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“It’s Pay It Forward Time . . . “

Aerospace Engineer Charles Cisneros Gives Back as a RESET Volunteer
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Charles helps students set up the “wheel and axle” experiment, using his granddaughter’s tricycle.

By Charles Cisneros

A couple of years ago, I began volunteering with RESET, an education nonprofit that introduces children to real scientists and provides hands-on science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) learning opportunities to children between the ages of 4 and 12. RESET is an ideal match for my background and my desire to “pay it forward” in a meaningful way.

I am a former aerospace engineer. I worked for 33 years as an Air Force officer and 13 years for SAIC as a system test planner for the National Missile defense program. I retired in 2009. I had done other kinds of volunteer work over the years, but when I ran across a RESET recruitment ad in The Washington Post, I was instantly intrigued. After chatting with Executive Director John Meagher, I liked what I heard about the program. I felt RESET’s investment was well focused and that it did a great job of fostering an exchange of ideas and in providing resources and STEM curriculum support for schools in the DC area.

RESET’s work is so critical for our country’s future. We will always need highly trained scientists and engineers to solve complex technical, health, and engineering problems. When I first started with RESET, I volunteered at Moorefield Station Elementary School. At the time, I had also been doing a lot of local charity golf tournaments. One of the charities we supported was Sugarland Elementary School, a low-income school, located in Loudoun County.

I went home and did a little research on schools in the area. I checked out some government sources on scholastic performance and discovered that Sugarland, a Title 1 school, was one of the lowest performing schools in the county. Sugarland is not an affluent school, so it can be challenging for them to compete in a high-income county like Loudoun. Having come from a low-income background myself, I felt a strong pull towards bringing RESET programs to these students. I contacted John and offered to expand my volunteer work to Sugarland. John very quickly set up a meeting with school officials. They accepted our help and we will soon complete our first school year there, leading RESET programs for a diverse student body that includes many Hispanic students. Now, I volunteer at both schools, working mostly with third-graders.

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Charles’ class at Sugarland Elementary during a session on renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Following a scavenger hunt where the class was divided into “coal miners” and “wind millers,” Charles surprised his students with lab coats, to their obvious delight. One of RESET’s primary goals is to get children to think and behave like real scientists.

I was fortunate to have had several adults in my life who believed in me and encouraged me. That’s why I was so eager to work with students from less advantaged backgrounds. I thought, “Now it’s time to give something back.” From personal experience I know it just takes one spark to ignite an interest and a passion for science, one that can grow into a future career and life path. My own inspiration came from two sources: As a child in the 1950s, I used to watch Walt Disney TV programs about the challenges of breaking into outer space. This, along with the national alarm after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, motivated me towards a science or engineering career.

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Students at Moorefield Station Elementary School confer on an experiment on a block and tackle pulley.

My experiences with my students have been wonderful. The one thing I am always delighted and amazed to discover is how bright and precocious they are. Young minds are naturally curious and open, no matter where they come from or how much they have. They are limited only by resources and opportunity.

And some classroom experiences are definitely more memorable than others. For example, during one session with my third graders, I intended to demonstrate the pull of the moon’s gravity on the oceans using a balloon filled with water. Typically, the normally spherical balloon would be pulled out of shape by the force of gravity, thus illustrating my point. I’ve performed this demo many times, but this time I allowed a student to hold the water-filled balloon by the top end. Unexpectedly, he bounced the balloon up and down. Not surprisingly, it burst, dousing him, me, and the floor with water (and there may have been some additional collateral damage). We all had a good laugh and achieved a much better appreciation of the force of gravity than if the experiment had gone off without a hitch.

Gail Brady, Principal at Sugarland, and STEAM lab teacher Darielle Robinson recently shared with me what RESET has meant to Sugarland students this year:

“Working with RESET has been such a valuable experience for our students. Through RESET our students often have had the chance to be exposed to individuals that share their ethnic background and have had careers in the field of science. Charles has given our students the chance to see an individual that has overcome certain circumstances and used education has a means of living a full life. It’s been especially helpful having Charles bring to life the concepts that our students learn in class. He has been pivotal in providing our students with learning experiences that they may not otherwise experience outside of school.”

