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National Foster Care Month with Barker Adoption Foundation

Mason- Mothers Day2015

The Barker Adoption Foundation is a nonprofit, private adoption agency that provides comprehensive adoption-related services for birth families, adopted persons and adoptive families through ethical adoption programs and post adoption support services.

Since 1945, we have provided adoption services and our programs today include a Domestic Infant Program, International Programs in China, South Korea, India, and Colombia, as well as extensive Post Placement and Family Support services including support groups, therapy, and educational programming. We also have a program called Project Wait No Longer (PWNL) which facilitates older child adoptions from foster care programs.
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At Barker, we believe that every child deserves a stable, loving, forever family and this is especially true of children “stuck” in the foster care system. Today, there are an estimated 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. Tragically, over 100,000 of these children are legally eligible for adoption, yet remain in temporary and often transient foster care situations – waiting for the love and stability of a “forever family.”

By age ten, a child’s likelihood of being adopted goes down by 50 percent and an estimated 22,000 children “age out” of foster care every year with no family ties. In late 2005, The Barker Adoption Foundation launched Project Wait No Longer specifically to find adoptive families for the older children in foster care who often have the greatest need, yet tend to be the most difficult to place due to the scars of impermanence.
Tran-Larson Family 1In October of 2007, PWNL placed its first child and, as of 2016, PWNL has found permanent, safe, loving families for 117 older foster youth. PWNL heavily invests in the front-end of the adoption process, which results in a much greater chance of success for the new families. PWNL’s goal is not just to place a child with any family, assuming anything is better than foster care. The goals are to stop the cycle of disruption in the child’s life and find the right fit with the right family and achieve permanency and stability for the child. Having a program dedicated to finding families who are passionate about providing forever families for children in need is a huge part of the important work that we do.

I'm a Moody Family PicWe are inspired every day by the resilience of the children who come through our programs and the birth and adoptive parents who choose to embark on adoption journeys. We are inspired by the willingness of parents who are able to open their homes and their hearts to parent an older child with a history of trauma, neglect or abuse. We are inspired by those make “forever homes” possible for some of our neediest children. Finally, we are inspired by those people whose lives have been touched by adoption or the foster care system who have used their experience and fortitude to reach back to the next generation of children coming through the system to support them.

At Barker we are always seeking innovative ways to better meet the needs of the individuals and families that we serve.?Outreach, education and post-placement services for prospective parents and children in this program are going to be the keys to continued success. In addition, we continually develop new groups or services to provide support to our birth parents, prospective adoptive parents and families who have already been formed through adoption and are in the post-placement period.

Our newest program, CONNECT, is a mentoring program for children adopted by families through our older child program. Through this program we match adults who themselves have had experience with foster care and/or adoption with youth adopted through our older child program. We are looking forward to the growth and development of this newly launched program! So far, these unique connections have had a great impact on the youth we serve.

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Each individual that we work with is unique, and success is defined differently in every case. Success for us, especially in the PWNL Program, is supporting a child in finding a permanent and “forever home.” At the center of our work is always the best interest of each and every child – and we work tirelessly to find a loving and supportive family for as many children as we can and then supporting that placement with post-adoption services that help heal, share and celebrate families.

Some of our greatest days, can be our toughest days as well. Adoption is borne out of loss, and as such, a placement day can be a day of celebration for one family and a day of great loss for another. We are sensitive to this and therefore consider any day that we can make the right decisions on behalf of a child, or advocate for a birth or adoptive family a great day. While, there is no one “great day” at Barker, we will admit that staff has been known to “dance” in the hallways on the days that we make matches of our older waiting teenagers with loving and permanent families.

Families can reach us by visiting our website at www.barkeradoptiondfoundation.org, or by calling 301-664-9664.

We need volunteers! One of the biggest needs we have at Barker is for people who are willing to help us recruit families for older waiting children. Even if older child adoption is not a good fit for your family, there are many things that anyone can do to help us spread awareness of the needs of children in foster care. You can:

  • POST flyers, brochures and posters anywhere you’d like!
  • CONNECT PWNL with any adoption friendly organizations, community groups, or companies.
  • HOST an informational get together at your home for PWNL staff to share adoption information with people in your life who are interested in learning more about older child adoption.

