Monthly Archives: January 2013

Meet Jordan: A Student in the Harpers Ferry Leaders in Action Program

Jordan is a student participant in our Harpers Ferry Middle School Leaders in Action program. This fun loving seventh grader joined LIA at the beginning of sixth grade. Why, you may ask?  During the end of fifth grade he talked to a previous VISTA about the program, summer camp, and all the interactive things that The Outdoor Education Center provides. Excited as he was, he enrolled in the program for the upcoming year.

Leaders in Action offers a holistic approach to education; using environmental education as the background, the curriculum centers on helping kids make healthy choices and serves as an avenue to reinforce concepts being learned in school, by fully engaging them physically and mentally in a two hour, weekly session.

Jordan appreciates the program because he “likes to learn about stuff you don’t normally learn in school” like Jefferson County Local Government and the environmental practices that apply to his life. As we know, The OEC offers numerous curriculum units and activities for the students to get involved in; Jordan’s favorites are the Just Move It Health Expo, the Halloweeny Warrior Dash, and gardening at the OEC and a local organic farm. One of Jordan’s favorite parts of the program is meeting new people, in other grades and from D.C. Jordan believes LIA is ultimately teaching him important qualities such as leadership and teamwork skills that apply to his daily life.

When we asked Jordan if and how Leaders in Action has helped him he replied, “Yes! I’m smarter in school and I see stuff in different ways.”

(Sarah Nowicki is an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Outdoor Education Center).

Look Who’s Now on Facebook!

OEC facebookCheck out The Outdoor Education Centers new Facebook page at … https://www.facebook.com/theoutdooreducationcenterofFLOC. We are very excited to run our own social networking site based on our Leaders in Action after school program, upcoming events, teambuilding course, and facility rentals. We plan to utilize Facebook to connect with our past, present, and future participants through open lines of communication. Featuring our programs, we will be posting pictures and event schedules to inform our current members and hopefully attract new ones. Be sure to check out our page for updates and exciting news from the OEC!

Spotlight on a New Corporate Sponsor: The JBG Companies

FLOC is excited to announce that we have received not one, but two generous corporate gifts from The JBG Companies. A new Board of Directors member, Matthew Blocher has been an excellent advocate for FLOC. He is a Senior VP at The JBG Companies and FLOC is looking forward to the partnership the two can build together.

The JBG Companies was founded in 1960 and has grown into a well respected and recognized investment management firm – one of the best in the real estate field. Throughout their successful growth over the years, The JBG Companies commits itself to giving back in the communities where it does business. JBG Cares was set up to do just that: give back. Through hundreds of hours of volunteer service, monetary, and in-kind donations, JBG Cares is making a difference in the Washington area. FLOC has already benefitted from having Matthew Blocher serve on the Board of Directors and looks forward to having more opportunities for The JBG Companies employees to serve as FLOC volunteers. FLOC prides itself on partnering with businesses in the community to create a mutually beneficial relationship for our students and community members.

FLOC is grateful for the support from The JBG Companies and hopes that it can continue to grow in the future. Welcome to the FLOC family, JBG!

Volunteer Happy Hour

FLOC volunteers and staff enjoyed pizza and drinks at Mellow Mushroom last week.

FLOC volunteers and staff enjoyed pizza and drinks at Mellow Mushroom last week.

Here at FLOC we like to take every opportunity possible to show our volunteers how much we appreciate all of their hard work and dedication. This appreciation usually takes the form of verbal praise or a simple “thank you” note, but more recently it took the form of a volunteer happy hour at a local bar & restaurant, Mellow Mushroom. (This marks our first volunteer event for the school year).

Volunteers from almost all of our NTP programs and at least one volunteer from our Scholars program showed up to support FLOC and mingle with one another.  The atmosphere at Mellow Mushroom was fun and upbeat.  Throughout the course of the evening, about 30-35 volunteers stopped by to enjoy pizza, drinks, and conversation with their fellow volunteers.