RESET serves Pre-Kindergarten through 8th-grade. We offer in-school, after-school, and summer and weekend programs. There are many options for volunteering, including working as a team through your workplace. Volunteers are working and professional scientists, engineers, and technologists, ranging in age from 18 through 90. Our volunteers have a professional background or educational interest in STEM professions, and we represent a wide range of fields, from forensic anthropology to computer science, but you need not have teaching experience to volunteer with us. RESET does an excellent job of providing training, resources, and feedback so you go into the classroom confident and prepared.

To volunteer for RESET, please contact John Meagher at 703-250-0236. Have a fundraising idea? Contact Development Director Lyndi Schrecengost at 202-365-5963.

A great way to engage with RESET is to “like” and share our posts on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/RESETDC/
https://twitter.com/ReSETonline
https://www.youtube.com/user/resetonlinevideo
https://www.linkedin.com/company/reset-organization
http://resetonline.org/blog/

Volunteers and Tutors Make a Difference at Bridges to Independence

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Bridges to Independence has been working with and for people experiencing homelessness since 1985, when we were founded as the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. In 2016, Bridges served a total of 460 individuals: 248 through our housing programs (emergency shelter and rapid re-housing) and 212 in other programs and services (financial literacy, employment services, etc.).

Our mission is to lead individuals and families out of homelessness and into stable, independent futures. We offer aid and support for all family members, helping them attain financial security and move forward into self-sufficiency. As homelessness is often episodic, we work not only with people who are currently experiencing homelessness, but also with former participants to ensure they are able to remain securely housed and do not fall into homelessness again.

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Former client Mohammed, his wife, and their 5 daughters invited us to their home for a visit. It was wonderful to see the family thriving!

Our vision is to end the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Two-thirds of the people we serve are under the age of 18. We provide youth with opportunities to increase self-esteem, gain leadership skills, and improve their overall health/well-being. We strive to give older students the confidence, skills, and tools needed to pursue and complete post-secondary education or vocational training, providing them with a pathway to economic security.

After many years of helping people move into their own homes, we’ll soon get to experience a homecoming of our own! In September, we will move into a brand-new 4,700 square foot training center, directly adjacent to our Sullivan House emergency shelter. The new space will be a hive of activity and will include a children’s room for youth activities, classrooms for job training, a personal counseling suite, and offices for our staff to continue their crucial work to support families in need. We’ll be able to serve more people, carry out programming more effectively, and explore new and innovative solutions for reducing homelessness.

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Gather a team for our Kickball Tournament or volunteer at the event!

Our 12th annual SAFE AT HOME Kickball Tournament will be Saturday, August 5, 2017. Teams, sponsors and volunteers can sign up now at https://bridges2.org/kickball/. We also need volunteers to serve as mentors or tutors, represent Bridges at events, help with office work, and more. For details, see www.bridges2.org or contact Lawson Craighill at lcraighill@bridges2.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.

Defend Waterways of the Potomac with Potomac Riverkeeper Network

By Nathan Ackerman, VP Communication & Creative, Potomac Riverkeeper Network

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Photography: Lindsay Bernal, courtesy of Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a non-profit environmental organization fighting to keep pollution out of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers through grassroots organizing and legal advocacy.

We believe experiencing our rivers builds appreciation for them. We defend and enhance public access to the waterways of the Potomac watershed through Riverkeepers, who identify and address threats to the Potomac, Upper Potomac, and the Shenandoah.

We serve the 6 million people who rely on our rivers as the source of their drinking water, the thousands of recreational users of the rivers, and the many more who may never spend time on our rivers but appreciate their beauty, and the vital role they play in our economy and the ecosystems they sustain.

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Photography: Lindsay Bernal, courtesy of Potomac Riverkeeper Network

We protect and defend our rivers because they sustain life. Our rivers supply our drinking water and put food on the table. Keeping our rivers healthy keeps the Chesapeake Bay healthy – which generates 33 billion in recreational and economic benefits each year. But beyond the economic benefits, we believe our rivers have intrinsic value that merits protection.

The work we do is important because our country still allows industry, municipalities and agricultural operations to externalize significant costs by using our rivers to dispose of their waste and pollution. Proposed rollbacks of federal clean water protections make our work more important than ever – local vigilance, citizen action, public education and engagement are the last lines of defense.