We are also recruiting volunteers for our CONNECT mentoring program. We are in need of adults who are passionate about helping and supporting our adoptees adapt to their new family situations. All mentors are required to have foster care or adoption history in their own lives.

For more information about volunteering with outreach or through our mentoring program, please contact Alex Williams, PWNL Outreach and Program Support Specialist at awilliams@barkerfoundation.org or by calling 301-664-9664.

Motherhood is a Sisterhood with DC Diaper Bank

By Corinne Cannon, Founder and Executive Director, DC Diaper Bank
33593131875_ca921b159b_oNext month, DC Diaper Bank will distribute our 5 millionth diaper to a little one in the metro area. If you had told us that we would reach this milestone in six years we would have laughed! But we’ve gotten there because so may people have come together to make supporting vulnerable families a priority.

DC Diaper Bank was founded to ensure that all moms — all families — have what they need to thrive. Through our network of 40+ partnerships in Maryland, DC and Virginia, we distribute diapers (150,000+ each month!) and other necessary essentials, like formula, period products, adult diapers, and breastfeeding supplies, to families with young children experiencing poverty.

Diaper need is an issue for 1 in 3 families in poverty in this area and nationally. Government support like WIC or SNAP does not cover diapers, and as any parent will tell you — they are expensive, especially when you aren’t buying them in bulk. Diapers at a corner store can cost up to $.50/diaper, when a child goes through 10 diapers a day, that expense adds up quickly! Lack of diapers can lead to a host of problems, from diaper rash for babies to employment issues for grown-ups, since a supply of clean diapers is required by most child care providers.

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The moms out there doing their best in tough circumstances inspire us! At DCDB, we’ve come to realize that motherhood is a sisterhood — we help a mother out when we can, we are helped by other moms when we need it, and that’s how we raise healthy, strong, thoughtful members of the next generation.

We’re also inspired by our partner organizations, who every day find new and creative ways to engage families in their programs and support them through challenges. Finally, we’re inspired by the families that volunteer with us (1,500 each year!)– folks that are demonstrating to their children that it’s never too soon to help someone out, and that your time, and dollars, can have a real impact on someone in need.

We are excited to be broadening our definition of essentials right now — in addition to diapers, we are able to offer our partner agencies formula, wipes, period products, hygiene items and feeding supplies, and the list grows! Success for us is every child having everything they need in those critical first years of development, and every family having the support they need.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities and other was to get involved at dcdiaperbank.org

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Around Town 5/18-26

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

CASA in the Community: Stream Clean-up

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Prince George’s County
Join CASA for a day in the community! As part of our events in honor of National Foster Care Month, CASA staff and volunteers as well as other members of our neighborhood will work to clean up the stream behind our office which is a part of the Anacostia watershed. We will have support from the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, Sustainable Initiatives Division. Come join us for a day of giving back as we contribute to the beautification of our neighborhood and cleanliness of the Anacostia watershed. Lunch for volunteers will be sponsored by Douglas Development. Sign up to join us!

When: Thu May 18 2017 (11:30 AM – 3:00 PM)
Where: CASA Headquarters, 6811 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737
Fee: no
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will use provided tools and supplies to help to clean litter out of the stream and nearby embankment
Contact: Kara Bundy, (301) 209-0491
For more information: click here

The Crucible

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s retelling of hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials written when America was experiencing similar fears over communism. Long considered an American classic.

When: Thu May 18 2017 (7:30 PM)
Where: The Theatre Lab, 733 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Fee: yes $15 – Adults $10 – Students
Volunteer Info: Ushering, concession sales, etc.
Contact: Dane Petersen, (202) 824-0449
For more information: click here

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Crucible

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s retelling of hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials written when America was experiencing similar fears over communism. Long considered an American classic.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Kids to Parks Day

National Park Trust
Kids to Parks Day is a nation-wide day of outdoor play organized by National Park Trust (NPT) in cooperation with a host of local and national collaborators. Next year’s KTP Day will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2017, the week before the official start of summer. NPT is encouraging childrenacross the country to explore their neighborhood parks and discover science, history, nature and adventure right around the corner or just across town. Visit us at kidstoparks.org. Note: The address listed is the National Park Trust corporate office. Events will be held nationwide.

