Events, News

Fall Fun at Butler’s Orchard

Pop quiz: What’s the best thing about fall?

  1. A long awaited break from the swampy DC summer temperatures
  2. Crunchy leaves on the sidewalks
  3. Trick or treating!
  4. The annual FLOC Field Trip to Butler’s Orchard

hay ride
The obvious answer is the FLOC Field Trip to Butler’s Orchard! This past Friday FLOC families jumped on a bus and headed out to Germantown, Maryland, for an evening full of all our favorite fall activities. Welcomed by our generous friends at the Meltzer Group, we immediately hopped into tractors for a spooky evening hay ride around the orchard. Butler’s Orchard goes all out with their decorations for this time of year, complete with ghosts in the trees, abandoned wagons, and witches brewing potions in the woods! Some of our more seasoned Butler’s Orchard veterans were savvy enough to pocket some snacks and share with fellow hayriders during our harrowing adventure.

As the sun was setting and the fall chill set in, families gathered around huge bonfires to warm up and roast marshmallows for s’mores. Terrell (our 8th and 9th grade Scholars Program Fellow) roasted his very first marshmallow, and he was a total pro.

pumpkin patch

Families enjoyed a relaxed evening around cozy bonfires, catching up with friends, and enjoying delicious snacks and extra hayrides. When it was finally time to head home, we were surprised with a trick or treat line of candy bags to fill our bellies for the ride home. All in all, a successful fall field trip.

Huge thanks to our friends at the Meltzer Group for hosting us! Happy Halloween everyone!

(Madelyn Giblin is the Neighborhood Tutoring Program’s Bilingual Program Coordinator.)

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Events, Neighborhood Tutoring Program, News, Scholars Program

Recognition Event Recap

On Friday May 29th, FLOC held its annual recognition event at the Woman’s National Democratic Club to celebrate all the amazing work our students, families, volunteers, and staff accomplished throughout the year. 11th grade Scholars Ghelatia and Johanna emceed, and FLOC staff gave out special awards to students and volunteers in four different categories: Visionary, Unity, Champion, and Empower.

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The Visionary Award celebrates students and volunteers who have a specific goal, a vision for the future, and have identified paths toward that objective.

NTP Student: Giselle
Scholars Student: Demarro
Volunteer: Gerald Mason

The Unity Award celebrates the people at FLOC who demonstrate exceptional relationship building or mentoring skills.

NTP Student: Valerie
Scholars Student: Jenny
Volunteer: Judith Blagrove
Student and Tutor Pair: Delchristoff and Jason Aiken.

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The Champion Award recognizes students and volunteers who are dedicated and committed to their program.

NTP Student: Wesley
Scholars Student: Joel
Volunteers: Bridgette and EJ Palmer

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The Empower awards are given to people who embody all of FLOC’s values. They go above and beyond in whatever their role is.

Partner: Acumen Solutions
Staff: Kimberly Davis
Family: The Ortiz Family
NTP Student and Scholars Student: A’Tyra
NTP Student and Scholars Student: Maura
Volunteer: Elese Sizemore

FLOC also recognized our 8th graders in Scholars and tutoring for an exciting time in their lives. They are all halfway toward completing their postsecondary degrees! To celebrate FLOC put together some High School Survival Kits. The kits included a FLOC notebook, a FLOC water bottle, a folder they could take on college tours, pens, pencils, and candy.

The night ended with time for chatting, eating food, playing games, and taking pictures at the FLOC photo booth. FLOC is excited to see what our students, families, and volunteers will accomplish in the future!

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(Tamarae Hildebrandt is an NTP Site Coordinator.)

Scholars Program, Student Spotlight

Meet Foday: A Talented and Inspiring Scholar at FLOC

Foday and Kim at the 2014 Recognition and Empower Awards.
Foday and Kim at the 2014 Recognition and Empower Awards.

Foday is a rising 11th grade student at Bell Multicultural High School and has been involved with both the FLOC Scholars and Neighborhood Tutoring Programs since the 8th grade.

Foday at the 2014 Fred Taylor Scholarship Fund Dinner.
Foday at the 2014 Fred Taylor Scholarship Fund Dinner.

