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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.

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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.

In the (Snow Day) News…

A few highlights from last week’s news, in case your paper is buried in the snow!

Education

According to a Washington Post article, approximately 6,000 state-funded preschool slots in Virginia were not filled this year beucase localities did not invest the required matching funds to take full advantage of the program. Though data show $23 million earmarked for the Virginia Preschool Initiative went unclaimed, at a cost of $6,000 per student, some 60 districts said they were constrained by lack of resources and space and did not fill their programs. In Northern Virginia, Arlington was the only district to fill 100 percent of funded spots. Some advocates note that the state’s pricetag does not reflect the cost of a high-quality pre-K program, which would run closer to $9,300 per student. This discrepancy leaves communities scrambling to make up the difference. Virginia’s cost per pupil is in keeping with regional spending: $8,000 per student in Maryland and nearly $15,000 per student in the District, which covers all 3- and 4-year olds.

Also in the Post: 100 local school boards in Virginia, including the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, and Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, are challenging a measure that allows for state takeover of struggling local schools. Resolutions filed by these board support a lawsuit currently fighting the General Assembly measure, which affects any school that fails the state’s accreditation or is accredited with a warning for three consecutive years.

Minimum Wage Across the Region

On the heels of D.C.’s minimum wage hike to $11.50 by 2016, Maryland Governor O’Malley has proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, up from $7.25 currently. D.C.’s increase was signed by Mayor Gray last week, and by 2017, the District and Maryland’s Montgomery & PG Counties will all have a minimum wage of $11.50.

Housing

The good news is that Maryland’s housing prices are on the rise. Prince George’s County, one of the region’s hardest hit during the foreclosure crisis, saw a 16 percent housing price increase last year – the second highest in the region. The bad news, according to a WAMU article, is that those rising prices are encouraging banks to foreclose more quickly on homeowners who are late on payments, causing a soar in foreclose rates as banks work through a backlog of foreclosures from the recession. PG County received $10 million in a national mortgage settlement, but very little goes to mortgage assistance, helping approximately 200 homeowners. While most struggling homeowners in PG County owe less than $10,000, many lost income in the recession and “even getting current on their mortgage may not make their home affordable.”

Local Giving & Our Region

The 2013 Combined Federal Campaign is over but reports from the Nonprofit Quarterly & the Federal Times indicate a “sharp decline” in this year’s giving. In the National Capital Region, the largest CFC campaign, pledges were approximately $47 million going into the CFC’s last day, down from nearly $62 million last year. The CFC peaked nationally at $283 million in 2009 and raised $258 million last year, but was hampered by government furloughs, the shutdown in October and coincided with a three-year freeze on federal pay scales. Some 2,000 local charities and 2,500 national charities participated in the 2013 CFC.

More than a third of of greater Washington zip codes are “super zips” according to the American Enterprise Institute. WAMU reports that these zips are mostly contiguous and rank in the top 5 percent nationally on scales of average income and number of adults with college degrees. That means households with an average income of $120,000+ and 7 out of 10 adults with a college degree. Check out the Post’s map of our region’s “superzips” here.

Guest Post: Washington Youth Garden

Today we welcome the Washington Youth Garden to GoodWorks! Using the garden cycle as a tool to enrich science learning, inspire environmental stewardship and cultivate healthy food choices http://iga.edu/best-paper-writing-service-essay/ in youth and families, the Washington Youth Garden is in its 40th year to service to local youth and families.

Today’s post is from Mel Jones, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Coordinator at John Burroughs Education Campus. Gardening is hard work. So is being a public school teacher. It’s no surprise then that school gardens are such an uphill battle for DC teachers and administrators. This letter from one of the Washington Youth Garden’s partner schools helps show why partnerships are so valuable.

Growing Green Dreams at Local Schools

by Mel JonesDisplaying Mel Watering.jpg

Since beginning as a science teacher here over ten years ago, I have made repeated attempts to start a garden. I knew my students would have a better understanding of science if there was more hands-on learning. However, despite my efforts, I didn’t have the expertise or the time to develop a real, working garden.

In 2011, our partnership with the Washington Youth Garden made the dream of a school garden come alive as third graders filled new raised beds with soil and transplanted lettuce, which they later harvested for salad pitas. Since then, the garden has become a part of every student’s experience, from compost investigation projects to school-wide sweet potato tastings.

The garden continues to expose students to new fruits and vegetables and provide an outdoor science laboratory. With grant funding, we’ve hired a School Garden Coordinator who regularly teaches our Early Childhood classes and collaborates with teachers to integrate the garden into science and literacy lessons. Plans are in progress to install a kitchen classroom to give our students year-round opportunities to cook healthy foods and learn about science and nutrition. The Washington Youth Garden has made a truly wonderful difference for our students and our school!

How does the Washington Youth Garden support school gardens?
The Washington Youth Garden provides multi-stage school garden partnerships that help schools integrate their school garden into the curriculum, teach garden-instruction best practices, seek independent funding, and plan for long-term sustainability. Currently, we support thriving school garden programs at four low-income partner schools in Ward 5.

How can you support this?
A pledge of $500 supports the cost of closely collaborating with a teacher to deliver four hands-on, curriculum-aligned garden lessons.

Learn more about the Washington Youth Garden on their website, blog, Facebook page and current Indiegogo Online Fundraiser.