Our work in Alexandria, Virginia kept nearly a billion gallons of sewage and contaminated stormwater out of the Potomac by exposing the extent to which the city was polluting our nation’s river. Generating pressure through the media and raising public awareness cut over a decade off of the original plan for fixing the problem.

When we discovered families in Dumfries, Virginia were being poisoned by toxic coal ash leaking into their drinking water, we organized the community, and worked to get a law passed to address the situation.

We are inspired by the belief that people have a fundamental right to clean water. We are inspired by single moms working two jobs who find time to speak up for the environment at public hearings. We are inspired by the fact that nearly 50 years ago President Lyndon Johnson called the Potomac River “a national disgrace” but today long lines lead to the Key Bridge boathouse filled with people who can’t wait to get out on the river, thanks to the Clean Water Act.

Here in Washington, we’re seeing a dramatic change in the public perception of the river – urban planners see it an an amenity, not an afterthought.

“Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss.”

(David Bolling, How to Save a River: Handbook for Citizen Action)

Our biggest outreach event of the year, RiverPalooza, kicks off June 3rd with a day of paddling followed by a BBQ and Bluegrass party in Harpers Ferry. RiverPalooza runs most weekends through the summer and will feature 14 river adventures for all ages and skill levels – kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, canoe and camping trips. For those looking for ways to experience our rivers, this is the way to do it.

On the campaign front, we just committed to taking a leadership role in fighting a pipeline project that would carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania through the Maryland panhandle, and under the Potomac River. The company proposing this doesn’t have a great safety record. There’s no need for Maryland to risk their natural resources, tourism and recreation dollars on a pipeline that does nothing for them – the gas isn’t going to Maryland, it’s going through Maryland. Banning fracking in Maryland was the first step. Keeping pipelines out is next.

  • Success for Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a healthy Shenandoah and Potomac River, made possible by holding polluters accountable and building public awareness and appreciation for the role rivers play in our lives.
  • Success would be never reading another headline about how the swimming portion of the National Triathlon was cancelled because the water was unsafe for human contact.
  • Success is stopping cities from dumping raw sewage into the river. Success would be building the next generation of advocates for our rivers, setting their expectations high, and giving them the tools to win.
  • A perfect day is bringing a group of people to a scenic stretch of the Shenandoah for the first time and seeing their faces light up as they discover what we fight for and why – without any explanation.

We can be reached by calling 202 888 2037 or by emailing nathan@prknetwork.org or maria@prknetwork.org. Our website has information about our priority issues, links to take action, to volunteer and to join our organization. A great way to engage with us is to participate in one of our RiverPalooza trips, which are led by our Riverkeepers or liking us on Facebook.

“Keep your rivers flowing as they will, and you will continue to know the most important of all freedoms – the boundless scope of the human mind to contemplate wonders, and to begin to understand their meaning. “

(David Brower, The Foreword to Oregon Rivers by Larry Olson and John Daniel)

 

 

 

 

When Women Have a Chance in Tech

By Elizabeth Lindsey, Executive Director of Byte Back

women in techWomen make up only 25 percent of the computing workforce in the United States. For women of color, this drops drastically, with just 3 percent of the workforce made up of African American women and 1 percent Latina women.

March is Women’s History Month: a time to celebrate progress, recognize deficits, and act for equality. Now is the perfect time to give a woman her start in tech.

In Byte Back’s 20 years, our demographics have never reflected the outside tech world. That’s kind of the point. In 2016, 417 women, or 61 percent of Byte Back’s student body, found empowering tech skills for free at Byte Back.

Byte Back offers a pathway of practical tech training and career services for DC-area residents, leading to professional careers and economic opportunity.
When women are offered the chance to learn and use technology the same as men, women access vital life opportunities, including high-paying jobs, healthcare, sexual and gender violence services, family care, and more.

Underserved, marginalized women who have never thought a career in tech was possible find it at Byte Back:

  • Betty faced years of unemployment and age discrimination. When she got computer training and earned a Microsoft specialist certification, she found a high-paying administrative job at the District of Columbia Superior Courts.
  • Jewel was a teen mother, surviving on government assistance and a job at a supermarket. She earned a certification and found her path as a tech administrator.
  • Lark struggled as a single teen mother and a runaway youth, and felt lost in her career and in life. She found direction and a career thanks to the education and care she received at Byte Back.
  • Olivia had unsteady jobs as a security guard and hairdresser and was homeless, sleeping in her car. Since she earned her CompTIA A+ certification, she has not only found a job but a stable career that allows her to have her own apartment and not just survive but thrive.
  • Lashaun, a current A+ student, works all night and shows up to her class in the morning. She is on her way to becoming certified and landing a job that doesn’t require night shifts.
  • Fatoumata was a recent immigrant from Senegal and a new mother. She got computer training and a certification to start her career and now confidently supports her son as a single mother.