If you attended this year’s annual Recognition Event and Empower Awards, you might remember learning of Foday’s hard work navigating the reading curriculum and the impressive growth he has shown.  Or maybe you joined us at the 2014 Fred Taylor Scholarship Fund Dinner where you witnessed Foday’s sister get emotional upon hearing her brother’s surprise voiceover sharing how proud he was of her.  I believe that in both these special moments and the everyday interactions, Foday shows us that his story is only just beginning…

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For five weeks this summer, Foday participated in the high school Tell Your Story Writing Workshop Series, where he and his peers learned how to be their own best advocate through self-reflection, written expression, and storytelling. Foday is one of the quieter students in the bunch, but he showed up each and every week, ready to engage with the material and speakers and take full advantage of the opportunities to explore, write, and share his personal story.

The very first week, Joseph Price from the nonprofit organization, SpeakeasyDC, came to FLOC to provide the students with an introduction to the art of storytelling.  Joe paired himself with Foday for the peer interview activity to find out the story behind his reserved demeanor.  Foday talked for 10 minutes – no interruptions – and when the activity ended, Joe said to me “Foday has a great story. I hope he writes about it next week.”  And when I checked in with Foday at the end of the night, he said he really enjoyed learning about “the different ways you could tell a story” and he felt “excited about the upcoming weeks of the workshop series.”

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As weeks two, three, and four passed, Foday continually exemplified active listening and opened up during peer interviews. And when it came time to write, he was in his element.  His quiet confidence radiated as he wrote stories about his past, present, and future.  When week five finally rolled around, I couldn’t wait to see how Foday decided to reveal his final writing piece.  Turns out, Foday connected his stories to form one and chose to share his work on this very blog.

I hope you will find Foday’s story below as impressive and inspiring as I do.  He’s ‘going places’ and FLOC will be with him every step of the way.

“My Story” – as told by Foday

Growing up in a family of seven has been the best thing in my life.  As a kid, my three sisters and I lived in a big house in Sierra Leone.  Being the only boy in the family wasn’t easy; I always did things by myself even though sometimes I needed help.  My parents depended on me the most and I also had to work harder.  But no matter what, I wanted to do things successfully. 

In the future, I have decided I want to work hard to help people in need. My family and my community motivate me to be successful. Seeing other families losing their loved ones due to incurable diseases or not being able to pay medical bills makes me very sad.  If I can help my community and other people it would be a great benefit to others and I would feel fulfilled.

(Jessie Garrett is a Scholars Program Instructor at FLOC).

News, Scholars Program, Student Spotlight

Meet Tewabech: A Self-Determined and Artistic Scholar at FLOC

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Upon first interaction, Tewabech doesn’t strike you as a typical high school student. She’s reading George Orwell’s 1984 a second time for fun – this time outside of class to get more meaning out if it. If for some reason you needed ceramic carving tools, Tewabech could pull hers out of her backpack for you to borrow.

Tewabech is currently an 11th grader at arts-magnet high school Duke Ellington and this is her fourth year partaking in FLOC programming. Although her school lets out later than most, she makes the effort to come to FLOC each Wednesday for SAT prep.

She is a talented artist who is also passionate about science.  We witnessed her eyes light up as she learned of the Smithsonian’s prestigious summer internship opportunity called the Youth Engagement through Science (YES!) program. She was diligent and determined in completing her application and we wish her the best of luck.

Not only does Tewabech take her academics seriously, but she also places strong value on her relationship with teachers at school and staff members at FLOC. She is articulate in conversation and possesses maturity beyond her 17 years.  She emphasizes the importance of her family, and serves as a great role model for her younger sister, who she picks up every Monday from the Middle School Scholars Program.

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FLOC staff members unanimously agree that Tewabech has a bright future.  As a 10th grade student in the Scholars Program last year, she combined her drawing skills and her ambitious dreams to create an exemplary “10 Year Plan.”

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Tewabech wrote about getting good grades and building strong friendships in high school, and envisioned herself extending her college-going years to attend medical school and become an anesthesiologist.  She planned to never lose sight of her passion for art, and when making her budget for life after college, she recognized the importance of both saving and spending smart.

(Lauren Ballinger is a Scholars Program Instructor at FLOC).

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).