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.)

Development, News, Scholars Program

First Ever #ProofPointDay to Recognize First Generation College Students and Allies

Today, on May 30, 2014 first generation students and allies are helping to raise awareness of what it’s like being a first generation college student in the first ever #ProofPointDay. The idea for the campaign came from Chastity Lord, the current CEO of Achievement First Public Charter Schools in New York City. She wanted to have a day for “communities across our country where college graduation is not an expectation are surrounded by thousands of visible and vocal #proofpoint first generation students and allies – creating a new narrative about what is possible.”

FLOC is proud to support this endeavor as an ally to our own first generation college students in the Postsecondary Scholars Program and our future first generation college students in our Middle School and High School Scholars Programs. To learn more about #ProofPointDay you can visit the campaign website and to learn how you can get involved with FLOC’s Scholars, please visit our volunteer page.

We asked some of our students what being a first generation college student means to them, check out some of their responses below:

Kelsey – University of Maryland College Park

Being a first generation college student means beating the odds and achieving your dreams. It means making my mother proud; setting an example for my younger sister; and being a role model to other Latinos and undeserved minority that achieving a higher education is possible. It’s an experience that has impacted my life in the best possible way, and it would have not been possible without the help of FLOC!

Jennifer – Montgomery College

Being a first generation college student to me means ending the cycle of poverty that my family has been in.  I am setting the example for the future generations to teach them that being successful is the best thing there is and that education is the key to success.  Going back to that poverty is not the answer and I will show them that. That’s what being a first generation college student means to me.

Erica – Pace University

To be a first generation college student means that I can carry out the knowledge that I have gained from so many people.  It’s an honor to say that I made it to college and will graduate.  It will give me opportunities that I could never imagine and for that I am grateful.

Adam – Salisbury University

As a first generation college student I learned the importance of education. I see opportunities that I have in the future for me and help people as they help me throughout my struggle times.  By going to college I can succeed as an individual and become a better student.

Alayna – Penn State University

It means to me, that there is more pressure.  Since you’re the first you have to set an example for yourself and your family, to try to overcome adversity.

David –Trinity Washington University

Being a first generation college student means a lot to me, because I am opening the door for my young siblings and showing that that if I can do it they can too.  Also for them to see how an education can change someone’s life.  Being a first generation student allows me to make my family be proud of me for the great things I have achieved.  It has allowed me to go out their help inspire other kids and show them the importance of an education.

Jasmine– Washington Adventist University

People didn’t think I was going to attend college, because I was so in love with dance.  They thought I just grow up to be a dancer and nothing else.  Being a 1st generation student, allows me to show people that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.  I am glad that I am a college student; that I am a 1st generation student.

Nicholas – Sewanee: The University of the South

For me, it means that my parents aren’t able to help me in some aspects of my college life.  But it’s also a source of motivation from my parents as they want me to take advantage of opportunities they never had.

(Kate Fleischer is the Development Assistant at FLOC).

News

14 Reasons to Volunteer at FLOC in 2014

(Photo by: Tanjot Bhatia, a tutor in our Thursday Night Math program)
(Photo by: Tanjot Bhatia, a tutor in our Thursday Night Math program)

In the beginning of a new year people often make resolutions. Many want to improve their lives as well as the life of others. Engaging in volunteer work is perhaps the best way to do this. Here are 14 reasons why volunteering at For Love of Children (FLOC) should be one of your resolutions for this new year.

14. Give back to the community

When we volunteer in our community we feel the satisfaction of making a difference by helping those in need. It is a good way to support your own community and see the results at first-hand. Many of our volunteers have highlighted this as their main reason to volunteer at FLOC.

(Photo by: Tanjot Bhatia, a tutor in our Thursday Night Math program)
(Photo by: Tanjot Bhatia, a tutor in our Thursday Night Math program)

13. Work with kids

If you enjoy spending time with kids and youth this is a great opportunity for you. Volunteering at FLOC is a great way to be in a fun and cheerful environment.

12. Grow professionally

Volunteering provides the opportunity to explore new career paths and gain experience in a different field. Many people have discovered their passion while doing volunteer work. A recent report by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) shows that “unemployed individuals who volunteer are 27% more likely to find work than non-volunteers.”

11. Meet new people

Whether you just moved to DC and want to expand your network or you already live in the area and want to improve your social skills, volunteering can help you to make new connections and strengthen your ties to the community.

10. Learn about yourself

When we volunteer we are often exposed to a different environment and we face new challenges. This can help us to learn more about ourselves and discover hidden skills and talents that can be transferred to your personal and professional life.

9. Learn about the community

Providing direct service can help you gain a better understanding of the community that you are serving; including their needs, strengths, limitations and resources.