Society told these women a career in tech wasn’t an option. But once they entered Byte Back’s doors, they found confidence and people who believed in their success.
These amazing women are not only changing the face of tech or changing statistics, they are part of a bigger change that’s needed. With technology, women can connect to the world and build connections to employers, friends, and family. With technology, women can move into jobs to support their families – tech jobs, white collar jobs, medical jobs. With technology, women can help their families teach their children, communicate with teachers, open up a world of knowledge.

Aleta computer 2 cropIt doesn’t have to be expensive, or complicated. So much can be solved by teaching women how to use technology. With a small investment in women’s lives, we can have a huge impact on social change.

Today, we urge you to find a way to support women, whether it’s as a mentor, a volunteer, or a supporter of a community organization. Byte Back is opening opportunities for women to cross the digital divide and to advance in IT careers. Groups like Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Lesbians Who Tech are making sure that women are not alone in tech online and in real life.
If we all work together, we can make sure women have the power to use technology to change lives. Please help us continue to bridge digital gaps and gender gaps in tech – email me today at elindsey@byteback.org to become a mentor or hire a Byte Back graduate.
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Byte Back improves economic opportunity by providing computer training and career preparation to underserved Washington, DC metro area residents.
Through free computer and advanced IT certification classes, Byte Back helps graduates gain invaluable skills, experience higher rates of self-confidence, and launch successful new careers. Byte Back’s programs have provided a pathway to technology skill development and fulfilling living-wage careers for thousands of individuals who have struggled with underemployment, unemployment, and poverty.

 

Mentoring helps students gain access to College

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Only 46% of low-income students matriculate to college, according to the US Census. Most of these students are afraid they can’t afford college and that huge debt will burden them and/or their families. At First Generation College Bound (FGCB), we break down misperceptions about college affordability and accessibility, and strive to improve our students matriculation and graduation rates.

Our College Access program works with 150 first generation students annually. Countering the perception that low-income students must win a scholarship to attend college, our program welcomes students with a 2.0 or greater GPA and helps them tackle the financial aid process. Many students receive need-based aid assistance that they didn’t know they qualified for. Our students are ready to make successful transitions to colleges that are the best fit for them and can compete academically with their more affluent peers.

Most of our students must overcome long odds to attend college and obtain their degrees. Mentoring enables our students to overcome barriers which have prevented many first generation college students from attending and graduating from college.

In one-on-one coaching sessions and in workshops, we constantly instill college bound attitudes in our students. Our outstanding College Access Coaches develop customized plans for students, empowering them to surmount barriers blocking their way to their goals. Preparing them to do well in the SAT and maintaining a college bound transcript, we remind our students they can compete academically. We demonstrate attending college is affordable and accessible by showing our students how to leverage aid available to attend college.

For more than 27 years, our college access mentoring has ensured 93% of our students matriculate to college, twice the national average, and 64% of our students finish their degrees in four years, twice higher the national average of 33% for low-income students, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

FGCB is striving to develop support services and training for other organizations and programs. We hope other groups will want to replicate our highly successful model. If more groups adopt our mentoring approach, we’ll come closer to realizing our vision: one day all Marylanders will have equal access to affordable college educations.

You can learn more about our work by visiting www.fgcb.org

Making a Difference with CASA of Prince George’s County

We make a real difference in the lives of foster children
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Every month is mentoring month at Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Prince George’s County, a nonprofit in its 16th year that recruits, trains and supervises CASAs for foster children.

CASAs are volunteers sworn-in by a judge to investigate a foster child’s needs and challenges – from academics to emotional well-being – and then report back their findings and recommendations.

Besides being an advocate, a CASA is a mentor. They are there to talk to the youth about whatever they want to discuss, take them on field trips – such as to a ballgame or an amusement park – and explain to them the importance of becoming a responsible adult.

