Happy National Mentoring Month!

Last night, FLOC partnered with fellow youth-serving organizations Asian American LEAD, Capital Partners for Education, the College Success Foundation, and Mentors Inc. for a volunteer appreciation happy hour to celebrate National Mentoring Month.  It was a great time, with a wonderful turnout, and an excellent opportunity to bring together people from all over the city working toward educational opportunities and other positive outcomes for DC students.

Many, many thanks to everyone who’s volunteered with FLOC this year and otherwise provided mentoring support to our young people!

(Check out our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds for some photos!)

As part of the celebration, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Beatriz Otero delivered a mayoral proclamation on behalf of Mayor Gray, declaring the month of January 2014 as Mentor Appreciation Month in DC:

mayors proclamation 1

Mayoral Proclamation

Mentor Appreciation Month

January 2014

WHEREAS, January is recognized as National Mentor Appreciation Month and on January 30, Asian American LEAD, Capital Partners for Education, College Success Foundation-DC, For Love of Children, and Mentors, Inc. will host  a Mentor Appreciation Month event at Policy Restaurant and Lounge to celebrate the contributions of its volunteers; and

WHEREAS, this month provides an opportunity to thank those individuals who contribute and volunteer their time, talent and energy to make a significant impact on the lives of others; and

WHEREAS, a caring adult mentor can play a positive role in helping our youth boost their academic achievement, school attendance, community engagement and postsecondary access and success; and

WHEREAS, a day during the month of January is also set aside as “Thank Your Mentor Day” to express appreciation and recognize a mentor who has contributed and made an impact on someone’s life:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, THE MAYOR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, do hereby proclaim January 2014, as “Mentor Appreciation Month” in Washington, D.C. and call upon all residents of this great city to join me in commending these individuals for all they do to be good role models and encourage our youth.


News, Outdoor Education Center

Meet Zoe: A Leaders In Action Student


Zoe is one of our 8th grade Leaders In Action (LIA) students. When asked what she has learned the most through LIA, she responded, “Leadership. I have learned more about group dynamics and that in order for a group project to get done there has to be leaders and followers.  I know now how to be a part of a group and how to work together, like when we do big projects, how to work with other people to get things done,” Zoe says.

One of her favorite parts of LIA is all the fun she has while learning. “The teachers are really fun, and they make the things we learn really neat because they are so goofy.” Her favorite memory from this school year so far has been “making those geysers out of film canisters because they shot out real far and also almost hit my shoes.”


Another favorite of Zoe is “while we are learning all these fun things we also get to earn points to go to summer camp.” Last year Zoe earned the chance to attend our summer camp at the Outdoor Education Center (OEC) and is very much looking forward to returning this summer.

Zoe’s favorite memory from last summer was “the greenhouse and all of the projects we did with natural things. Also the high ropes were a lot of fun. My favorite part was the ‘zig-zag’ crossing.” For this summer she is most looking forward to “seeing and having more fun times with Harpers Ferry and DC friends again.”

This year our LIA program is actively involved with the seven dimensions of health: physical, social, emotional, environmental, spiritual, intellectual, and occupational. Students will have many opportunities to participate in community events, visit organizations on field trips, and host local guest speakers.

To kickoff 2014 LIA students have already participated in their midyear fitness test and have shown great improvement since the beginning of the school year. Zoe says, “I like the snow, but I wish we did not have as many snow days because I miss Leaders In Action and want to get back to learning more cool things.” For more information about Leaders In Action visit:

(Kate Nelson is an AmeriCorps Vista at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).

News, Scholars Program

Scholars Kickoff Spring Semester with Theme Workshops


In the Scholars Program we began this spring semester with theme programming: four weeks of project based learning.  Before break we had students rank topics they were most excited to learn about. Starting this week Scholars were placed in mixed grade level workshops.  Students were able to expand their intellectual curiosity and build new relationships through exploring various topics and interacting with students from different grades.

On Monday night, Middle School Scholars re-created the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in “Wonders of the World” workshop, while students in “Political Art and Music” created artistic posters and poems in response to bullying. Our final group learned the difference between whole and processed food while competing in Scholar’s own Top Chef: “You are What You Eat”.

Scholars enjoyed getting their hands messy and engaging in thought-provoking discussions that pushed them to think outside of the box. We are excited to introduce theme programming to our High School Scholars as they are going to participate in similar workshops, with the addition of yoga to get their mind and body centered for post-secondary success.

