Scholars Program

Seventh Grade Scholars’ Vision Board

Last week in program, the seventh grade Scholars collaborated to create the vision board pictured above.  This collage is a representation of the creative students’ future hopes and dreams.  Feeling inspired?  Get out your scissors and glue!  A vision board is a great activity for groups, classes and teams of all sorts.

(Photo taken by Katherine Tavarez, who leads the Seventh Grade Scholars Program at FLOC).

Neighborhood Tutoring Program

Round-Up Relay: A Fun Way to Learn

Here at FLOC, we’re always impressed with the creative ways our tutors and students use tutoring supplies to create new and exciting games. Travis, a first-year FLOC tutor, found a great way to review phonics with his student Alicia. They call it “Round-Up Relay.”  Alicia and Travis play the game by assigning different sounds to each of the cones on the ground. This way they can review any number of concepts at once. Alicia has to run around the cone that represents the sound Travis calls out. The fast-paced nature of the game helps Travis and Alicia to both stay engaged, as well as gives Alicia lots of chances to interact with the material she is reviewing. A narrow hallway turns into a fast-paced arena of phonemic know-how when the two of them play this game.

(Cody Laminack is an NTP Program Coordinator at FLOC).

Outdoor Education Center

Meet the Two Newest Members of the OEC

Join us in welcoming our newest additions to the FLOC Outdoor Education Center, two enthusiastic and wonderful individuals: Cassie Degener and Sarah Nowicki!


Cassie Degener: Cassie learned about the FLOC OEC while attending a college fair at ShepherdUniversity, where she studied Psychology and minored in Education. This past summer Cassie joined the FLOC family as a counselor/naturalist, where she realized her true passion for the outdoors and working with children. While attending school, Cassie worked at the JohnHopkinsCenter for Language and Speech Processing where she assisted with the human language technology workshop. Cassie is from Hanover, PA, which is infamous for being “the snack food capital of the U.S.A.”  Her main goal as a VISTA is to integrate the community and schools to raise awareness for the organization in order to help sustain the programs we offer. As a personable, goal-orientated woman, Cassie plans to use her leadership skills and unique background towards a productive year at FLOC. In the future Cassie has plans to become an elementary school counselor or park ranger.


Sarah Nowicki: After receiving her B.A. in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Administration and Nonprofit Administration from Western Illinois University (WIU), Sarah searched for an organization she was passionate about working for. After receiving a job as a naturalist/counselor this past summer, she felt that FLOC OEC was a perfect fit for the upcoming year. While attending WIU, Sarah worked as a professional fundraiser for the school’s Annual Giving Campaign and as a facilitator (low/high rope) at an outdoor facility similar to the OEC. She also completed an internship at Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, IL where she assisted with family programs and greenhouse activities. Sarah’s goals as a VISTA are to enhance the OEC’s outreach and recruitment strategies while highlighting fundraising and the after-school program.  After the completion of her service year, Sarah would like to work for an organization that focuses on environmental/experiential education in an urban setting. While serving at the OEC, Sarah will showcase her communication and organizational skills and demonstrate her ability to perform well under pressure.

Neighborhood Tutoring Program

Let it Snow: NTP Student Natasha Wins Holiday Postcard Contest

Natasha shows off her winning postcard.
Natasha shows off her winning postcard.

As the holiday season was fast approaching, students at FLOC participated in the annual “Holiday Postcard Contest.” This year there were a variety of entries, from drawings of SpongeBob Squarepants in the snow to Thanksgiving turkeys and of course, Santa Claus. All of the entries are being displayed around the FLOC office for everyone to enjoy.

There was much spirited competition but the winner of this year’s contest is nine-year-old Natasha. Natasha’s drawing depicts a boy dressed up in his winter coat playing in the snow. The phrase “Let it Snow” is proudly displayed alongside the drawing. Natasha is a student who embodies the mission of FLOC. Even though this is only her first year at FLOC, Natasha jumped right in with all of the wonderful programs that FLOC offers its students, such as the annual trip to Butler’s Orchard and participating twice a week in the Neighborhood Tutoring Program. The “Holiday Postcard Contest” was no exception. After designing more than ten entries, Natasha finally submitted her winning postcard. NTP Intern Hena Rizvi, described Natasha as being eager to learn and go above and beyond to succeed. Natasha received a gift card of her choice for winning the contest. Natasha’s thoughtful personality came through while choosing her prize, because she wanted to make sure it was something her brother could enjoy, too.

Three staff members chose this year’s winning postcard. The postcards will be sent out during the holiday season to thank donors for their continued support of FLOC. Your generosity truly is the foundation of FLOC and helps our children grow and learn in a safe and welcoming environment. The contest is a reminder that creative outlets for children are just as essential as math and reading skills for success in their future lives.

A special thank you goes out to all of the students that participated in the contest! Congratulations again, Natasha! Happy Holidays!

(Kate Fleischer is the Development Assistant at FLOC).


FLOC Volunteer Receives the Mayor’s Community Service Award in Education

Michael reads to a child at FLOC's Sixth Annual Book Festival.
Michael reads to a child at FLOC’s Sixth Annual Book Festival.

