Scholars Program

Middle School Scholars Visit James Madison University

On Saturday, May 18th, 7 Middle School Scholars visited James Madison University. Our middle school Scholars spent their Saturday experiencing the college campus. They started the day with lunch in the cafeteria. After lunch our students explored the campus with Terrence, who was specifically assigned to enrich their experience. Terrence works in student athlete services at the university and spoke to students about the importance of balancing sports while earning a degree. FLOC students experienced athletic facilities, academic buildings, and group study rooms. The time spent touring the vast campus will be an experience these middle school students will carry with them as they matriculate through their high school and post-secondary education.

(Maryanne Hall is a Scholars Program Instructor at FLOC). 

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Neighborhood Tutoring Program

Our Favorite Books at FLOC

The FLOC staff recently came together for a baby shower.  Since we are all lovers of literature at FLOC, many staff members brought their favorite children’s books to share with the baby.  Some are well-known, award-winning classics and others are just fondly remembered.  In no particular order, here are some FLOC staff favorites:

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess
Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess
If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Little Blue Truck  by Alice Schertle
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

If you’re looking for more great children’s books, check out this all ages list from Scholastic: http://www.scholastic.com/100books/

You might also find some new and old classics at the Common Sense Media site. They have complied some of the best books for kids into different categories. If you’re looking for books about the environment, books for reluctant readers, or some tried and true favorites, you can find them here: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-lists

(Kyla Wasserman is the NTP Curriculum Coordinator at FLOC).

Outdoor Education Center

Imoné’s Alternative Spring Break

Imoné (third from the left) and her friends pose in front of the van on their alternative spring break.
Imoné (third from the left) and her friends pose in front of the van on their alternative spring break.

During the first week of April, our Leaders In Action students from Charles Town Middle School and Harpers Ferry Middle School had the opportunity to participate in an Alternative Spring Break Trip to Charleston, WV. During the trip we were given a tour of The Capital Building led by Delegate Paul Espinosa. We also met with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, as well as West Virginia’s Secretary of State, Attorney General, a Chief Justice, and multiple delegates. The next day we kicked off our Health and Gardening Unit by volunteering at an urban garden through the West Virginia State University Extension Office. To thank our host, Rock Lake Community Life Center, we gardened and cleaned their beautiful facility. While offering this meaningful leadership opportunity to our students, we interviewed a Charles Town Middle School student, Imoné.

Before the trip…

Sarah (Outdoor Education Center VISTA): What are you looking forward to the most on this trip?

Imoné  (Charles Town Middle School LIA student): I am mostly excited to meet the West Virginia Governor because he is the closest thing to meeting the president and an important figure to the state I live in.

Sarah: What were your plans for spring break if you did not attend this trip?

Imoné : Well, I would probably have sat at home and babysat. I am very glad to be able to take this trip with my friends!

Later in the week…

Sarah: What were some of your favorite things during our trip to Charleston?

Imoné : Definitely gardening and painting at the urban garden. I am very excited to start our upcoming Health and Gardening Unit!

Sarah: Why was this your favorite activity?

Imoné : I did not expect gardening to be fun but I really enjoyed it. It was fun to get muddy, plant vegetables, and learn about the earth.

Sarah: Did anything we previously learned in Leaders In Action prepare you for this trip?

Imoné : Yes, mostly our Global Connections and Local Government Units. Because we talked about both topics throughout the year, I was able to understand what we were talking about while at the Capital Building. Also, our Community Service Unit introduced me to the benefits of helping others in our community.

Sarah: What are some memories that you will take away from this?

Imoné : I have a lot! Some would be painting at the community garden, meeting West Virginia Government officials, meeting students from the Harpers Ferry Middle School LIA program, and getting to know current LIA members from Charles Town Middle School. I enjoyed the open environment to volunteer, talk, and have fun. I am very excited for next year!

This is Imoné’s first year in our Leaders In Action program. Due to how much she enjoyed this trip and how comfortable she felt with the staff and students, Imoné  plans on attending two summer camps at The OEC.

(Sarah Nowicki is an AmeriCorps Vista at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).

Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Michael O’Neill: A Long-Term FLOC Volunteer

Michael O’Neill is one of our longest-tenured volunteers, as he began tutoring at FLOC 13 years ago.  While living in Washington, D.C. in 2000, Michael had some free time during the weekends and began to search for organizations he could volunteer with.  Michael says, “Having been a tutor in Detroit, Michigan, before I moved to D.C., I felt For Love of Children was the perfect match for me.”

It was in 2007 that Michael began to tutor Kevin, who he has now tutored for 6 years. Shortly after they met, Kevin began to show interest in learning to play chess, one of Michael’s favorite pastimes. Michael loves that he has been able to see Kevin grow through his love for chess and another of Michael’s favorite games when he was young, Monopoly.  Kevin is teaching Michael how to play the latest take on Monopoly—Millionaire Monopoly.

