Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nazareth Vidal--Moving in to greatness!

Nazareth Vidal is a go-getter! She called Thursday afternoon explaining she had a dilemma. Her school counselor had just given her a scholarship application and it was due in a couple of days. She had to have letters of recommendation and had to fill out the paperwork. Instead of throwing up her hands and saying, "That's not enough time!" Nazareth started making phone calls. By the time I called her back she had already gotten one letter of recommendation and needed one from a community member...which would be me. Despite having a ton of things to do, because she is so persistent and diligent, I took time to write the letter.

Nazareth will be graduating from Skyline high school this year. But she has no intention of taking a break. Nazareth had applied for the Bank of America internship as well as the AmeriCorps position. Nazareth likes making sure all of her bases are covered. She is always looking for a new experience and always wanting to step in to the best possible opportunity she can find. So, when she was chosen as one of the 10 people (out of 400 applicants!) for the Bank of America internship, she seized the opportunity.

Nazareth comes from an amazing family that pushes her and encourages her. As mentioned in the video above, her brother, Gustavo, was also awarded the Bank of America internship two years ago as well. I'm always very proud and humbled to be included in young peoples' successes. I'm always so impressed by young adults like Nazareth.

Congrats, Nazareth!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Veronica White--Bachelor's in Communication from UTA

I received a text at 9:00 on a Friday night explaining..."I'm graduating tomorrow at 4:00 and just got extra tickets. I'd like for you to come." Despite already having plans that might overlap, I wasn't going to miss a college graduation!

About six or seven years ago Veronica's sister lived in Turner Courts, about two doors down from our After-School Academy. Veronica was living with her mom in the Roseland scattered sites. Marva Epperson-Brown knew Veronica's mom and knew that Veronica was looking for a job. Knowing we were hiring, Marva sent Veronica to me. After interviewing and hiring her, we put her to work with the kids. Veronica continued working in our University of Values summer program as a teacher every summer until she graduated from high school.

Congratulations to you, Veronica! I am so happy for you and look forward to seeing what comes next!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Graduates--May 2010

Congratulations to our May 2010 Graduates!
  • Nazareth Vidal--Skyline High School--will go to UT-Austin in the fall and is planning to major in Engineering, but is also interested in teaching. Nazareth was involved in our University of Values summer program as a student, volunteer, and teacher
  • Michael Woodard--North Dallas High School--will go to SMU on a full-ride scholarship and is also planning on majoring in Engineering. Michael came to us as a Mayor Intern through Education is Freedom and came back this year for our Digital Connectors program
  • Veronica White--UTA--graduated with a Bachelors degree in Communication. Veronica began when she was a teenager, working in our After-School and summer programs.
  • Rachel Embry--Texas A & M-Commerce--graduated with a Master of Educational Technology-Library Science. Rachel was the coordinator of our After-School Academy for two years before returning to the classroom at Pearl C. Anderson middle school.
We had a party at my house to celebrate their amazing achievement. I realized I didn't even get the graduates on tape!...but you can see how everyone came together to help out. Look for great things from each one of them! 

As each one of them graduates, I'm sure I'll have more posts to show.

Farm Adventures

Ok, here is the thing; on Friday, May 21, 2010 we did not have school. So what should some 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders do?

Go on an Adventure.

Moss Gather's Farm here we come...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Life is a garden...Dig It!

Making progress with Mid-Teen U

Mid-Teen University is an after school program for young men ages 10-13 years old. Our goal is to help young men develop into exemplary teens. We believe helping kids develop at a younger age improves their chances of “Developing into an exemplary adult” which is Teen University’s tag line.  Ideally, MTU students will be successful in the program and move on to Teen University. In order to reach this goal we focus on positive behavior, social skills, teamwork, listening and communication skills.

I am delighted to share with you that I (Terrence Brooks, MTU Coordinator) believe our goals are being met. This week I had to opportunity of witnessing positive behavior, social skills, teamwork, listening and communication skills in action. These skills were displayed during our daily challenges. Every day I present the boys with a set of challenges that forces them to utilize the skills listed above in order to accomplish their challenge.