Michael O’Neill, NTP’s longest serving volunteer with over 12 years of service will be honored with the Mayor’s Community Service Award in Education on Tuesday, December 11th at 11:00am at the John A. Wilson building. Michael was nominated to receive the award by FLOC staff because his commitments to education and to his student Kevin are truly outstanding. Michael has worked with Kevin since 2005, increasing not only Kevin’s reading and math skills but his confidence too. Michael is a patient and innovative tutor who is committed to FLOC’s mission and believes in student success. We are fortunate to have him here at FLOC and we look forward to many more years of service.  Michael’s award is officially acknowledged online.  Click here to check it out.

(Lana Slack is the NTP Program Manager).  

Outdoor Education Center

Volunteer Firefighters Visit the OEC

This week, the Leaders In Action (LIA) students were able to share in a unique experience and learn a little something about serving their community.  Three volunteer firefighters took time out of their schedules to speak with our students. The guest speakers from Citizens Fire Company here in JeffersonCounty discussed career opportunities, fire prevention, and the overall life of a volunteer firefighter. A large portion of the conversation was geared towards fire prevention and creating an emergency plan at home, which most students had not previously considered. Not only did they discuss the functions of their equipment, differences in gear, and type of smoke detectors, they focused on the need for determination, courage, and having a passion for the community in any career they choose.

The firefighters touched on the importance of leadership skills in the work place by choosing to take action when the community is at risk.  They also talked about the necessity of managing their time with volunteering and other careers, and working together to end a hazard to their neighborhood. Leadership and teamwork skills can apply to many situations for our LIA students, whether it is working on a group project, being on an athletic team, or even doing chores at home. The fire fighters discussed with the students the importance of social and civic responsibility, which is one of the many goals of the Leaders in Action program.

After the discussion and exploration of the fire truck, one of the volunteers demonstrated the technique to extending and climbing the 105 ft. ladder. He then proceeded to climb the 85 steps to the top. At this point, the children were extremely excited and ready to start fighting fires! Having the firefighters meet with our students was great. The visit really opened many eyes and motivated students to consider a potential career of protecting our community.

(Sarah Nowicki is a WV Promise Vista at the Outdoor Education Center).


A Look at the Sixth Annual FLOC Book Festival

It was an afternoon that was aptly named, a real celebration of children’s books.  On Saturday, November 17th, right after the weekly Saturday afternoon reading tutoring program, over 80 students, family members, volunteers, and staff gathered for the 6th annual FLOC Children’s Book Festival.  We were there to celebrate reading and literacy, to meet some special guests, and to pick out books to take home. Not a week goes by at FLOC that we’re not talking about reading and literacy, but on this day in particular, the halls of our Columbia Road offices were absolutely buzzing with excitement about books.

Our master of ceremonies for the afternoon was WJLA-TV’s Cynné Simpson, a local television anchor and literacy advocate.  She talked with us about her own love of reading, the people who inspired her career in the news, and about her path to becoming an anchor.  Cynné then introduced Laura Murray, northern Virginia resident and author of The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, a story that details a gingerbread man’s quest to reconnect with the students who left him behind during recess.

Laura read her book out loud to us, with lots of audience participation, then talked with our students about her family (including her two daughters and her dogs!) her journey to become an author (she was a teacher first!) how to write a story (always ask “what would happen if…”) and how kids can be storytellers and authors, too (they can, really!).  The conversation included cameo appearances by Albert Einstein, the Lincoln Memorial, alien dogs, and hats that looked like gingerbread men.  Laura invited several specially selected students to participate in a quiz show about the book and the presentation, and our students were brilliant:  the game ended in a tie, with both teams getting every single question right.

Special guests Cynné Simpson (left) and Laura Murray (right) with FLOC students.

To wrap up our time together, Cynné moderated a question and answer session between FLOC students and the two special guests.  Students asked several insightful questions, including (for Cynné) “How do you get the inside scoop?” and (for Laura) “How do you know what you’re going to write?”

After the presentation finished, we divided into groups for even more festive book activities.  Parents talked with FLOC staff and each other to explore how literacy develops, how to encourage literacy in the home, and how to advocate for better resources in schools.  They were provided with a list of resources related to child and adult literacy, a listing of local libraries, and information on how to sign themselves and their students up for library cards.  Kids decorated their own gingerbread men with all kinds of colorful art supplies, then came up with personalities and stories to tell about these cookie people.  Author Laura Murray stuck around to talk more with Book Festival guests and sign copies of The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School while everyone enjoyed food from Gepetto Catering.

To cap off our celebration of children’s literature, festival-goers got to select books to keep for their own personal libraries (provided by Books for America, First Book, and many generous individual donors—thanks to all!) Every student and parent in attendance was invited to select up to twenty books to take home.

As another successful Book Festival concluded, parents and students headed home with bags full of books (plus paper gingerbread men with glued-on googly eyes, and half-eaten sandwiches and cookies, and lists of literacy tips and resources), minds full of stories, and imaginations full of possibilities. Many thanks to the partners, donors, volunteers, and participants who made this event a success, and extra special thanks to special guests Cynné Simpson and Laura Murray.  We hope to see everyone at next year’s Book Festival!

(Elizabeth Metz is the Recruitment and Outreach Manager at FLOC).

Photo credit: Scott Henrichsen.