News, Outdoor Education Center, Scholars Program

Middle School Pen Pals

For the third year in a row, FLOC Scholars in Washington have been pen pals this semesterhello with FLOC Leaders in Action students in West Virginia. These middle schoolers live less than two hours away from one another, but those 70 miles represent a significant difference between the urban environment of DC and the rural environment of Jefferson County. As program wraps up this month in both places, we thought we’d take a look back at the letters these middle school students have written over the last few months and the relationships they’ve formed in the process.

DC Scholars 6th Grade Pen Pals Project (2)

The letters begin with lots of questions:

“What is your school like?”  “What is your favorite thing to do outside?” “What do you want to do when you grow up?” “Who likes Chick-fil-a?” “Do you like to read? Do you like to play? Do you like homework?”

And continue with requested answers:

“When I grow up, I want to be an underwater mechanic.” “My winter break was good. I did watch The Hunger Games. It was good, but it was a bit sad.” “We’ve missed about a week and a half of school because of snow. We went sledding, snowboarding, and shoveled snow.” 

group of letters

They’re chatty, inquisitive, friendly, and colorful, punctuated with drawings and P.S.’s and  jokes. They talk about their favorite foods and TV shows, video games and YouTube stars, Star Wars and Deadpool and Alvin and the Chipmunks, winter break snow and spring break plans. They shatter misconceptions (No, the West Virginians don’t live in barns. Yes, there are places to sled in DC.) There’s even a little touch of election politics conversation.

WV LIA Charles Town Middle School Pen Pal Project

Most of all, it’s clear that for all these students live in different communities, they have a lot more in common than not. It’s also clear that friendships are blossoming via their writing.

“It has been a good experience to communicate with you… I hope to see you in summer camp.”

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

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Scholars Program, Student Spotlight

Meet Lisbeth, a 12th Grade Scholar

Lisbeth Moreno.jpgLisbeth is a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, and has been in the FLOC Scholars program since the beginning of her junior year.
This fall she will be a freshman at George Mason University, her top choice, where she plans to major in Government and International Politics.

Each FLOC senior is matched with a postsecondary coach who guides them through the college application process. Lisbeth and her coach Jazmin are certainly a great match! “I think FLOC did a great job pairing us,” Lisbeth said smiling. “Jazmin and I have similar interests and backgrounds; she’s also Latina and came to FLOC as a student, she studied International Affairs at Tufts, and we laugh at the same things.” Lisbeth also said that she has appreciated how Jazmin encouraged her to stay on top of her college and scholarship applications this year.

Lisbeth has many wonderful FLOC memories. The SAT prep that FLOC provided during her 11th grade year helped to increase her scores in all three sections—math, reading, and writing. “I learned new vocabulary, of course, but I also learned how to think through test answers when I came across words or phrases I was unfamiliar with,” she said. During her junior year of high school, Lisbeth went on a spring break college tour with FLOC. “We visited UNC Greensboro, Radford, and VCU, which were three of the schools I applied to,” she recollected. The college tour not only proved helpful in the college decision process itself, but also provided Lisbeth with an opportunity to make lasting friendships with other FLOC students.

Students with mascot

With graduation just around the corner, Lisbeth is excited for college and all of the new opportunities that come with it.

(Samantha Bailey is the Bilingual Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator at FLOC.)

Scholars Program

4 Scholars Life Lessons… through Theater

All the World’s a Stage

Theater is a way of life. For those of us who have taken a theater class or have had any exposure to theater, we know that performing in front of an audience — no matter how small — ultimately affirms our character. Do we tend to move toward the spotlight or away from it?  Last semester, FLOC Scholars had the opportunity to participate in a theater elective. They learned the basics of acting and used those skills to perform short plays, which they themselves wrote. Little did our Scholars know they would intentionally receive life lessons along the way.

Noel

Expect the Unexpected

As the semester began, elective participants familiarized themselves with the concept of improv, a branch of acting that utilizes the unexpected as a gateway to performance. Improv prepares actors to expect the unexpected and to remain calm when things don’t go as planned. In one activity, scholars were tasked with creating a never ending story (think telephone, but in narrative form). One scholar would start the story and the next scholar would add on and so forth until time was called. Stories went in all directions. One started as a story of a boy in a farmhouse but ended as a story of a giant octopus destroying D.C. Another began with an evil witch on a mountain but concluded with a family trying to keep their fried chicken restaurant open. The activity taught students that no matter what was thrown at them — whether a witch or a farmhouse — they had to make it work and fit within the context of their ultimate goal.

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Emotions Make Us Human

Students transitioned from improv to acting and were given multiple skits to exercise their acting muscles. Acting requires a lot of an actor; it requires looking into your own emotions and pulling out the ones that are most appropriate for a particular scene. Acting, therefore, can be a very introspective activity. Scholars explore their personal backgrounds and must figure out which memories and experiences inform specific emotions. What do you need to think about in order to feel anger, for example, or excitement, or grief? One Scholar mentioned her most recent birthday party as a source of happiness. Another mentioned being bullied as a source for sadness. Whichever memory they chose, Scholars had the chance to figure out what triggered certain emotional responses and then to decipher if those responses were appropriate for that situation.