Studies show that a foster child with a CASA is far more likely to thrive.
kid and adult living roomConsider this: More than half of foster children nationwide drop out of high school, increasing the chances that they will slip into poverty, homelessness and possibly even jail.

Yet upwards of 70 percent of foster children who have been assigned to one of our CASAs graduate, increasing the chances that they will enjoy a full and productive life.

We are proud to say that we make a real difference. We would like to do even more. Our goal is to have one CASA with each foster child. We now have only about 150 volunteers in a county with more than 400 foster children.

Help us celebrate National Mentoring Month by helping us help more foster kids.

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Please keep in mind that these boys and girls are at risk at no fault of their own. They simply were born to parents who, for whatever reason, were unable to care for them. Help us help them!

For more information, please contact CASA/Prince George’s County at 301-209-0491 or email kbundy@pgcasa.org.

Guest Post: Mentoring Today

As Mentoring Month draws to a close, we’re excited for today’s guest post from Mentoring Today! Since 2005, Mentoring Today has served DC youth both before and after they are released from incarceration to support their successful reintegration into their families and community. Advocates and mentors from the Washington College of Law help youth with critical issues such as education, employment, and housing as they enter adulthood. Through these comprehensive, client-centered services, Mentoring Today strives to improve the juvenile justice system and empowers our young people to recognize their dreams and realize their aspirations.

About the Author: Sasha Garcon is a third year law student at American University’s Washington College of Law. Sasha is currently interning with Mentoring Today and hopes to pursue a career in juvenile defense.

A Mentor, An Advocate, And All That Is In Between

by Sasha Garcon

I have been a mentor in the past. And as a law student, I am developing skills to become a better advocate. But rarely have these two roles merged, until I started working with Mentoring Today. Mentoring Today is a DC-based organization that serves youth both before and after they are released from incarceration to support their successful reintegration into their families and community. Mentoring Today, through a partnership with Students United, a student organization at American University Washington College of Law, sends mentors to meet weekly with incarcerated youth at New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel, Maryland. Once the youth are released, mentors continue working with the youth in the community by maintaining a mentoring relationship and by helping with critical issues such as education, employment, and housing.

“What is a mentor?” I asked my mentee on the first day we met. He explained to me that he had had a mentor before and that this individual gave him advice on life and staying out of trouble. I thought about this a little more and thought about how I wanted to define my role and my relationship with him. I knew that I was not there to tell him what to do and what not to do. My role, as I saw it, was to be a support to my mentee — to help him define goals and to help him in accomplishing those goals. While I wanted to provide emotional support and advice on how my mentee could grow as an individual, I also wanted to make sure that I fought for things that my mentee wanted or needed to grow as an individual. I wanted to be more than a mentor; I wanted to also be his advocate.

The idea of being both a mentor and an advocate may seem foreign but they work quite well together. I could see change in our relationship the first time I shifted from my role as a mentor to being an advocate for my mentee. My mentee had what is called a “Youth Family Team Meeting” (YFTM) meeting scheduled. At this meeting, New Beginnings staff members, service providers, and family members came together to prepare for my mentee’s release and to discuss what services needed to be set in place once he was in the community. In preparation for the meeting, I discussed with my mentee what to expect. We talked about his goals, what he hoped to accomplish in the meeting, and any issues that he wanted to raise. I reassured him that I would also be there at the meeting on his behalf to help make sure his goals were met and that he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish. As I said this, he stopped and looked at me with a look that I can only describe as pure shock. “What? You didn’t expect me to come?” I asked. His answer, “No.”

After this meeting, I could see how my role as a mentor-advocate shaped and defined my relationship with my mentee. It was encouraging to see that he was not only comfortable sharing his goals with me but also wanted to include me in his pursuit of accomplishing those goals. I had the ability to not only advocate on his behalf, but also to help him learn to advocate for himself. One cannot truly advocate for someone, if they do not teach them to advocate for themselves. It is the assurance that I will not only advocate for him as best I can, but that I will also provide him with the confidence to advocate for his own needs that I believe will truly make a difference in my mentee’s life.

Learn more about Mentoring Today at: www.mentoringtoday.org, or check out their Catalogue webpage for more ways to get involved.