The first challenge that was given to them was titled “A Sunken Treasure.” This challenge involves an empty water bottle and a paper clip. The top is screwed off of the bottle and the paper clip is dropped to the bottom. The goal of the game is to remove the paper clip from the water bottle without touching the water bottle. The boys were put into one group and required to work together as a team before anyone could take a chance at removing the paper clip. The story line is they are stranded in the desert without food or water when they stumbled across food and supplies (“A Sunken Treasure”) laying low beneath the surface in a container.

The only problem is the container which holds the treasure is places on top of a land mind. If the container moves the land mind is detonated. The boys were puzzled, left trying to figure out how to complete this seemingly impossible task. After about 45 minutes of frustration and anger at their failed attempts, they figured it out. To my surprise, it was not the way I expected. The way I knew to remove the paper clip from the water bottle was to fill it with water, but the boys created a new way. They decided to take a pencil that was long enough to reach the bottom of the bottle and wrap the front end of the pencil with tape. After about three or four try’s the challenge was complete and to my surprise with a new method.

There are tons of other stories, but I’ll give one more. This next challenge was to create a human knot and then unravel it. The boys were asked to form a circle and to extend their hands. Once all hands are extended each person must grab the hand of someone across from them. You are not allowed to grab the hand of the person next to you. Once everyone has grabbed a hand and created a human knot, they must unravel the knot without anyone letting go of their hand. This challenge takes lots of positive behavior, social skills, teamwork, listening and communication skills.

At first, these skills were nonexistent, but after a short while with some encouragement, the boys were on their way. As I stood aside watching them attempt to unravel this knot I was also watching my stopwatch to keep track of how long it would take them to break free.  At 5.25 seconds someone accidently let go of their partners hand and I restated the challenge. Frustrated and wanting to quit, I encouraged them to use the skills they had developed to make it to the 5.25 mark. They agreed and circled up again.

This time they actually completed the task in 3.54 seconds. I was very proud of them and they were excited to see that they worked together and completed a challenge they first believed was close to impossible. So, when I asked if they were willing to try it again in an effort to beat their record, they were thrilled about the idea. They quickly circled up and worked together to complete the challenge in 1.37 seconds.

I couldn’t believe it. The mood went from being frustrated and wanting to quit to being excited about the idea of breaking their own record. To their surprise and mine, they did. I write this story because it goes to show what the next generation can accomplish if they are given time, encouragement, challenges, love, grace and truth. While there were many of times when kids wanted to quit and actually some did, but I encouraged them to try it again, they ended up being successful. All along the way I reminded them to work together, listen to each other, communicate, have a positive attitude and they would be successful.

Because their challenges are never completed until they use positive behavior, social skills, teamwork, listening and communication skills, I believe are goals are being accomplished.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Have you heard?

Gardens are a form of autobiography.
~Sydney Eddison

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Afterschool Achievers

Sorry for the video quality. My Flip is only as good as the lighting around it and the mini speaker installed in it.

About two years ago, the Dallas After School Network (DASN) was formed. They wanted to create an alliance of after school programs across the city so that we could collaborate, build best practices, and get to know what each other is doing. Two years later, the organization is going strong and helping improve the quality of after school programming in our city.

As a member organization, last night we were able to participate in their 1st annual Afterschool Achievers celebration. Providers as well as parents and city officials came to celebrate students from 20 different after school programs across the city.

The two students we chose to honor out of our Roseland community were:

Darvon Dixon: Darvon is a determined fourth grader, with a can do attitude, and makes it a point to learn new things in and out of the Over the past two years, Darvon has really come along way in making positive choices both socially and academically. Dixon is a great example that “success is a journey not a destination.”

Shenandoah Smith: Great leaders are teachable, great leaders lead by example, great leaders are good listeners, great leaders lead without force, great leaders often step outside of their comfort zone....Shenandoah this is you. Thanks for stepping out of your comfort to lead your peers and giving us the opportunity to watch you grow into the beautiful and intelligent young lady you are.

Thanks to all at DASN who made it happen...and thanks, especially to ALL of the students of the After-School Academy, Library, Digital Connectors, Mid-Teen U, Teen U, Connect U, and Roseland Community Center for being great!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Kwane's sly way of telling us he's learning

I absolutely LOVE being around kids...especially when I can see the lightbulb go on. :) ...and today was one of those moments.