These events are a great way for our volunteers to network with one another and get acquainted with the FLOC community outside of tutoring. We are glad to say that this particular happy hour had a great turnout, with a mixture of staff, tutors and other volunteers.  It’s a small way for us to say thank you, once again, for all that you do.

(Queen Travers is an NTP Site Coordinator at FLOC).

In review: College Night 2012

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In the middle of December and, for many college students, the middle of final exams, FLOC’s middle school and high school students (and their parents) flocked to the GeorgeWashingtonUniversity’s CloydHeckMarvinCenter for our sixth annual College Night.  They were preceded by a number of local professionals in various fields as well as quite a few of FLOC’s alumni who are currently involved in our Postsecondary Scholars program, all of whom had generously agreed to volunteer their time to impart some of their knowledge and experience with those traveling the paths they themselves had already trodden.

As students and parents began arriving at the center, they were met with the college fair portion of the event, wherein they had the opportunity to speak with FLOC Postsecondary Scholars as well as staff who were there manning stations representing their current colleges or alma maters.  Each student was given a “Passport to Success,” a booklet filled with questions they could ask throughout the entire event, and then, along with the parents attending the event, began visiting those of the approximately 20 campuses represented at the fair which they were most interested in.

Middle school and high school FLOC students and their parents had a chance to speak with FLOC alumni currently in postsecondary programs about their takes on the colleges they’re enrolled in, as well as with FLOC staff about their own alma maters.

Once the college fair began to wind down, guests were split up into three groups and herded into smaller “breakout rooms” designed to focus on aspects of the college experience that might be most relevant to them.  FLOC middle and high school students remained in the ballroom as stations were set up representing some of the aspects of college life and beyond, including admission, financial aid, academics, student life, humanitarian service, and life beyond college and entering into their careers.  Students were able to participate in round-table style discussions with current college students, nonprofit service volunteers, and representatives of certain careers about their experiences, and also to learn about financial aid with a representative of a sizeable scholarship fund.  They were also able to view a demonstration of a 3D printer (a machine which creates three-dimensional objects by laying down successive layers of material) given by an engineering student, representing one of the many fascinating aspects of the academic experience for, in particular, majors in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Upper right: A FLOC alumnus uses an iPad to share images representing her college experience with a younger FLOC student. Lower right: An engineering student showcases the 3D printing technology he brought to demonstrate.  Left: FLOC students cluster around stations to learn more about what to look forward to in the future of their academic careers.

Postsecondary students coming to this year’s College Night went from representing their colleges at the fair to a workshop revolving around answering some of the questions they may have had about preparing for life after graduation.  The segment offered them a chance to do some networking with professionals representing many years of experience in a variety of fields, including finance, business management, law/criminal justice, education, and nonprofit/humanitarian service.  This was followed by a brief presentation and Q&A regarding personal finance issues particularly relevant to students, which was hosted by a representative of a financial holding company with more than 25 locations in the DC metropolitan area.

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While the students were contemplating their futures, their parents were using this time to learn something from each other about how to help their students through their academic careers in a guided discussion facilitated by FLOC staff.  Parents of students who were already enrolled in college found themselves playing a consultative role for others hoping to see their own children do the same.  Following the discussion, the rest of their time at College Night was spent covering financial issues, both academic and personal, with a financial literacy educator specializing in credit.

After finishing the workshop, students filtered into the amphitheater to hear three of our Postsecondary Scholars speaking about experiences they’ve over the past year which taught them something about surviving college.  Each student’s experience reflected a different year of college, representing a freshman, junior, and senior perspective on higher education, as well as a different type of four-year college or university.

Kelcey is a senior at a public, comprehensive state university.

Kelcey is a senior at a public, comprehensive state university.

Alicia is a junior at a small, private, liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

Alicia is a junior at a small, private, liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

Samantha is a freshman at a large, private, comprehensive university.

Samantha is a freshman at a large, private, comprehensive university.