Mentoring Monday

Today is Mentoring Monday around the District! There are thousands of youth across our region who are in need of a caring adult, a positive role-model, a friend to offer guidance about and spark interest in school, new activities and their future…in other words, a mentor. This consistent, positive relationship has a profound effect on mentees; in fact, youth who meet regularly with a mentor:

  • have better school attendance, a better chance of going on to higher education, and better attitudes toward school,
  • are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, or engage in criminal behavior,
  • are more self-confident and have more positive social relationships,
  • are more likely to get involved with community/extra curricular activities and broader their horizons.

Though the need is great, we are lucky to have so many wonderful mentoring organizations as part of our network. So if you missed the Mentoring Monday phonebank this morning, consider becoming a mentor and checking out some of our charities below.

Capital Partners for Education makes a college degree possible for low-income youth in the Washington, DC area. Since 1993, CPE has connected motivated students from low-income families with the opportunities, resources, and guidance they need to graduate from high school and college and pursue professional careers. CPE provides students with a unique combination of one-on-one mentoring, individualized staff support, college and career readiness programming, and scholarships. By complementing the rigorous education with additional wrap-around services, CPE levels the playing field between our students and their upper-income peers, thereby breaking the multigenerational cycle of poverty one family at a time. Over the past 20 years, the organization has supported more than 500 students and has produced a 75% program completion rate, a 99% college enrollment rate and a 70% college completion rate for its graduates — more than three times the rate nationally and five times the rate in DC. Contact: Chris Lockwood, Recruitment and Selection Associate, mentor@cpfe.org 202-682-6020 ext. 221, http://www.cpfe.org

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)For children living in foster care in Prince George’s County, MD and Fairfax County, VA, their Court Appointed Special Advocate may well be the only source of comfort and safety they have while they wait for a permanent and stable home. CASA gives a voice to abused and neglected children in the foster care system by training and supervising volunteer advocates and promoting the timely placement of children in stable homes. Volunteers are assigned to one child and commit to advocating for one year. Volunteers spend 10-15 hours per month meeting with their child and advocating on his or her behalf. In Hyattsville, MD, contact: Ann Marie Binsner 301-209-0491, pgerber@pgcasa.org , or visit: http://www.pgcasa.org/.
In Fairfax, contact Elisa Kosarin, volunteer@casafairfax.org, (703) 273-3526 or visit:http://fairfaxcasa.org/

Higher Achievement – Targeting academically motivated students at a critical juncture – 5th through 8th grade – and working with them in the “gap” hours after school and over the summer, Higher Achievement offers rigorous academic classes and stresses the discipline and dedication children need to succeed. A four-year, sustained academic intervention, it requires a serious commitment from its scholars and offers exciting bonuses in return: advanced intellectual discussions, university trips, and lectures on current topics. 100% of scholars improve by 20% or more on standardized tests, 100% of 2011 graduates advanced to college-preparatory high schools (90% to top choice schools like Gonzaga, Banneker, and Sidwell), and 93% ultimately head to college, compared to 50% citywide. Mentors teach a small group (3-4) of 5th or 6th graders in a core academic subject: Math, Literature, or an Elective Seminar (all curriculum and training provided), one night per week Mon, Tue, or Thurs, mid-September until early May. Serves DC and Alexandria, VA. Contact: Matt Thornton, Dir. Volunteer Management 202-375-7733 http://www.higherachievement.org/

Mentoring Today — Youth at the secure residential treatment facility for young males (New Beginnings) have frequent arrests to their names. When they return home, poverty, violence, and staggering unemployment await them. So Mentoring Today targets 17-19 year-olds before, during, and after re-entry. Through a partnership with Students United, Mentoring Today pairs each youth with a Washington College of Law student who can act both as confidante and zealous advocate. Together, they plan post-release goals, from earning a GED, to beginning vocational training, to finding a job; guided by a staff attorney, mentors also ensure that each young man receives the public education, health, and support services to which he is entitled. Last year, only one-third of mentees re-offended; none committed violent crimes. Imagine the change. Serves DC. Call (202) 678-9001 or find more here: http://mentoringtoday.org/get-involved

Mentoring to Manhood, Inc. – Last year in Prince George’s County, only 55% of black males graduated from high school. A grassroots mentorship nonprofit, M2M offers personal and academic support to African-American middle and high school boys (grades 7-12) in the county whose average GPA is 1.8 and most of whom report low self-confidence. Through weekly group mentoring and tutoring, mentees develop collaboration and life skills, enjoy team sports and community service, and come together for a Leadership Retreat. Offices located in Upper Marlboro, MD Contact: Rob Howze, 240-461-8474; rhowze@m2minc.org http://m2minc.org/