When:Sat May 20 2017 (00:00 AM – 11:45 PM)
Where:Nationwide, 401 E. Jefferson St., Rockville, MD 20850
Fee:no
Contact:Chris Reif, (301) 279-7275
For more information:click here

Laurel Community Day 5K & 1 Mile Walk

First Generation College Bound
Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services, Inc. (LARS) and First Generation College Bound (FGCB) are joining forces for a 5K to kick off Laurel High School’s Community Day! The 5K run and 1 mile walk begin at McCullough Field on Saturday, May 20th, starting at 8AM and following Laurel’s official5K course through Riverfront Park and Old Towne. All proceeds from this joint fundraiser will be split between LARS and FGCB to help advance our shared vision for the Laurel community: a place where everyone has the support they need to rise above difficult economic circumstances. After the 5K, the fun continues just up the road at Laurel High School, including a car show, food trucks, a moon bounce, and more from 11-3PM. Pick up your race packet and t-shirt on Friday, May 19th from 3-6PM at LARS (311 Laurel Ave, Laurel MD 20707). Registration and packet pick-up is also available on the morning of the race at McCullough Field, starting at 7AM. Registration for runners and walkers is $35 after May 1 and includes a commemorative race t-shirt. Visit www.laureladvocacy.org to register online or to download a paper registration form. Can’t make it this year? Register as a “sleepwalker” and you’ll still receive a race t-shirt! Contact Laura Wellford at (301) 776-0442 ext. 27 or lwellford@laureladvocacy.org for more information or Nickole Conyngham at (301) 490-0911 or nconyngham@fgcb.org on sponsoring, participating, or volunteering.

When:Sat May 20 2017 (08:00 AM)
Where:McCullough Field, Montgomery & 8th Street, Laurel, MD 20707
Fee:yes $35
Volunteer Info:course marshals, clean up, set up, refreshments
Contact:Nickole Conyngham, (301) 490-0911

Eiko Otake

Dance Place
A Body in Places is Eiko Otake’s first solo project, the scale of which varies radically between locations and incorporates both performative and non-performative elements. Central to the project is a drive to explore non-traditional venues and to respond to the innate characteristics of each specificplace. At the core of each variant is Eiko alone on a colorful futon, projecting and exploring solitude, gaze, fragility and intimacy. In Eiko & Komas performances, two bodies represent drama even when the other was absent. A Body in Places does not offer such drama. Performing as a soloist, Eiko Otake willfully partners with the particularities of places and viewers. In October 2014, Eiko Otake launched A Body in Places project with the photo exhibition A Body in Fukushima and her performance A Body in a Station in 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. The durational performances began Eiko’s exploration of how the fragility of the body within public places mutually affects and is affected by the gaze of passers by. Eiko Otake will be bringing her A Body in Places project to 8th St NE for a residency: Saturday, May 20 11:00 am: FREE Outdoor Performance of A Body in Places at the Brookland’s Monroe Street Farmer’s Market on the Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market (716 Monroe St NE) 7:00pm: FREE Outdoor performance of A Body in Places on 8th St NE, concluding in Dance Place’s Cafritz Foundation Theater and followed by A Body in Fukushima lecture / photo demonstration (Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE)

When:Sat May 20 2017 (11:00 AM)
Where:Dance Place 8th Street Arts Park, 3225 8th Street NE, Washington, District Of Columbia 20017
Fee:no
Contact:Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1608
For more information:click here

The Crucible

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s retelling of hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials written when America was experiencing similar fears over communism. Long considered an American classic.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Red Shoe 5K Run and Walk

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC
7th Annual Red Shoe 5K Run and Walk. Kids Fun