(Kimberly Davis is the Scholars College Access Coordinator at FLOC).

Development, News

Introducing the FLOC Champions Network!

champions jan 14-edit

There’s a brand new initiative at FLOC called the FLOC Champions Network, a cohort of current volunteers who are eager and excited to assist with FLOC’s fundraising efforts, create a sense of community among volunteers, and help build capacity for the organization as a whole. Another goal of the network is to have a dedicated group which promotes FLOC to people who might not be aware of FLOC and its mission. The current cohort of Champions is made up of 11 volunteers and FLOC’s Development Assistant, Kate Fleischer:

  • Nicole Muryn: Sat AM
  • Yulya Spantchak: Sat AM
  • Renee-Lauren Ellis: Sat AM & PM
  • Sarah Solon-Hanover: Sat PM
  • Siri Raasch: Sat PM
  • Jeanelle Spencer: Tuesday
  • John Connolly: Tuesday
  • Ben Richman: Postsecondary Coach Substitute
  • Rachel Melo: WNDC
  • Ashley Elstro: Saturday
  • Brooke Pearson: Postsecondary Coach

Recently, the Champions had their kick-off meeting to discuss ideas and objectives for the network’s first year. Many of us agreed that we joined FLOC in part to meet new people. We’ve decided to take the lead in making the FLOC tutoring experience less individual and more social.

On Saturdays, we’d like to have an informal coffee hour between tutoring sessions, where people can get to know their fellow tutors. Additionally, we’re planning to host a happy hour event in the early spring for all tutors.

We also want each tutoring group to have the chance to work together on projects. The first one will be a “Fund-Race” where each tutoring program  is a team that encourages one another to get 100% of their tutors to donate to FLOC (within their means). The donations will be anonymous, but this will be a great way to bring volunteers together and raise money for FLOC’s programs.

The Champions Network will also be working within our workplaces and communities to raise visibility for FLOC, and garner new support and volunteers. If you would like to share FLOC with your own coworkers or friends, but need support, let us know, and we will help you come up with a great way to share FLOC!

We will also be helping FLOC continue to put on successful events throughout the year, like the Annual Fundraising Luncheon in May, the Book Festival, and College Night for students.

If you have any questions about how to get involved or want to know more, contact Kate at

(This post was written by FLOC volunteer tutors and Champions Rachel Melo and Siri Raasch).

Neighborhood Tutoring Program, News, Tutor Perspectives

A Lesson in Perseverance

Renee-Lauren photo

“I see that you’re getting stern with me.”

Say what? That bit of dry wit comes courtesy of my student, earlier today as we headed to the Fishbowl for a retest. I almost burst out laughing, but instead I just reassured my student that I was simply confident in his abilities and wanted him to do well. As I stifled my laugh I realized that I had gotten stern with him as we reviewed a few things, because I know that he knows. I know he does. I was so confident that he’d ace this step test. But testing can be unnerving, and he tends to rush and muddle the “i” and “e” sounds… so we work at it patiently. We persevere.

I’m not known to be a patient person, so sometimes persevering with my student is difficult. But I can never get angry or frustrated. Not only is that counterproductive, but he doesn’t deserve that reaction. His easy-going manner, wit, and delightful willingness to learn ease things along so much that I’ve become keenly invested in his success at FLOC. I see how and when he tries (hard) and, as I said, I know that he’s capable.

At the end of today’s program when I learned that he had to retest yet again, I immediately began thinking about how I could present the material in a fresh way. I began to mentally prepare myself to review the material carefully and patiently. I know that it’s important to persevere until he understands the short vowel sounds and automatically sounds an “e” instead of an “a” or “i” when I ask him to tap out and spell “cheb,” a pesky but useful nonsense word.

When I began at FLOC I didn’t anticipate a lesson in perseverance. Obviously I knew that the students at FLOC needed help mastering some skills, but I had no expectation of the degree of difficulty to help them accomplish that mastery. Maybe that was that way to begin this experience that I’ve come to enjoy and learn much from an open mind. I just wanted to fill some of my time with something helpful and meaningful. Not to be too sentimental about it, but the exercises in patience and perseverance are welcome, and a reminder that tutoring is as much a gift of your time as it is a gift to yourself.

(Renée-Lauren Ellis is a tutor in the Saturday Afternoon Reading program).