Abdul_Jasmin

Take Pride in Your Work

After practicing their acting skills, Scholars were asked to write and perform their own plays. They used their creativity to develop stories, dialogue, staging, and even props. At the end of the process, scholars had created a multitude of plays set in a variety of locations and genres. Some clever titles included Mom and Orangina Save Mars, an epic story about a mother and daughter saving Mars from alien invaders; The Crazy Adventures of Bob and Dave, a thinkpiece on the relationship between a boy and his pet dinosaur; and Empire, a reimagining of the hit network drama of the same name. When it was time to perform, Scholars used the skills they had learned previously to deliver well thought-out and one-of-a-kind plays that showcased their imagination and creativity. Their energy was magnetic. By performing something they had written themselves, Scholars took ownership of their work, which built up their confidence. They took pride in the fact that hard work and effort truly did pay off in the end.

(Tiken Savang is the Scholars Program Fellow working with grades 6 and 11.)

Neighborhood Tutoring Program, Scholars Program, Student Spotlight

Meet Niya

Niya 2Niya is a sixth grader, who participates in both the Neighborhood Tutoring and Scholars programs here at FLOC. Niya’s favorite subjects in school are math and science, because of their real life applications. When asked what she likes the most about FLOC, she grinned and replied, “My math tutor, Nick! He always laughs at my jokes and encourages me to keep trying, even if I don’t get the answer right the first time.” FLOC’s tutoring program has also helped Niya to become more confident in the classroom; she’s often one of the first to raise her hand and try to answer a question.

The middle school Scholars program just completed a drama unit, which Niya also loved. “I’d like to become an actor, or singer… or a pianist!” she said. All of the sixth grade students wrote skits, and Niya created a story about a girl who was both a popstar and an undercover superhero. “I love everything about FLOC,” she said. “I hope I can come back every year, because I know it will help me get into college one day!”

(Samantha Bailey is the Bilingual Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator.)

Scholars Program

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Financial Aid Season!

FLOC is committed to ensuring that every student obtains a postsecondary credential, which requires the financial means necessary to obtain it.  The high cost of college and vocational school can present a barrier to our students and their families.  But financial aid opens doors for students pursuing a postsecondary degree.  To that end, FLOC staff and volunteers are gearing up for financial aid season.

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The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opened on New Year’s Day.  It is critical in accessing scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities for college-going students.  We know that our students benefit greatly from financial aid and have been working tirelessly to ensure they complete the FAFSA, accurately and on time.  Our 12th grade coaches will be equipped to provide one-on-one support to all of our high school seniors.  Our Scholars who are currently pursuing postsecondary degrees will receive a step-by-step how-to guide on completing the FAFSA, with additional support provided by staff and volunteers.  And while the FAFSA can be completed well into 2016, Scholars are encouraged to “Apply online by Valentine” to ensure they are among the first in line to receive the maximum amount of aid.

Scholars are also diligently working on their DCTAG (Tuition Assistance Grant), DC-CAP (DC College Access Program), institutional aid, and a whole host of scholarship applications.  Scholars will even have the opportunity to participate in social media campaigns and enter raffle competitions.

Students at VTECH

As acceptance letters and financial aid awards begin to roll in, FLOC staff will have critical conversations with students and their families to ensure clear understanding of what can be a maze of postsecondary jargon.  Our students and families are committed to their educational success and with the guidance provided by FLOC, they are well on their way to successful postsecondary careers.

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The countdown has begun and we are ready to make this a fruitful financial aid season!

(Lindsey Barclay is the Scholars Program Manager)

News, Scholars Program

College Night 2015

On Wednesday December 16th, FLOC hosted its annual College Night, sponsored by PrepMatters, at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery. Over 50 parents, students, and alumni met to talk and learn about the college experience. The evening began with a college fair where staff, volunteers, and alumni represented their universities by answering questions posed by curious students. Students were also able to collect brochures and swag provided by colleges and universities all over the country. The fair was also a great place for parents to see just how many college options their students have to choose from.

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After the college fair, parents and students were split up into separate workshops designed to teach them about their role in the college process. The students got to listen to a panel of some our postsecondary students, alumni, an admissions representative, and staff. The students heard stories about how the admissions process works, how to pick a major, transferring to a new college or university, and finding financial aid.

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The students were also able to ask the panel questions. One student, Bethlehem asked “Which major do you pick when you have two things you really want to do?” Desiree on the panel answered that you can do both things. For example, if you’re interested in law and music, you can do music law. It’s more about picking a career nowadays and fitting your major to that. Students also had questions for our panel about college life; Joel, an 11th grader asked “what about the parties?” The panel answered that you’ll find what you’re looking for but you pay lots of money to go to college. It’s about making the right choice and balancing your school work with social life. Thanks to our panel, all of our students learned something new.