When:Sun May 21 2017 (09:00 AM)
Where:Dulles Station, Herndon, VA, Dulles Station, Herndon, VA 20171
Fee:yes $35 for adult participation ($40 day of)
Volunteer Info:General race assistance, manning sign-in tables, distributing refreshments etc
Contact:Kristen Claus, (202) 529-8204
For more information:click here

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Senior PGA Championship

LIFT-DC
Volunteer on behalf of LIFT-DC to staff one of the food vending stations during the Senior PGA Championship. Each completed 6-8 hour volunteer shift on behalf of LIFT-DC results in a donation to our organization. Volunteers receive one parking passes and one meal during the day of their shift, as wellas a non-transferable complimentary pass that allows volunteers to watch tournament play before/after their shifts.

When:Thu May 25 2017 (07:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Where:20391 Lowes Island Blvd, Potomac Falls, VA 20165
Fee:no
Volunteer Info:Volunteers will staff food vending stations for 6-8 hour shifts where they will take food orders, serve food and/or helping staff the cash register.
Contact:David Wyman, (202) 750-8417

Friday, May 26, 2017

Senior PGA Championship

LIFT-DC
Volunteer on behalf of LIFT-DC to staff one of the food vending stations during the Senior PGA Championship. Each completed 6-8 hour volunteer shift on behalf of LIFT-DC results in a donation to our organization. Volunteers receive one parking passes and one meal during the day of their shift, as wellas a non-transferable complimentary pass that allows volunteers to watch tournament play before/after their shifts.

When:Fri May 26 2017 (07:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Where:20391 Lowes Island Blvd, Potomac Falls, VA 20165
Fee:no
Volunteer Info:Volunteers will staff food vending stations for 6-8 hour shifts where they will take food orders, serve food and/or helping staff the cash register.
Contact:David Wyman, (202) 750-8417

A Local Recipe for Healthy Kids

by Emma Boel, City Blossoms
IMG_6151 City Blossoms is a nonprofit dedicated to fostering healthy, diverse communities by developing creative, kid-driven green spaces and innovative resources.

Working out of Washington DC as its home base, City Blossoms innovates new resources and techniques in urban, educational gardening and youth empowerment. City Blossoms facilitates local empowerment within predominantly black and Latino populations by partnering with schools and organizations, maintaining Community Green Spaces, and offering tools and trainings to educators and community leaders. Their holistic approach incorporates art, gardens, science, cooking, healthy living, and community building into one joyful and educational experience for people of all ages.
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The nonprofit reached a total of 3,500 students at its gardens in 2016, and boasted 300 hours of free programming at its two community green spaces in the same year. Washingtonians rave about the results. One garden parent, a city native, insists, “Programs like City Blossoms are absolutely vital to the youth of DC.”

This impactful work has recently resulted in an exciting new outcome: City Blossoms just printed a cookbook.
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Garden Gastronomy, Gastronomia del Jardin is a vibrant collection of bilingual recipes designed to help children become enthusiastic and healthy chefs. Perfect for the educator, parent, or veggie enthusiast interested in sharing the joy of cooking with kids, this artfully constructed book is full of colorful photographer and cheerful illustration to make it an appealing treat for readers of all ages. The book includes 32 bilingual garden recipes, guidance on cooking seasonally with local produce, and tips for preparing food with kids.

The recipes include snacks and dishes like Sunflower Seed Pesto, Strawberry Mint Salad, and Garden Ramen. It’s a valuable product in-and-of-itself, however, the book’s most important feature may be its local roots.

Every recipe has been made time and time again by thousands of little hands. Every dish comes with the approval of young DC gardeners, who have built this book in the same way they have built their gardens: themselves. City Blossoms wrote and published the book after testing and tasting each recipe in the gardens with young chefs. They hope it will reach educators, gardeners, parents, and food justice activists. They hope it will find readership around the country. However, they know that these dishes have already made their way into the homes of the children who provided the energy for its creation, and that feels like a great start.
FullSizeRender 8The best days at City Blossoms are those full of community. We love to have volunteers at our garden work days, participants in our Open Time programming, and visitors at our public Community Green Spaces. To buy a copy of the cookbook, to connect with us, or to become a member of our essential team of donors and partners, visit our website at cityblossoms.org.