Mentors Inc. – Founded by a DCPS educator and parent of a high school student to combat DC’s low high-school graduation rates, Mentors, Inc. places at-risk students in one-on-one relationships with trained adults to help them develop their potential, encourage them to stay in school, and see that they graduate with a plan for the next step in life. While only 58% of the city’s seniors graduate from high school, 93% of the most recent Mentors, Inc “proteges” did, and 84% are enrolled in college. Mentors are paired with students ages 14-18, grades 9-12. Offices located in Washington, D.C. Contact: Remeka Blakey at rblakey@mentorsinc.org or 202-783-2310, http://www.mentorsinc.org/

Spotlight: Mentors, Inc.

Today we welcome Deirdre Bagley, Executive Director of Mentors, Inc. to Good Works, to congratulate them on their 2013 award from the Washington Post Charities, a fund of the McCormick Foundation! Deirdre has been at Mentors, Inc. for about five years, with a volunteer history in youth leadership and literacy programming, and a professional history with a variety of nonprofit associations from higher education to environmental advocacy. Deirdre is at home with teen mentoring, combining her nonprofit leadership experience and personal mission interest.

1. What motivated you to begin working with Mentors, Inc? What need does it fulfill and how are you (and your organization) working towards meeting it?

I reached a point in my professional career where I felt driven to combine my professional leadership with my personal interest in working with youth, and find an organization that was well respected for their work. That led me to Mentors, Inc., which helps Washington, D.C. high school teens graduate from high school to combat the abysmal drop-out rates locally. We pair teens with a mentor to help expand their universe — internally and externally — to see and pursue what’s possible for their lives.

2. What exciting change or innovation is on your mind?

Partnerships that really work and truly enhance all partners’ capacity! We’ve begun working with the United Way and City Year at the Kelly Miller Middle School on an 8th to 9th grade transition project to improve 8th graders’ success with their new high school experience, to prevent them from joining the ranks of teens who drop out in 9th grade. City Year was already in the school with strong student, administration, and family relationships; the United Way was bringing corporate partners in as volunteer mentors, and we manage mentoring intake, matching, and support. We’re looking forward to following how these young teens do when they make the transition. Because all partners are doing what they do best and not duplicating others’ work, the project has great potential for replication.

3. Who inspires you (in the philanthropy world or otherwise)? Do you have a hero?

I don’t have heroes, but there are people who live their lives in ways I admire. Our teenagers inspire me. They persist and dream on, in spite of living in high poverty areas, attending under-performing schools, and having no family history of college-going. I admire young philanthropists who are donors and want to be connected to the causes they donate to, but don’t care to see their name displayed on a marble wall. I admire people who break out of traditional molds to do something new and positive in big and small ways. I admire children — they read the world and ask questions or provide solutions without the filter of experience, and say insightful things that adults have long lost sight of.

4. What is the single greatest challenge that your organization faces (besides finances) and how are you dealing with this challenge?

Growing our organization. Garnering enough volunteer support to meet the number of teens who want mentors; and non-mentor volunteer leadership to actively move our recruitment, giving, and programming forward.

5. What advice do you have for other people in your position?

Surround yourself with smart, positive, enthusiastic people! They help moving the world a lot less difficult and a lot more fun.

6. What’s next/coming up for you?

Next, is building our internal circle of supporters, including mentors, non-mentor volunteers, board members, and alumni (mentors and students) to help even more teens get match with mentors, graduate, persist in college, and become the people they were born to be.

7. Congratulations on receiving an award from the Washington Post Charities! What does this award mean to you?

Mentors, Inc. is a one-program operation, focused solely on matching teens with mentors to help them graduate and aspire to higher education. At least 90% of our high school seniors graduate (100% for the last two years), and at least 85% go on to college. Compared to 60% and 5-28% locally, this is amazing, particularly since we have no minimum requirement to participate in our program — only student motivation. The Washington Post Charities grant is already helping us serve more students, and advancing our 8th to 9th grade transition project which helps reduce the drop-out rate in D.C. We’re so pleased they chose our mission, and organization, to support!