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In the next room their parents were also receiving new information from a panel of FLOC alumni, volunteers, and staff. The parent workshop was set up to help parents and family members learn how they can help and support their student through the application process, the financial aid process, and college life. In order to help parents understand how important their support is, Scholars program manager Lindsey Barclay explained the application process and the type of questions the applications ask students to answer. Postsecondary Success Coordinator Veronica Marin also explained that all students have a different process based their personalities and what they want in a college. All of this advice was well received by our parents, some of whom are currently going through this process with their high school seniors. So thanks to our panel, parents are more prepared to support their students on the college journey.

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In order to wrap up the night with a big red bow, we raffled off great gifts including gift cards and a DVD. This year’s College Night was a great evening filled with fun and new information. Thank you to all of our postsecondary students who gave up an evening of their winter break to share with our students, all of our volunteers who came out and shared their experiences, and all of our FLOC staff who represented well for their colleges and universities.

sponsors sign college night 2015

(Joh’nita Johnson is a FLOC Fellow with the Scholars Program. She works primarily with 12th graders and Postsecondary Scholars.)

Development, Neighborhood Tutoring Program, Scholars Program

Looking back, looking forward: end of the year at FLOC

The holiday season is a time of reflection at FLOC. It gives us an opportunity to pause and give thanks to those who’ve helped our organization and the students we serve. We count ourselves extraordinarily lucky to be supported by such a vibrant and passionate community. The remarkable achievements of our students are a reflection not only of the tireless work our students put forth, but it’s also a testament to the generosity of our donors and volunteers.

Nationwide, 81% of students now graduate from high school. Inarguably that’s an important milestone and an indicator that things are moving in the right direction, but it also shows the work that remains. We are failing one-fifth of the young people in this country. The numbers are even worse in Washington, DC. In our city, a city that has more college degrees per capita than anywhere else in the country, only 64% of students will achieve a high school degree. Even fewer will earn a postsecondary degree. A failing of this magnitude is hard to fathom, and it’s even more difficult to create and fight for the lasting, systemic change necessary to rectify it. However, in the push for sustainable and lasting change, we cannot lose sight of the thousands of students in classrooms today who are living the reality of these statistics.

9th grade Scholars group

At FLOC, we believe that the only thing separating students who struggle and students who succeed is opportunity. Over the past 50 years, we have served over 10,000 children, talented young people who thrive when exposed to quality out-of-school-time programming. Thanks to continued and new support, another class (the ninth straight!) of FLOC high school seniors achieved a 100% graduation rate. We’re proud of their hard work and grateful that our donors have allowed us to continue supporting these tremendous young people. Across all our programs, this support and partnership have led to remarkable results.

  • Our Neighborhood Tutoring Program served a total of 380 students and recruited more than 349 volunteer tutors.
  • Those 380 students made more than a year of improvement after just three and half months of steady tutoring.
  • Thanks to a new program model for SAT prep, students improved their composite scores on the SAT by more than 100 points.

math tutoring

This growth is fantastic, but preparing students for postsecondary success requires a lot more than just raising test scores. Today’s student are leaving high school and entering a highly competitive, quickly moving world. They require new skills and new experiences to help them navigate it. Jason, one of our recent high school graduates, is a great example of the ways that FLOC is working to fully prepare students for postsecondary success.

GW

Ever since he started coming to FLOC, Jason has been a presence. Sometimes this was a positive thing, like when he would encourage his classmates across our high ropes course. Other times, it was a challenge, like when he would take over a workshop with his jokes. In his school life, he struggled to find his place, to share his talents and to achieve success.

As a freshman in high school, Jason had to deal with the death of his older brother. The loss was devastating, certainly distracting and not surprisingly a major factor in his lack of motivation in the classroom. FLOC has been a part of the village that supports him and his family. Jason was motivated by basketball and the special caring relationships he’d formed with his peers and the staff at FLOC. We fought to help him recognize that he still had a path to success, that he had the capability to achieve great things if he challenged himself and remained focused. It didn’t happen overnight, but he began to heal and to grow. Jason’s senior year of high school was his strongest academically, and he graduated on time. He applied and was accepted to a community college, where he intends to get his associates degree before moving on to a 4-year institution to study psychology. We asked Jason what he believes will be his key to success. He shared that he finally realizes the power he has to be great, to make his brother proud and to help others; Jason plans to become a therapist for children who have suffered from traumatic loss. We believe in him and will support him throughout his journey.

Students at VTECH

This year, another group of twelfth graders is preparing for the next steps in their academic journey. Throughout the city, there are thousands more who have the potential to excel, but lack access to the programming that will allow them to do so. Again, the only thing that separates a student in a failing school from one in a top-tier school is opportunity. FLOC represents that opportunity for more than 600 students in the city. We need your support to reach even more students in 2016. Today, during this season of giving, we ask you to make a special gift so that more children can get the tools necessary for academic success. With your gift, FLOC’s dedicated staff and volunteers will be able to better serve even more children. With your support, even more people will hear our message that a high-quality education is the birthright of every child, that viable pathways to postsecondary success should be the bar by which any community of educators is judged.

girls with map

Thank you for your support of FLOC and the work we do, and from our family to yours, happy holidays!