LearnServe Helps Young People Find Their Voice

By Scott Rechler, Learn Serve International

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LearnServe believes in the power of young people to affect social change, and in the power of social change work to shape young leaders.

Youth have the energy, creativity, and passion to identify injustice and drive innovative change,yet often feel powerless to act on that potential. LearnServe helps them find their voice. We envision a new generation of young leaders standing up for the issues that matter to them most.
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A basketball tournament designed to bridge DC teens and police officers. English classes for immigrant and refugee students in northern Virginia. Support for girls building self-confidence and a healthy body image. A fleet of electric school buses. Meet the high school students behind these dynamic new ideas and more at the 8th Annual LearnServe Panels and Venture Fair on Thursday, April 27 from 5:00 – 8:00 pm at Washington Latin Public Charter School (5200 2nd St NW, Washington, DC 20011).
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Students teams will present their ideas in short pitches to panels of business and community leaders, and in a science-fair style exhibition with the opportunity to win up to $200 in seed funding for their projects. RSVP online at http://learn-serve.org/programs/fellows/2017-panels-venture-fair.

LearnServe International is a non-profit organization that equips students from diverse backgrounds with the entrepreneurial vision, tenacity, confidence, and leadership skills needed to tackle social challenges at home and abroad.

Each year LearnServe brings together 100+ students from public, charter, and independent schools in the Washington, DC area. We strengthen their academic and professional success through three complementary programs. The LearnServe Fellows program guides students as they design and launch entrepreneurial ventures with social goals. LearnServe Abroad introduces social innovation through a global lens, as students volunteer with entrepreneurs overseas. Seeding Social Innovation offers curriculum materials to bring social entrepreneurship into the classroom.

We invite you to join the community of individuals, businesses, and schools committed to sparking a new generation of social entrepreneurs across the DC region. Get involved and learn more about our programs at www.learn-serve.org.

Every Day is Earth Day at National Park Trust

by Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust

Preserving parks today; creating park stewards for tomorrow.

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Photographer: Chris Rief, courtesy of National Park Trust

Celebrated each year on April 22nd, this year’s Earth Day falls during National Park Week (April 15th through April 23rd). National Park Week is celebrated at more than 400 national park units across the country, many of which are located right in our backyard. Did you know that the White House, National Mall, Rock Creek Park and the C & O Canal all are National Parks?

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Photographer: Chris Rief, courtesy of National Park Trust

Earth Day is a time to pause, think, and take action to protect our environment – something that is at the core of the mission of National Park Trust (NPT), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit included in this year’s Catalogue for Philanthropy. For more than 30 years, NPT has worked to protect our national parks locally and across the country. Our mission focuses on preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow.

St. Fancis Xavier_Anacostia Park
Photographer: Chris Rief, courtesy of National Park Trust

NPT acquires privately owned lands located within and adjacent to our national parks including national parks in the DC-metro area. There are millions of acres of privately owned land located inside the boundaries of our national parks. NPT’s land acquisition projects are selected from a high-priority “wish list” provided to us by the National Park Service; many are at risk for development.

The long-term protection of our country’s unique natural, historic and cultural treasures depends on our youth – our future stewards who will protect these special places for generations to enjoy. Most of the visitors to our national parks are white and aging. If our parks are to be protected in perpetuity, we must connect our growing young and diverse populations with these special places. Simply said: kids need parks — and parks need kids.

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Photographer: Billy Schrack, courtesy of National Park Trust

That’s why in 2009 we launched our fun and innovative Buddy Bison School Program in the DC-metro area in six under-served elementary and middle schools. At the heart of the program is our mascot Buddy Bison who encourages kids to explore outdoors, the parks are yours! Little did we know how quickly (in just eight short years!) our program would grow, as teachers eagerly incorporated environmental education into their classrooms. As a result, and thanks to the outstanding support from our donors, we now fund 60 Title I schools locally and across the country. Our dream? To grow and sustain 100 schools in honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, which was celebrated last year.

