. He wrote a rap especially for FLOC that blew me away. It is so wonderful to see our students excel in their interests. 

(Hena Rizvi is a NTP Program Intern at For Love of Children).

 

Staff Perspectives

Thank You from For Love of Children

Can you believe that Halloween has passed and our students are already thinking of Christmas? Before we turn the calendar to 2014, we have to acknowledge the generous people who make things happen here.  Dedicated volunteers give significant time to make sure our students get the attention they need and deserve to make the advances we see every week in our Scholars and Neighborhood Tutoring Program. Beyond that, a committed staff works tirelessly and at all hours to support the program offerings and make sure the volunteers have what they need to keep things rocking and rolling. Additionally, we’re lucky to have such talented folks staffing our Outdoor Education Center – check out the November 7, 2012 blog post.  This team not only works to improve the educational outcome of students in local middle schools, they also come up with new and creative ways to physically challenge our students, bucking the childhood obesity trend.

Who else do we appreciate? Without a doubt, our students who make a commitment to hard work and attendance so that they can achieve the results they deserve. It’s not always easy to take control of your education, especially at ages where you are vulnerable to peer pressure and habitual behavior.

And, finally, we thank our donors. Clearly, nothing we do could be accomplished without revenue to buy supplies, hire talented staff, keep our facilities clean and safe, and maintain the welcoming atmosphere that our students and their parents have come to expect.

So, at this time of giving and caring, please think about making a donation.  Whether it be your first or your fiftieth donation, all contributions are put to good use with our minimal overhead and high rankings by the Catalogue of Philanthropy and other sources. Since you’re on our blog, you must be on a computer or Smartphone of some sort. Here’s the link to our donations page: http://www.floc.org/get-involved/donate. If all else fails, call 202.349.3530 and I will be happy to talk to you about facilitating your gift that will help us create a bright future for students in our city.

So, THANK YOU!

(Martin Conover is the Director of Development at FLOC).

Outdoor Education Center

Halloweeny Wee Warrior Dash: The OEC Fighting Back Against Childhood Obesity

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, in 2000, no state had a prevalence of obesity “equal to or greater than 25%”; by 2010, no state had less than 20%. West Virginia is ranked among the 12 states to have an obesity rate of greater than 25%. The “obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled” since 1980, with approximately “17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2 -19 years” being obese. These staggering statistics are a horrifying truth for today’s youth.

Much is to blame for these statistics, including a lack of awareness, lack of physical activity with youth today, and poor nutrition.  However, in Jefferson County, WV, a movement has started to fight back against this epidemic engulfing the state, especially among youth. Four years ago, local doctor and community organizer Mark Cucuzzella started a series of race events called Freedom’s Run.  The purpose is to encourage families and organizations in the community to get out and exercise and give back to the place they live.  Additionally, it promotes healthy living and the cultural heritage of this beautiful county.  However, his main focus has been in raising awareness of the childhood obesity epidemic.

The Outdoor Education Center of FLOC is at the center of this movement with Dr. Mark.  Over the past two years the OEC has partnered with Freedom’s Run to host a wildly successful half marathon in the county and now has partnered with the JeffersonCountyParks and Recreation Commission to put on “The Halloweeney Wee Warrior Dash” this past weekend. The “Wee Warrior Dash” was a one mile youth challenge course with obstacles such as foot crawls, hay bale hurdlers, and tire runs.  This race is focused on youth, and the obstacles were designed for them.  The hope was to get families together, get them up and moving and active in their community. Youth not only got to have fun with their friends participating in the race, but also got to show off their Halloween costumes with an opportunity to win prizes at the end of the event. The purpose of these races is not to get every individual into running, necessarily, but to see the enjoyment of being active and having fun with their families in the community.  The fight against childhood obesity still continues, but with approximately 200 youth running this race, it has a strong challenger. (Information from www.cdc.gov).

(Director of the Outdoor Education Center Todd McKinney and OEC Administrative/Program Coordinator Katie Nolan collaborated on this blog post).

Scholars Program

“I Am”: Original Poem from FLOC Scholar Christian

As a Scholars Program staff person, I have the opportunity to work with hundreds of young people, all of whom have infinite capacity to teach, inspire and impact those they encounter. I am consistently amazed by the poetry Scholars speak without even trying to be poetic; the ‘realness’ and ‘raw-ness’ (coupled with a somewhat counterintuitive innocence) with which they understand life; the unique perspectives they offer to anyone who will listen; their creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness; the ease with which they will sing and dance when the mood strikes; the fact that some still find simple humorous pleasure in crawling under a table (come on, it’s like fort-building using the only readily available resources); the trusting and open way they share and the way their smiles can change the trajectory of the recipient’s entire day.

FLOC Scholars

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that FLOC Scholars have amazing things to offer the world. And, through the Scholars Program, these students are encouraged and challenged to explore their identities, to voice their thoughts, to think critically about global issues, to build skills for success and to be thoughtful about their goals and dreams.

Last week, as part of the 7th grade curriculum related to identity exploration, the 7th grade students wrote poems about themselves. One in particular caught my eye, so I wanted to share it, because it captures and exemplifies the thoughtfulness and brilliance of FLOC youth.

“I Am”

I am bold and courageous.

I wonder why people fight.

I hear small whispers.

I see white butterflies and they remind me of my loved ones.

I want to make peace everywhere.

I am bold and courageous.

I pretend that I’m flying in the sky, worry free.

I feel just lost in the sauce.

I touch the lives of others. I worry that people will grow up to be something they don’t long to be.

I cry because I’m happy, I cry because I’m free.

I am bold and courageous.

I understand nothing is given to me; I have to earn it.

I say don’t worry, every little thing is going to be alright.

I dream about what’s to come in the future, leaving behind today.

I try to do my best at helping others.

I hope to have peace one day.

I am bold and courageous.

–Christian, 7th grade

Thank you, Christian, for being.

(Kelley Thompson is the Middle School Scholars Program Specialist).

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Q&A with Brandon

Last Saturday afternoon before our weekly reading program started, Brandon kindly took a break from his game of UNO to answer a few questions about FLOC.  This is what the seventh grade student had to say:

Question: You look pretty comfortable here! How long have you been coming to FLOC?

Answer: I started coming to FLOC in the summer.

Question: Very cool.  What do you like best about FLOC so far?

Answer: There are a lot of nice people here and fun activities.

Question: You’re in our afternoon reading program, since you’re here now.  Are you in any other programs?  Who is your tutor?

Answer: Well, I have two different tutors – one for reading and one for math.  My reading tutor is named Nahid so I’m working with her today.  She’s very nice.

Question: What are you working on?

Answer: Right now in math I’m working on fractions, and in reading we’re doing sounds.

Question: You said earlier that you like the activities at FLOC – do you have a favorite game or activity?

Answer: Definitely UNO!

[Remembering the UNO game I had interrupted for the interview, I decided to wrap things up, even though Brandon was still patiently answering all of my questions.]

Question: Okay, so here’s my last question for you: What do you want to be when you get older?

Answer: I want to be an illustrator.  For books or something like that.  I really like to draw.

And with that Brandon headed back downstairs to finish up his game, but not without first taking the time to politely shake my hand and say goodbye.  He’s just one fine example of the many great students at FLOC!

(Post written by Rachel Baxter.  Rachel is the Bilingual Recruitment and Outreach Assistant at FLOC.)