FLOC high school and middle school students during the final portion of College Night 2012.

While the format for this year’s event was a bit different than it has been in previous years, students and parents overall seemed pleased with their experience for the evening.  We’d like to thank all of the wonderful professionals in their fields and postsecondary students who volunteered for making it all happen!

(Andrea Julca is the Postsecondary Scholars Coordinator at FLOC).

Middle School Food Drive is a Success in Jefferson County

The middle school students donated 266 pounds of food to Jefferson County Communities Ministries.

The middle school students donated 266 pounds of food to Jefferson County Communities Ministries.

According to the 2011 census, West Virginia’s Poverty Level has reached a devastating 17.5%, comparable to the 14.3% within the overall United States. The poverty line for a family of four is defined as having a yearly income of $22,113. In Jefferson County, WV (location of the two “Leaders In Action” middle schools and the OEC), the current poverty rate is 9.1%. Within the United States, the state of West Virginia has the ninth highest poverty rate. According to the Register-Herald News, approximately one in five West Virginia children live in poverty.

It is impossible to pinpoint one absolute cause of these disastrous statistics but contributing factors include the economy, lack of resources, absence of jobs, and generational poverty. While completing a community service unit, Harpers Ferry and Charles Town Middle Schools wrapped up 2012 with a canned food drive. Each school set goals for themselves; Charles Towns’ goal was 76 items while Harpers Ferrys’ was 130. These goals helped keep their motivation high while teaching them the importance of goal-setting. Through generosity, enthusiasm, and hard work, both schools exceeded their expectations. Charles Town Middle School brought in 130 items reaching a total of 125 pounds while Harpers Ferry Middle School brought in a whopping 205 items at 141 pounds. Together, both schools raised a grand total of 335 items at 266 pounds! The items were then handed over to Jefferson County Communities Ministries who gladly accepted our donation, especially during this cold winter season.

(Sarah Nowicki is an AmeriCorps VISTA at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia).

Student Spotlight: Deriana

When I told Deriana that the interview wouldn’t take long, she responded, “I hope it does!” and proceeded to climb up into the large office chair next to mine, eager to share her views on math, FLOC, and life in general.  The nine-year-old student swung her chair back and forth with her feet as she answered my questions, beaming the entire time.

Deriana first came to For Love of Children last fall.  She was enrolled in FLOC’s Neighborhood Tutoring Program because she was struggling with math in school.  “I really didn’t like math,” she confessed, “but they made it fun and more educational for me.  Now I understand it better.”  By “they,” Deriana was referring to her tutors at FLOC over the course of last school year, the summer and this school year.

She described how she has come to learn math concepts in fun ways that include drawing pictures, playing games, acting things out, and her personal favorite: “trashketball.”  In addition, she talked quite a bit about Fred Taylor dollars and stars, incentives that are fun additions to the FLOC tutoring experience.  “Every time you come to FLOC you get a certain number of stars,” she explained.  “You get zero stars if you aren’t listening, one star if you’re not cooperating, two stars if you’re trying but you get a little distracted, and three stars if you are very respectful and you do a great job.”  She paused for a second and then grinned as she admitted that she usually gets two stars on account of her being easily distracted.

When Deriana isn’t at FLOC, she likes to sing.  Recently, she went with her choir to HowardUniversity for a concert she referred to as a “Hollywood Tour.”  “I also like to be silly and make people laugh,” she said.  Her sense of humor is apparent even at her young age, and there is no doubt that she often makes people laugh.  Deriana wants to be a teacher when she grows up.  “I’m good with children.  I always know activities to do and games to play like ‘Simon Says.’  I like to read, so sometimes I read books to little kids.”

Perhaps the interview did not go as long as Deriana would have liked, but she seemed happy as we wrapped up and I took her picture.  Her funny jokes, great smile, and contagious energy remind me of why FLOC exists, and we’re just as happy to have her here as she is to be here.

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