The Buddy Bison program provides park trips tying in STEM, history and social studies curricula. In addition to being terrific outdoor classrooms, parks are also ideal places where students can learn about health and wellness through outdoor recreation and park stewardship through career and volunteer opportunities.

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Photographer: Chris Rief, courtesy of National Park Trust

This Earth Day, we invite you to join us in taking action to protect and preserve our national parks and the environment. Then on Saturday, May 20th, let’s keep the momentum going by celebrating Kids to Parks Day – a national day of outdoor play, organized by NPT, that focuses on kids, our future park stewards. There are lots of free park events registered at kidstoparks.org including several in our backyard.

If you’d like to learn more about our work and how you can get involved, visit parktrust.org because…Every day is Earth Day at National Park Trust!

DC SCORES is Team!

Spring, it seems, is here to stay in Washington, DC, and for one nonprofit after-school program, that means service.

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At DC SCORES, elementary and middle school students across the District — 2,200 of them — create change in their communities during the 12-week season through service-learning projects.

Writing coaches hired by DC SCORES80% of whom work at the schools — lead students through the program’s thick service-learning curriculum, taking them on a journey that goes like this:

Stage 1: Examine your community. Kids walk around their school building and into the surrounding neighborhood, equipped with clipboards and a pencil. They jot down what rubs them the wrong way. Is there a lot of trash? Homeless people suffering? A lack of gardens? Stray animals?

Stage 2: Research. After a collaborative decision on which issue to focus on, the kids educate themselves. They look up statistics online. They talk to people who are relevant to the issue locally. They become informed.

Stage 3: Implementation. It’s time to go to work! During the two service-learning sessions after school each week, the kids — feeling empowered like never before — take the steps as a team to create change. Some projects culminate in a big day (examples: a car wash to raise money to feed the homeless; a fun race to fundraise for the local animal shelter; a fitness festival to bring awareness about healthy living to their school community) while others are multi-week processes such as the creation of a school garden.

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Stage 4: Reflection. The last week of the spring DC SCORES service-learning season is spent reflecting on the project. What were the biggest challenges? What felt most rewarding? How did the kids feel when it we completed? Many lessons come out of these projects, and the elementary and middle school poet-athletes in DC SCORES learn just how powerful they are to make a difference in their communities, especially when working together.

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DC SCORES was born in 1994 by a Teach for America teacher, Julie Kennedy, who noticed that girls she taught at Marie Reed Learning Center (now Marie Reed Elementary School) had nothing to do after school. Julie rolled out a soccer ball one day, and the girls embraced the game. On a rainy afternoon, with everyone stuck inside, Julie placed a notebook in front of each girl and and encouraged them to freely write down their thoughts about anything. The poetry aspect, which takes place during the fall season and culminates in the annual Poetry Slam!, came about. Service-learning was added as the third prong of the innovate model shortly thereafter.

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DC SCORES goes where kids in need are — they operate in all eight wards, with 55 sites at DC public and public charter schools and rec centers; the program’s waiting list is 20 schools deep — and gives them the skills and confidence to be successful on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life.

Every aspect of DC SCORES, from the weekly game days to the Slam! to service-learning, is based around team and led by supported, trusted coaches who are considered leaders in their school communities. If you are in Columbia Heights or Deanwood or many other DC neighborhoods, you will see kids and adults walking around in DC SCORES school-customized T-shirts. They wear them proudly.

DC SCORES is team. And the bonds created within DC SCORES lead to stronger, healthier, happier communities throughout the District regardless of resources available. Just consider Imagine Hope Community Charter School – Tolson Campus, which last year created a school garden on its blacktop out of recycled soda bottles.

Give kids an outlet, the confidence, and the tools to make their world a better place, and the result will be beautiful.

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GET INVOLVED
So how can you get involved with DC SCORES this spring?