Michael’s says his favorite part of FLOC is “the continuing education of tutors and the ability to adapt the curriculum to each student’s needs.” He also loves the blend FLOC offers its students by providing them with the neighborhood tutoring close to home while also giving them the opportunity to do something very different like go to the Outdoor Education Center in West Virginia, where students get hands-on learning experiences in the outdoors.

During his free time, Michael loves to play board games and chess, and is an avid reader. He often goes to Politics and Prose and the National Gallery of Art.

(Sarah Arango is the NTP Bilingual Program Coordinator at FLOC).

Events

Beyond the Classroom: Ready to Reach Even More

On May 1, 2013, For Love of Children hosted our annual “Beyond the Classroom” Fundraising Luncheon.  Board members, staff, volunteers, donors, partners and students gathered at the Renaissance Hotel to enjoy a delicious meal and respond to the call to action to support FLOC programs.  There wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

Remarks: Tim Payne, Executive Director

In 1965, a community of volunteers formed For Love of Children through a call to action. They joined one another, united in a sense of hope and motivated by a common mission. Theirs was a call to shutter a warehouse for wards of the state in the District, and to establish new standards of care to demand safeguards against neglect. Theirs was a call for social justice, a recognition that collective action could transform the future for these children.

Over the course of our 47-year history, our strategy has shifted to focus on education, but we are still guided by the core values of our founders: to help children thrive, to give them the opportunities they deserve. We still come together as a community united by hope, dedicated to the belief that individuals, working together, can impact lasting and meaningful change.

What, then, is our call to action today?

Current educational statistics are alarming: barely 50% of our high school students graduate on time, 89% of 11th graders perform below basic levels in reading. Too few children in this city, particularly low-income children of color, receive the excellent education that they deserve. The inequalities in our community are deep and widening.

We can’t begin to achieve social justice without guaranteeing that our children have the tools, knowledge, and drive necessary for academic achievement. There’s an undeniable power in choice, in being able to choose, and all our work seeks to provide students with choices. Our scholars reject the notion that their lives are predetermined by what ward they grow up in or what school district they’re born into. They choose different paths, ones that lead to college, careers, futures. We simply guide them on their journey.  We unite students and their families with a diverse set of volunteers who teach, empower, and, working tirelessly alongside their students, transform. We stand all together, and refuse to allow these injustices to continue. Our call may be a whisper or it may be a shout, but we say together: not in this city, not in our community, and not these kids.

All of our volunteers, from the 20-year-old college student to the 50-year-old attorney, give at least 3 hours a week to help our students develop a foundation of academic skills and a mindset of self-confidence and determination. They show the importance of setting goals and share the joys and celebration of achievement.

Our kids know the odds are stacked against them. But the thing that is distinctively different about FLOC students is that they have grit.

Grit isn’t just an abstract concept. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard are currently evaluating the impact of grit on college success. What is grit? Simply put, it is the perseverance to achieve. It’s a refusal to be overcome by anything. Someone may be more naturally gifted or have more opportunities based on circumstance, but rest assured that kids with grit work harder, longer, and smarter to achieve success.

If you’ve heard my story, you know that I started at FLOC as that 20 year old college student. I’ve learned the true meaning of grit watching Erica, my first student, grow from an inquisitive but desperately struggling 3rd grader at Garrison Elementary School into a confident 4th year student at the University of Maryland. Name an obstacle: she’s overcome it. Think of a challenge: she’s faced it.

At Garrison, we closed the nearly 3-year gap in her reading skills. At Shaw Junior High School, she fought against a culture of underachievement. She rose out of an environment, both at school and at home, where college was never a goal, let alone an option. Her high school graduation was special, but it didn’t mean everything was easy from there. Contending with unsupportive financial aid officers, the rising costs of college, being forced to transfer, working 30 hours a week while maintaining a full course load: all of these and more happened. But Erica never gave up, never lost sight of her goal, and she knew that FLOC would be there every step of the way. In December, Erica will be graduating from the University of Maryland with a degree in family studies, but she’s not stopping there. She’s considering graduate programs in education. Erica has taught me all I ever need to know about grit.

Day in, day out, our students at FLOC are developing their grit. The more than 550 of them who came through our doors this year received the full benefits of our ongoing search for the best practices, and the newest, most relevant research data. Dozens of volunteers join our efforts every week; more and more stay with us year to year. Together we transform. For the 7th consecutive year, 100% of our high school scholars have graduated on time, and been accepted into a postsecondary institution. This is fantastic, but we can do more. We must do more.

