Neighborhood Tutoring Program, Scholars Program, Student Spotlight

Meet Sanari

Sanari is an ambitious, outgoing high-school freshman, returning to FLOC in 2015-2016 for her fifth year of tutoring and her fourth year in the Scholars program. When asked about her favorite NTP memory, she responded, “I’ve had lots of good tutors…  I really like my current tutor, Samantha, because she’s genuinely interested in getting to know me and talking about my life.”

Sanari Bryan-Chavis

All the years of tutoring are certainly paying off: Sanari has nearly completed FLOC’s math curriculum, an accomplishment that we are all proud of. FLOC isn’t all work and no play for her, though—years ago, Sanari met her now-best friend at FLOC. Today the two girls are inseparable. “We never would have met without FLOC, since we go to different schools,” she explained.

Sanari’s enthusiasm and great attitude have rubbed off on her younger sister, who also attends FLOC, and is now excited about tutoring as well. While she still has four more years until college, Sanari is beginning to consider several schools, while having a wonderful high school experience.

We’re thrilled to have Sanari at FLOC for another great year!

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

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Scholars Program, Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Jessica, a Postsecondary Coach

JessicaKaushalJessica Kaushal currently serves as a postsecondary coach in the Scholars program where she is matched with a twelfth grade scholar to provide support on his journey towards a postsecondary education. Jessica joined FLOC last year, after a big move and change in industry encouraged her to give back to the community in a more direct way.

Jessica is no stranger to FLOC, though; this past summer she served as a math tutor to an energetic fifth grader in the Neighborhood Tutoring Program. While she loved NTP, Jessica decided to return as a postsecondary coach because she’s excited about providing the support she lacked to a high-school senior. “[Applying to college] is a complicated process,” said Jessica. “Going from a large public high school to a small private university, where it seemed like everyone already knew how to write a long paper, was a huge jump.”

This year, Jessica works with a student named Nicholas, who is interested in pursuing a liberal arts education, just as she did. Nicholas emigrated from Taiwan at a very young age, but after growing up in the city, he’s excited at the prospect of going to school elsewhere. He hopes to pick up some “non-euro-centric” history in college, and perhaps pursue his interest in behavior economics.

When asked why she originally chose to volunteer with FLOC, Jessica said that she appreciates the long-term relationship FLOC has with many of its students. Volunteering at FLOC has also given Jessica a more holistic perspective about the time and resources it takes to educate a child, which has influenced her mindset within the world of public policy.

We’re thrilled to have Jessica back for another exciting year at FLOC!

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

News, Scholars Program

FLOC Students Take to the Hill

On Friday, April 17th, during DCPS and FLOC spring break, 8 FLOC High School Scholars had the opportunity to be lobbyists for a day.  They began their Capitol Hill visit with a working breakfast, learning and discussing about the U.S. legislative system, how to influence decisions and reach consensus, and the do’s and don’ts of lobbying.  Then the students broke up into teams of two and headed off to House and Senate office buildings to shadow some professional lobbyists and participate in meetings with congressional staffers on topics ranging from health care to cyber security to transportation infrastructure and more.

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One of our high school sophomores got to lobby a congressional staff member on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law (or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), which sets national standards for closing the achievement gap and provides funding for state and local school districts.  Joel had the opportunity to share his own experiences with DC’s annual assessment tests and his recommendation that Congress make college more affordable for all students.

After a full morning of learning and lobbying, it was time for a fantastic lunch in one of the Congressional dining rooms, including ice cream for dessert, and a tour of the U.S. Capitol. Our tour included some of the usual interesting stops, like the Capitol Rotunda and murals, Statuary Hall, the old Supreme Court Chambers,  and the exact center of Washington, DC. But it also included some extra special behind-the-scenes peeks that the general public doesn’t usually get to see, such as visiting the Senate Cloakroom and stepping onto the Senate floor, touring the Minority Leader’s office, and a ride on the Capitol subway.  Many thanks to the staff from the offices of the National Governors Association, Senate Sergeant at Arms, Senator Bennett from Colorado  and the staff of the Democratic Cloak Room for making this tour possible, plus the Senate pages who spoke to us about their lives as high school students living and working in DC for the semester.

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Our group of students included an aspiring politician and a young woman set on being the “second Latina Supreme Court Justice,” so the insiders glimpse into our political process was such a fabulous experience to help them on their career journey!