Guest Post: One World Education

Today we welcome Eric Goldstein, Founder & Executive Director of One World Education (OWEd) to GoodWorks. OWEd provides middle and high school common core literacy programs and publishes student essays about cultural and global issues, promoting peer-to-peer learning and building skills for college and career writing. Founded in 2007, the teacher-created nonprofit has been recognized throughout the Capital Region as an outstanding literacy program that improves and celebrates student writing. Nationally, OWEd has been featured on Edutopia, ASCD’s Education Blog, Huffington Post, Comcast Newsmakers, and CBS News. In 2013, OWEd was selected as the first writing program to be adopted for all DC Public High Schools.Prior to One World Education, Eric was a middle and high school teacher in a DC Charter School. We’re delighted to welcome Eric & the OWEd team as a new 2013/14 Catalogue partner!

Step Back & Move Forward

by Eric Goldstein, Founder & Executive Director, One World Education

Sometimes the most effective step an organization can take toward improving its programming is to improve the organization behind its programming. Seven years ago in an 8th grade Charter School classroom, where One World Education (OWEd) was created with my 8th grade students, thinking about anything other than involving more students in our successful writing project wasn’t even a speck on the radar.

The success of that classroom project propelled OWEd’s expansion into a citywide organization. Now the organization provides in DC middle and high schools. As students strengthen the skills needed for college and career-level writing, they learn to write and frame arguments about cultural and global issues that they care about. The organization then on its website with aligned curriculum, so students can read and learn about these topics from the perspective of their peers.

Just as our programs ensure that teachers have strong plans for their students, OWEd followed suit and used the last school year to preparing its own strategic goals. The results have spearheaded program improvements, expansion, and more efficient partner collaboration. As a new member organization in the Catalogue of Philanthropy Community, I’ll use this blog post to share some of One World Education’s goals for long-term success and sustainability.

First, schools had asked OWEd about offering more in-school, professional development (PD). We realized that a higher quality of writing was coming from students whose teachers had participated in our trainings. In response, OWEd developed a Teacher Trainer Academy where our educator team trains a teacher from each partner school. These teachers then lead OWEd’s PD in their own schools – creating leadership opportunities, fostering collaboration, and ensuring program expertise exists in each partner school.

Second, OWEd needed to change its partnership model to be more effective. This year the organization transitioned from working with individual schools to working with school districts and Charter school networks. For the 2013-2014 school year, OWEd partnered with DC Public Schools (DCPS) to implement a citywide, high school writing program. Every 9th and 10th grade DCPS student and teacher has the opportunity to participate in the One World Writing Program this year.

OWEd’s third goal was to deepen its commitment to evaluation. With the DCPS partnership in place, OWEd needed a strong evaluation partner to assess our work with 3,500 DCPS high school students and their teachers. This summer, OWEd contracted the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University to lead this citywide evaluation.

The importance of having a strong, long-term plan is often overlooked in the face of short-term gains. As OWEd programs have demonstrated the ability to create successful teaching and learning experiences in classrooms, the organization was also successful in accomplishing its own goals over the past year. I want to thank those of you who have been a part of this accomplishment.

Thank you for your commitment to education and philanthropy.

To learn more about One World Education, please visit, www.oneworldeducation.org and keep up with Eric’s monthly blog here.

Guest Post: Girls on the Run

Today’s post comes from Girls on the Run – DC whose program teaches over 2,000 girls in DC’s eight wards about self-esteem and healthy living through running.

by Kelsey Lyle, Program Coordinator GOTR-DC

“My daughter, who usually complains about walking even a few blocks, came home last week after running almost 2 miles and was so energized and proud of herself that she asked to run around our block a few times. Running a 5K seemed impossible to her when she started, but now she’s figured out that she can run further and longer than she ever knew. I’m looking forward to an improved outlook on fitness, which I hope will serve her throughout her life.” – Dawn, GOTR-DC Parent of 3rd Grader

This is one of many stories that parents of Girls on the Run DC participants can tell. Girls on the Run DC is an afterschool program that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. The program takes place over the course of 10 weeks and concludes with a 5k event to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of the girls in the program.

Our volunteer coaches are the key ingredient to our success as an organization. Volunteer coaches empower girls to appreciate who they are and encourage them to take on a healthy lifestyle. They are what make the program happen- a role that is a blend of teacher, mentor, and friend. Each practice session offers a lesson on topics that include peer pressure, self-esteem, cooperation, and more. In addition to running during practice, the girls are asked to give a thoughtful reflection to the topic of the day. At the end of the program, each team creates and completes a community service project.

This Fall season Girls on the Run DC is in more than 50 schools and has over 70 Girls on the Run teams. Each year we serve over 2,000 girls in the DC metropolitan area. Approximately 60% of our sites receive scholarships, and we, as an organization, fundraise on their behalf.

We rely on volunteers to assist with many different aspects of our organization. We need over 200 volunteers to make our November 24th race day possible. If you would like to help out with Girls on the Run 5K as a race day volunteer please sign up on our website: http://www.gotrdc.org/get-involved/volunteer.

Find out more about Girls on the Run DC at our website, or Like us on Facebook!

photo: Emily Weiss (emilyweissphotography.com)

Around Town 10/25-10/31

We are in the final stretch of October (can you believe it?)! See what these great nonprofits are doing to help October go out with a bang! Continue reading

Guest Post: Playworks

October is Bullying Prevention Month. Today we’re excited to welcome Susan Comfort, Executive Director of Playworks, DC to share how their program’s strategies help create a safe, healthy environment for kids to play and be active every day!

by Susan Comfort

October is the time of year that Playworks DC Coaches at our 15 schools choose the 4th and 5th graders who are going to serve as “Junior Coaches” for the rest of the year. And we don’t always choose the star students. We purposely choose the shy kids, too, and even the bullies, who use their leadership talents in the wrong direction. Continue reading

Around Town: 10/11-10/17

No matter what type of event you are looking to head to this weekend, the events featured below will all help you make a difference in your community. See what you can do to give back to great nonprofits in your own backyard. Continue reading