Volunteer: DC SCORES especially needs volunteers for its season-culminating Jamboree! on Saturday, June 3 for all 2,200 kids and their families. Many roles are available. Additionally, referees are needed for Thursday game days (no experience necessary). Check out all volunteer opportunities HERE.

Website: Learn more about DC SCORES at www.DCSCORES.org or by connecting with the program on any social media platform (just search DC SCORES).

Building Remarkable Futures, One Middle School Student at a Time

By Cynthia Rubenstein, Executive Director – Passion for Learning

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It’s not what you pour into a child, it’s what you plant. - Unknown

Passion for Learning (P4L) engages economically disadvantaged middle school students in Montgomery County through digital technology, after school programs, and college readiness summer camps. Coached by talented school teachers, digital tech professionals and high school student mentors, our youth become savvy and responsible digital citizens with aspirations and plans for bright futures.

Middle school is the perfect time to engage youth in dreaming and building their futures. At Passion for Learning we know it is critically important to engage students in their middle school years and help them prepare for successful transitions to high school, as well as, develop goals for post secondary education.

In Montgomery County, academic enrichment opportunity gaps continue to exist for students of color and students from low income families. At P4L we aim to close these opportunity gaps by surrounding middle school youth with adults and older students who expose them to exciting possibilities in technology and help them develop their potential and talents.

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Every year P4L engages 120 plus students at eight middle schools who develop digital technology skills and interests. Each year at least 80% of P4L’s youth develop new interests in taking digital technology courses in high school and more than 60% plan careers that require technology skills. At least 80% of youth say that our programs help them think about what they want to do in the future and more than 75% say they plan to achieve four year college degrees.

Our middle school youth inspire us with their boundless curiosity, energy and potential. Middle school students are at a remarkable stage in their lives. They are discovering who they are and figuring out their place in the world. They are open to new experiences and exploring new interests that may “spark” them for life. It’s the exuberant and inquisitive spirit of middle school youth that inspires us at P4L!

A typical day at P4L after school program finds students designing video games and learning Java Script or Python programming languages; creating youth videos for local cable tv stations; building circuit boards to power LED lights; taking a digital photography and photo editing workshop from a pro; designing web sites and writing news blogs.

At P4L we are always looking for adults who want to share their knowledge and experiences with our middle school youth. If you’re a tech professional, we’d love to have you meet and engage with our students after school. We’d love to talk to you about the possibilities. Contact us at p4learning@aol.com or call Cynthia Rubenstein, Executive Director, at 301-589-1725.

A Safe, Nurturing Place for Girls

The Washington School for Girls – By Kelley Lockard

Kelley Lockard and WSG Students (Class of 2016)

Before 1997, there were few quality educational options or services for girls in Southeast DC. And there was no place where a girl on the verge of womanhood could find mentorship or learn in a safe environment that values her as an individual. That is why the Washington School for Girls (WSG) was founded: to provide a safe, nurturing place for girls to not only learn and grow, but to thrive.

Of course, a lot has changed since the school was founded 20 years ago. More people have started to take an interest in Southeast neighborhoods. There are more resources, more options for education. The community itself is changing. However, through all of these changes there continues to be a strong need for a school that works for and with the community. That’s why WSG is so important, and why our students succeed: we educate the whole child.

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We pride ourselves on providing a holistic model of education, one that accepts not just students, but also families. A student’s experiences at home are just as important as her experience in the classroom. We work with parents to engage them in the educational process and help them access the resources they need to support their daughters as learners.

As an administrator and former teacher, I feel I am most attuned to a student’s needs when I have developed a close relationship with her family. I know that if I can build a long-term, reciprocal relationship with a family then I can truly help a child reach her full potential. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing a girl come into her own after entering the school with nearly every aspect of her life in disarray. That kind of transformation does not happen overnight, and it’s impossible without the support of the family.

WSG 2016-131

Luckily for me, I’ve witnessed that transformation innumerable times in my years at WSG. It’s what motivates me to do the work that I do. My desk is full of photos of the young women I have helped to transform, and every day I am fortified by their smiles and the knowledge of their achievement. I look at them and know that they will make a positive difference in their communities.