Events, News, Staff Perspectives

A Look at College Night 2013

High school students during the roundtable discussions.
High school students converse with post-secondary students during the roundtable discussions.

On Wednesday, December 18th, FLOC held a College Night for our Scholars Program at George Washington University. The program was divided into two blocks: a college fair for the first hour, followed by age-specific workshops and roundtable discussions. Overall, the night was a resounding success—we had 121 guests attend, over 25 post-secondary schools represented, and effective workshops for all involved. As someone who wasn’t involved in the planning process, I was able to fully appreciate the night with no added stress. Here were my five biggest takeaways:

1. The Spanish speaking parent workshop was met with tremendous optimism.

Spanish speaking parents participate of a workshop facilitated by Aurin Agramonte and Lisvette García.
Spanish speaking parents participate in a workshop facilitated by Aurin Agramonte and Lisvette García.

As we integrate more Spanish speaking families into FLOC, it’s our job to find ways to accommodate their presence at our events. The college process is more than a student experience, and it’s important that students’ families are just as informed as they are. The Spanish speaking workshop provided nearly identical content to the English version next door, giving information parents’ were extremely receptive to as well as a platform for them to share their thoughts and experiences. It was so well received that many of the parents requested additional workshops in the future for more chances to learn and communicate, something we’re now in the process of implementing.

2. The post-secondary networking workshop was the highlight of the night.

In this workshop we had FLOC volunteers meet with our current post-secondary students to learn about potential avenues stemming from their studies, and to learn about jobs that may or may not be directly tied to their majors. Both sides felt the time was very worthwhile, and it’s always exciting to continue to help our students beyond high school.

3. The number one question I was asked during the college fair concerned my alma mater’s athletic program.

Jim Coleman addressing questions from a student during the College Fair.
Jim Coleman addresses questions from a student during the college fair.

And that’s totally OK. The vast majority of the students that came to my booth weren’t entirely sure what they wanted to study, and handing them a list of seventy undergraduate programs can cause more than just anxiety. Comfort on campus can be hugely influential in the mental well-being of a college student, so I was more than happy to talk about my school’s demographics, clubs, and sport teams.

4. Our students have high aspirations.

This was self-evident when the biggest complaint from the students regarding the event was that there weren’t enough Ivy League schools represented during the college fair. I fielded a lot of questions in regards to certain majors, specific professors, the sincerity of advising departments, and professional placement. Overall I was very impressed.

5. FLOC is awesome.

Najé, a FLOC alumni, represents her school during the college fair.
Najé, a current post-secondary Scholar, proudly represents her college.

So maybe this isn’t something I just figured out but how amazing is it that FLOC can offer help and guidance from first grade through high school until a post-secondary degree? These same individuals come back to help current students navigating the same process they went through, while simultaneously creating some type of beautiful, organic, self-sustaining network. FLOC now has a Postsecondary Success Coordinator who is working to expand this network to not only help current college students, but to aid in job placement as well. There’s a reason I chose to suspend my life for a year to volunteer here, and nights like these make it easy to remember why.

(Jim Coleman is an NTP Site Coordinator at FLOC).

News, Outdoor Education Center

Leaders In Action Students Participate in Holiday Parade

Students and OEC staff during the Charles Town-Ranson Holiday Parade.
LIA students and OEC staff during the Charles Town-Ranson Holiday Parade.

The holiday season accounts for parties galore, and some of those parties are community wide events of celebration. This year’s Charles Town-Ranson Holiday Parade was very much a celebration of community and joy.

Our very own Outdoor Education Center (OEC) had a float in the parade this year, created and assembled by our Leaders in Action (LIA) students with some help from our staff. During the after school program our students painted plywood panels that were later attached to a frame, set in a truck bed, and topped off in holiday garland and bows.

LIA students paint the OEC in preparation for the Holiday Parade.
LIA students paint the OEC logo in preparation for the Holiday Parade.

On the day of the parade, the students came and joined in the march. Everyone dressed up as woodland creatures to show our enthusiasm and appreciation for our furry friends. Along the route, the students helped pass out promotional flyers and candy to spread the word about the OEC, our summer camps and other educational programs.

Though the weather was cold and brisk, the students kept a positive and enthusiastic attitude while they ran up and down the parade route. It was, most definitely, a successful day for the OEC, our LIA students, and the local community.

(Kate Nelson is an AmeriCorps Vista at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).