8. Stay healthy

A report published on 2007 by the CNCS showed that “volunteers are more likely to experience positive health benefits. In fact, serving others may increase longevity, lead to greater functional ability later in life, and strengthen one’s resilience when dealing with health problems.”

7. Increase your self-confidence

Serving others can help boost your sense of accomplishment. When we feel that we are making a difference we feel better about ourselves and the community that we are serving.

6.  Help us serve more students

When you volunteer at FLOC, you allow one more student to have the opportunity to improve their reading and math and have the necessary skills to excel in their academic, professional and personal life.

5. Save resources

Your help is needed and valuable. According to a study by the Independent Sector, the estimated value of a volunteer hour in DC is $34.04.

4. Inspire others

Volunteering allows you to inspire others by sharing your knowledge and passion. Whether you love to read or enjoy math you will have a chance to make a positive and lasting impact in the lives of our students.

(Photo by: Tanjot Bhatia, a tutor in our Thursday Night Math program)
(Photo by: Tanjot Bhatia, a tutor in our Thursday Night Math program)

3. Invest in the future success of the students

One-on-one tutoring is an efficient way for students to improve their competency. On average, only 22 hours of tutoring are needed for students to improve one year in competency.

2. Escape from the routine

Engaging in volunteer work can provide a positive and fun way to escape from the everyday routine. A recent study by the UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute revealed that volunteering helps people to manage and lower their stress levels.

1. Find purpose

When we help others we also help ourselves. Dedicating a few hours from our time can make a big difference and help us identify our purpose. This can increase our sense of well-being and bring joy to our lives.

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Participating in volunteer work allows you to put into practice your unique skills, ideas and experiences while gaining new perspective and helping others. It certainly benefits you as well as the community that you are serving.

Consider volunteering at FLOC this year. Learn more about our volunteer opportunities and complete an online application at floc.org/get-involved/volunteer.

(Lisvette García is the Bilingual Recruitment and Outreach Associate at FLOC).

Neighborhood Tutoring Program, News, Tutor Perspectives

Maintaining Your Cool

Renee-Lauren photo

Today I had to prove that I knew about Drake and, in fact, I was ridiculously pleased to announce that I owned his first two albums. Last week I proudly shared that 2 Chainz would be performing back in my home country. The looks of awe on my student’s face was priceless. Score, big time. Major cool points. I’ve rarely been more grateful for friends who are DJs.

This is how I maintain my cool with my FLOC student, an eager and very laid back young black man. As we weave through our Saturday afternoon reading lessons it helps to keep the conversation going by being able to drop a reference or two about the things that matter in his non-FLOC world. Sometimes I use those references to teach a concept but more often than not, we have little conversations to connect as we work on tapping and learn the difference between digraphs and welded sounds.  It’s important to be able to relate. It’s important to connect.

I am thrilled when a student passes a test or sounds out and successfully pronounces a tricky new word while reading. But I feel a special thrill when my student and I are able to have a little chit chat about pop culture or their interests. That kind of exchange is not only beneficial on the first day as we get to know our students, but it is useful throughout the yearlong program. As tutors I think it’s important to be active about connecting – engaging – with our students.

As I mentioned before, being able to discuss popular Rap and Hip-Hop artists helps to smooth over conversation gaps…but there’s more involved.  Active engagement is the foundation for building trust, and trust is an important ingredient for successful tutoring sessions. Let’s face it, attending tutoring after school or on a weekend is big time commitment for our students. The least we could do is show an interest in them as much as we are interested in ensuring that they get the help they need to excel at reading and math. Let your students know that they can trust you to help them with the reading or math hurdles they’re facing.  Connect.

Don’t worry if music (or sports or video games ) isn’t your thing. I’ve paid attention enough to have a passing conversation on everything from the Redskins to the Vampire Diaries to Taylor Swift (yes, even Taylor). Plus, you may be surprised at the common ground you find by talking to your student about random things.

There are also tools built into the FLOC program to help build a rapport with your student.  I’ve learned that many cool points are  earned by allowing frequent games of trashketball. When I began at FLOC I struggled with what trashketball is and how on earth to integrate it into lessons. But over time I’ve realized that it’s a valuable teaching tool. It’s as simple as a small basket and tight wad of paper being tossed every time your student gets something correct as you review phonics during the Wilson quick drill or words for  Wordly Wise. Usually games don’t go beyond 10 minutes but I’ve found them a remarkable low-stress way to check a student’s knowledge. Students (boys in particular) love to take those shots.

Tutoring at FLOC is as much about helping students as it is about enjoying the tremendous opportunity of volunteering. We’re at FLOC to teach, but we’re there to learn as well. Seize the opportunity…and look cool while doing it.

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