I went downstairs to the After-School Academy to get some footage of the mural the kids designed, drew, and are now painting. (I'll put it together in a post soon). As I stood watching three of the kids paint, Kwane stood beside me. Quite honestly, I wasn't paying him any attention whatsoever. I was focused on the mural painting for one, but I've also learned to ignore his antics at times when he decides to act out. So I guess I was unconsciously tuning him out.

I can't quite explain my brain, but I could hear him talking, but it was little one or two word phrases so I guess I thought he was just talking to himself figuring someone would notice and tell him to be quiet or something (it's a way to get attention). Something in my brain told me what he was saying was familiar, but I guess I was just too focused on other things to pay him any mind.

"Hey. Who?"





As he spoke them in small sentences, his words somehow soaked in to my brain and I realized what he was doing. I quickly turned toward him with a big smile on my face. He returned my big grin and simply said, "I saw it," with a mischievous look on his face. It was obvious he knew that he was going to shock me with his statement.

See, on our After-School Academy blog we have a Story Time link (you can see it at the top of this page. I try to post a new read-aloud that I or someone else has read to our Flip video camera and loaded to the blog. It reminds me of Reading Rainbow. When I started doing it, I didn't know if it would catch on, but I figured it couldn't hurt and it didn't take a lot of effort.

Yo! Yes! has been up quite a while. I'd never heard any kids comment on the story so I didn't know if they were utilizing our Story Time posts. Evidently, some are. If they're like Kwane, they're watching it so much that they've memorized the words. Kwane has, at times, been one of our biggest challenges. But more and more often, we are seeing his mischievous nature come out as he slyly tries to tell/show us he's learning.

Yo! Yes! is one of my favorite children's books. I'm sure you'll love it, too. You can listen to it below. If you would like to be a guest reader for us, please read your favorite book, post it to youtube, and email me the link so I can embed it in our StoryTime link. We need new stories!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Aviant expects perfection

So many times kids I have checked kids' homework and had them re-do it...either because their answers were wrong or because it was sloppy. Many times the kids have told me, "It doesn't matter. My teacher doesn't care." To which I always respond, "I you'll have to fix it." I'm not saying every teacher is like that, but I can't deny it has happened quite a bit.

So, the other day when I visited the After-School Academy, I loved when Aviant called me over to explain his process for getting neat handwriting.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Vote for your favorite video!

Please take a moment to view and vote on the videos below. You may vote for your favorite video more than once. Voting ends on Monday, May 10th at 7:00 pm. Please share the videos with your friends, family, coworkers, etc and have them vote. Feel free to leave comments!

Thanks so much for your time.

"The Adventures of Apple Man" by Shannon, Michael, & Rocio

The Recycling Bin" by Sharde, Vanessa, Elle

Saturday, May 01, 2010

We have to make them grow!

In June of last year, Ms. Susie started helping us create a garden for the After-School Academy. A group came in and worked alongside our kids to create a "lasagna garden" because the dirt was too hard to till.

Planting in the middle of the summer in Dallas didn't seem like the best idea, but we started with what we had. When the school year started back up, Ms. Susie continued to come and work with a couple of kids at a time showing them how to take soil samples, stake plants, and check the rain gauge. At the beginning, most of the kids' interaction in the garden was pretty basic. Only a couple of kids could go out at a time and close supervision was required so that kids didn't walk through the garden (and on top of the plants). Basic instruction was given and a one or two kids were given the opportunity to water at Ms. Susie or Ms. Danielle's instruction.

When I walked out to the garden the other day, I saw several kids in the garden, moving the wheelbarrow, shoveling and carrying the dirt...all while carefully walking through the rows of the garden to make sure they weren't stepping on any plants.

I'm seeing more initiative on the kids' part. The garden is becoming their own and they are becoming the experts in the garden. Ask them about worms or composting and they do a pretty good job of explaining it.

As you see in the video, the kids are also eating the vegetables produced in our garden. Right now, the garden is loaded with variety--chard, onions, garlic, lettuce, sweet peas, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes...and more that I'm probably forgetting. As we move into this summer, we plan to do more with cooking and tasting the vegetables from our garden with the goal of working toward healthier eating habits.

The kids love the garden...and I love what the kids are learning from the garden!