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

Scholars Program

Sounds of the Season, Sounds of Celebration

For our high school seniors here at FLOC, it’s that most wonderful time of the year—college application time! Deadlines are fast-approaching, but thanks to the hard work of our students and their Postsecondary Coaches, we have already seen a few acceptance letters make their way to our seniors. Thomas recently celebrated his acceptance to Allegany College and Chesapeake College in Maryland; Shante received a letter offering her a space at Livingstone College in North Carolina; Chardonnay received admission offers from three local schools (Montgomery College, NOVA, and Trinity) and Wilson just received a phone call confirming his acceptance to Albright University in Pennsylvania. Yes, a phone call! What a great way to receive the good news, actually hearing someone say, “Congratulations! We would love to have you join us next fall!”

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Sounds of celebration at FLOC quickly followed these offers from these colleges and universities. What a fitting addition to the cacophony our seniors have heard during their years at FLOC. Our weekly program spaces are filled with singing, dancing, laughing, snacking—these kids sure love Chipotle!—and, yes, even some shouting from time to time. We host a kind of controlled chaos, but it is within these spaces that lasting relationships are built and lives are changed forever.

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Throughout the winter and into the spring, we will continue celebrating the offers that our students receive, but these joyful moments will have been months—even years—in the making. This year, each of our high school seniors has been paired with an individual volunteer committed to supporting them throughout the application process. These Postsecondary Coaches have been invaluable to the success of our seniors here at FLOC. Providing our students with the resources they need to access quality postsecondary opportunities and career success is each Coach’s small contribution to the move for educational justice in D.C., but it is truly the laughter shared that keeps them coming back each week.

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So even as we see the days grow shorter and feel the air get colder, let us remember to listen carefully for the joyful sounds that surround us this holiday season—especially laughter, celebration, and those life-changing phone calls!

(Ian McPherson is the Scholars Program Instructor for the 12th grade.)

Neighborhood Tutoring Program, Outdoor Education Center, Scholars Program

Sparking Success in 2014: A Look Back at a Wonderful Year

imageAs we enter the last month of the year, let’s take a look back at all we’ve achieved together in 2014.  Today, FLOC joins the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates in telling stories of our students’ successes.  Some highlights of the year:

In our Neighborhood Tutoring Program,  77% of students made at least six months improvement in reading or math and 62% made at least one year of improvement in reading or math during the school year.

Our Scholars Program once again celebrated 100% on-time graduation of our 18 high school seniors in the class of 2014.

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High school seniors submitted 100 applications to public and
private postsecondary institutions, and 100% were accepted into a postsecondary institution.

One senior received the Posse Foundation’s full tuition scholarship to The University of Rochester.

Over 500 volunteers contributed their time regularly to our programs at some point in 2014, including spring semester, summer program, and the beginning of this current school year.

And we chronicled all our exciting moments on this very blog.   Some story highlights:

In January, we introduced you to a new community- and capacity-building effort some of our most dedicated volunteers were spearheading.

In February, you heard the news as brought to you by a talented and
confident student in our reading tutoring program.

In March, our Middle School Scholars investigated and reported on careers that interested them.

In April, we took you on a tour of our NTP school site at Tubman Elementary.

st joesIn May, we filled you in on all the exciting details of our 11th grade Spring Break College Tour to six schools and five states in five days.

In June, we were in celebration mode as we gave out awards at the annual Recognition Event and Empower Awards and also honored our graduates at the annual Fred Taylor Scholarship Dinner.

In July, we were hard at work (and play!) in our summer tutoring program.

In August, we introduced you to one of our outstanding High School Scholars and told you all about the summer writing workshops that he and his peers participated in.

In September, we took a look back at the many Scholars in the Workplace visits our students embarked upon this spring and summer.

In October, our Scholars kicked off a new school year by heading to MS OEC trip 1West Virginia for a visit to the FLOC Outdoor Education Center.

In November, we told you about a new model for getting our 11th graders ready for the SAT.

Which brings us to December…

Before the year is out, we’ll get in another two weeks of math and reading tutoring and college access and success programming.  We’ll celebrate our annual College Night event at GW and mark the end of the semester with festive holiday parties.  And we’ll keep our eyes on the future, continuing to empower our students to spark their own success stories and working to reach more students than ever before.

Here’s to another exciting year ahead in 2015!

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(Elizabeth Metz is the Recruitment and Outreach Manager.)

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).