WSG was built on the beliefs and values of extraordinary, courageous women. As we enter Women’s History Month and approach the 20th Anniversary of the school this spring, I am increasingly reflecting on that fact. In the classroom, our students are learning about women who have changed the course of history, but they are also learning leadership skills, whether it’s helping their teachers hand out assignments, leading an after-school club, or mentoring younger students.

I recognize the ability to lead and the determination to do so in many of our students. It is something I have worked hard to incorporate into the curriculum at WSG because I believe that leadership builds confidence and allows students to become more actively engaged in the classroom. Seeing the lightbulb come on over a student’s head is the best feeling the world, and it only happens when that student knows she is capable of more.

My hope for the future is that our students take the lessons they learn at WSG, both in and out of the classroom, to heart. There are many challenges ahead for our country and the world, especially in terms of equality and justice. The most daunting task in my job as an administrator is to ensure that our students are prepared to face those challenges, to navigate a world that does not always value them. I know that they will not be able to do it alone, but I hope that we can give them the knowledge, skills, and courage to overcome adversity.

Posted on my door is a daily affirmation known as the Serenity Prayer. It’s a very popular prayer and my mother’s favorite prayer, but I never appreciated it until I became a teacher. I look at it every day, sometimes several times (depending on the day), because it reminds me to be myself and accept the things I cannot change. Superwoman is not at all a part of my name, but I find strength in accepting that fact and courage to try anyway. If my students walk away from WSG accepting of who they are and still ready to change the world, then I know I will have succeeded.

Goosebumps with Girls on the Run – DC

by Kristen Komlosy – Executive Director, Girls on the Run DC

Moten Elem Team pic Fall 2016 5K

When a volunteer coach shares with us, “Girls on the Run allows me to provide a positive space in the school community to help girls to learn and love physical activity and themselves” I get goosebumps and blink twice about how grateful I am to work for an incredible organization.

We have 1,600 amazing volunteers (per year) and that inspires me!

Everyday, I wake up in awe of how many people want to give back to our girls across all eight wards of DC! They are the lifeline of the organization. They have a real passion to empower young girls to become confident women, and our whole team is very grateful for them.

We’re looking forward to continuing the expansion of our circles in the DC community! We have a goal to serve 22,000 girls by 2020 so they all know their limitless potential. On June 4th, we will move our end of season 5K to a more visible venue for our community at Freedom Plaza (14th St and Pennsylvania Ave NW). We want the DC community to join us as we run for our girls – running or walking through the heart of the city. Everyone can support the future of Girl Power by running alongside girls from every corner of DC.

10 years ago we started by serving 13 girls in one school and today we are serving over 2,000 girls a year. 13,000 amazing, strong, and brave young girls have completed this life-changing program. We have watched girls complete the program from every corner of Washington, DC. We have seen thousands of girls cross the 5K finish line, a finish line that does not discriminate by skin color, background, or religion. Girls on the Run brings people together from all walks of life, and that in and of itself is a powerful lesson.

Washington, DC is well known as a center of political power and influence. But this context masks a troubling reality: DC’s children and youth face disproportionately high rates of at-risk conditions, with child poverty, childhood obesity and teen pregnancy that are at or near the highest in the nation. Body image issues among girls escalates quickly in elementary school and by middle school, 70 percent of girls are dissatisfied with two or more parts of their body, and body satisfaction hits rock bottom between the ages of 12 and 15.

We know that girls who have a strong sense of self-worth, confidence and personal agency and who have been exposed to consistent, positive messages about the benefits of avoiding risky behaviors are shown to make better decisions throughout adolescence than their peers who lack these attributes.

Girls on the Run can make a big difference in a girl’s life. It is a place where pivotal “aha” moments of change can happen. We are ensuring that the next generation of girls in DC will know their limitless potential. Families, relationships, communities, governments all will be strengthened by the confident women that these girls will grow up to become!

To Volunteer or learn more about Girls on the Run DC contact: (202) 607-2288 or email INFO@GOTRDC.ORG