Next year the number of post-secondary scholars we serve will go up to 75, and we intend to stay with them through college and their transitions to careers. Our work isn’t finished when a student reaches grade-level, gets a great score on the SAT, or is accepted into a top-tier university. We don’t stop until our scholars earn their postsecondary degree. We’re expanding every day, both in terms of the number of students we serve, and in the variety of ways we’re serving those students. We’re working with students longer, and the long-term commitments we are making to these students means, unfortunately, we’re unable to enroll some others. We’re straining against our current capacity, against limitations of space, and staff, and resources. We’re straining to open our doors to new students. This year alone, 85 are waiting, and hundreds, thousands more who could thrive with our support, wait.

The good news is that we know what it takes, and, with your help, we can get there. We are building the strategic plan that lays the foundation for growth in the city. This is our tipping point. We are poised, ready, and eager to expand the scale of our services, to reach more kids in underserved parts of our community, to provide the mindset, the skills, and the grit to succeed.

Do you hear the call?

Join FLOC today and show your support. You can whisper, or you can shout: not in this city, not for this community, not these kids. Together, we can reach even more. Together, we transform.

Outdoor Education Center

Leaders In Action Survival Weekend

The Leaders In Action at Survival Weekend

On the weekend of February 22-24, our Leaders In Action students joined us at the Outdoor Education Center for our annual Survival Overnight. This interactive weekend was developed to help our students get the overall feel of the OEC in preparation for summer camp, along with introducing them to the outdoors.

We played a name game to officially begin Survival Weekend, as some of the students are fairly new to the program. One goal of LIA is to increase student’s leadership and teamwork skills, which is the first step to creating a strong team. Afterward, we hiked several of the many trails that the OEC has to offer while identifying animal tracks and playing camouflage, a hiking game fit for every age (if you know it, you love it!)

Students enjoyed our next few activities that focused on native wildlife such as “What to do when you encounter animals” where each pair of students received an animal, acted out how they think someone should react when they stumble upon this animal, and then we discussed the practical decision. This activity helped the children step out of their comfort zone while using their own originality and creativity skills. The next wildlife game we played is known as “Wildlife Headbands”. Each student received an animal card, blindly placed it on their forehead, and actively wandered the room asking yes-or-no questions about which animal they represented. To relax, we sat down to watch Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. As we watched the movie, we discovered and discussed the many specific morals. The movie follows a young man’s encounter with the Lorax, a majestic speaker to the trees. The man decides to take advantage of the environment, cut down all the trees for the product he is creating, and in the end is left with nothing as the forest is empty, and his wildlife friends abandon him. We discussed the ways he could have followed his dreams and still kept the forest intact. All the students participated with their own unique thoughts on the subject. This activity truly helped our students view the environment from an alternative perspective. The moral of The Lorax correlates directly with our environmental stewardship mission, and fit precisely with our upcoming Health and Gardening Unit.

As the weekend progressed the students also accomplished a nature scavenger hunt and a “Migrate, Hibernate, and Tough It Out” animal game. This activity awakened the students in the morning as they ran to the designated animal winter coping mechanism that they thought was correct; for example, “Skunks: do they migrate, hibernate, or tough it out?” The answer: hibernate! As the weekend went on we touched on the five basic survival skills: Signal, Water, Shelter, Fire, and Food. Students were not only interested in these learning points, but they wanted to be directly involved in the production of activities. The main skill we focused on was shelter building. Each student had the opportunity to design and create their own shelter out of natural materials. Our FLOC’s Wilderness Voyager Camp, offered this summer, will heavily cover those five vital survival skills in an exciting hands-on approach, as well as offering the students an amusing camp experience.

Each Leaders In Action student was able to form their own organic experience at Survival Night. While enjoying time with new friends, the students achieved all levels of active participation by learning about their environment, accomplishing native wildlife games, and becoming comfortable at the Outdoor Education Center.

(Sarah Nowicki is an AmeriCorps Vista at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).

Neighborhood Tutoring Program

Goodbye and Thank You to our College Volunteers

This past week at FLOC was the last week of tutoring for most of our volunteer college students. With the college semester coming to a close, students are wrapping up school and heading out to start their summer internships. College is a busy time and most people choose to spend it with friends or participating in extracurricular groups or activities. For these students to volunteer at least 3 hours of their week every week is a true sign of character and a commitment to community. Here at FLOC, we are incredibly grateful for the time and effort put in by these college students to help the local children of DC achieve better educations. They greatly increase the size and improve the capability of FLOC thanks to their commitment and so we owe them all a big thank you. While it is sad to see the college students go, it is hard not to smile when thinking about all of these young adults helping to make a change in our education system.  We hope many of them return in the fall for another great year at FLOC!

(Alex Magnano is is an NTP Site Coordinator at FLOC).