Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Making the Most of My Summer with AALEAD!

This blog post was written by a District of Columbia youth, Ellen, who has been an active participant with Asian American LEAD for over ten years.  Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) is a regional non-profit organization that supports low-income and under-served Asian Pacific American youth with educational empowerment, identity development and leadership opportunities through after school, summer, and mentoring programs.  Ellen is a rising 10th grade student at School Without Walls High School in Washington, D.C.  

While many other youth around the nation are spending their summer break enjoying activities such as swimming, vacationing, attending camps, visiting relatives, or playing sports with their friends, I have chosen to spend my summer working for an organization that is very important to me, called Asian American LEAD.  Many times people ask me, “What does AALEAD mean to you?” I often reply that AALEAD is like my second family. From the time that I started participating in AALEAD in kindergarten until high school, I have had many experiences with AALEAD that have helped shape me into who I am today. There have been a lot of inspirational figures in AALEAD who have left a mark in my life.  They have also inspired me to do the same for my fellow AALEADers.
C:\Users\郭津津(Ellen Guo)\Pictures\AALEAD\Photo0501.jpgThis brings me to the topic of this summer and why I decided to work with AALEAD. The primary reason is that I want to help younger youth in the program and provide them with opportunities similar to what I had when I was their age. Going through my childhood memories, one of the most delightful and inspirational memories I had was spending time with the high school students in AALEAD.  While I was in elementary school, I took advantage of the many workshops and activities the high school students led for me, which I always found to be very fun and engaging.  

I personally think this summer program has been a great advantage for the younger youth in AALEAD because although I had experience with high school youth and their workshops, they didn’t cover the topic of transition from elementary school to middle school. As the oldest sibling in my family of three children, I wish I had people who went through the experience before me who could tell me what to expect. Since I wasn’t able to get this knowledge when I was transitioning from elementary school, I wanted to give back to those after me so that they could have this type of benefit.

C:\Users\郭津津(Ellen Guo)\Pictures\AALEAD\11741805_481951398652961_1775622246_n.jpgNot only was this summer program a great benefit for the elementary school youth, I also gained something from the experiences that I had leading workshops. I gained memories with the youth that will last a lifetime, and I have also improved upon my leadership skills. Before this summer, I was the quiet and reserved person who was always sitting in the darkest corner of the room and never eager to get out of my own comfort zone. However after this summer, I was able to find leadership skills in me that I never thought I had. Now, I am more open and comfortable talking to people I just met.

In addition to helping younger youth this summer, the AALEAD program introduced me to resumes, cover letters, and elevator speeches. My high school peers and I also did career exploration which led us to explore different careers in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  We focused on arts & technology, service & technology, and entrepreneurship & technology during our program.  This allowed me to visit many different places like Union Kitchen, Torpedo Factory, and Verizon to learn about career experiences and what a work place is like. I have learned many things this summer from how to develop an effective presentation and how to how to write a resume. 

If AALEAD didn’t have a summer program like this I wouldn’t have done anything with my summer. Memories would not be created for me, and I would not have gained anything from sitting at home and spending time on my electronic devices.  I am grateful for the experience of having been a part of the AALEAD summer program as not only a participant and an employee, but also as a leader.

DCAYA would like to thank Ellen for sharing her experience with AALEAD. If you'd like to learn more about the services and supports provided by AALEAD be sure to visit their homepage today!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Shana's Pathway to Excellence

This week we wanted to bring you an update on our advocacy to create a State Diploma for GED and NEDP recipients. You might remember our effort late last year to support an OSSE proposal that would establish a state-issued diploma for those students who had pursued these alternative pathways to a high school credential. While OSSE’s initial proposal was shelved by the State Board of Education (SBOE) until they could dig deeper into the new policy’s implications, discussions resumed last week at a SBOE public meeting

Eight adult learners from Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School testified on the rigor of the new GED, the persistence and dedication they must demonstrate to pass the test, and the injustice in the fact that GED certificates hold less value than a high school diploma in the eyes of many employers and postsecondary institutions.

While we could use our blog this week to harken back to the hard facts that support the creation of a State Diploma in the District, we know the story of Shana Moses, a disconnected youth who struggled for nearly a decade to attain a high school credential, speaks to the heart of the issue much better than we could:

Shana Moses, far right, testifies before the State Board of Education.

My name is Shana Moses, and I’m a 30 year old Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School student and a Ward 8 resident.  I’m ecstatic to express my feeling towards DC offering a State Diploma.

I have personal experience of attending a GED program and being able to overcome certain barriers in my life such as becoming a parent at the age of 16, having to receive public assistance, and working ends-meets jobs that would hire me without having a high school diploma.  I tried to go back to school and finish, but got discouraged when Anacostia High School tried to make me do a grade all over again that I had already completed.  It made me lose hope.  I felt like I was never going to become anything other than another statistic, another young black girl with no education, just having kids.  That’s how the world looks at situations like mine.

Even though I had no high school diploma, I was able to receive many certifications and learned that I have many talents.  This pushed me not to give up, and I hoped my story could help someone else. 

One of my biggest discouragements was when I was told that the GED test would be changing. All of the old test scores would be of no use because the test would be upgraded as well as computerized.  I had passed all the subjects but math, and procrastinated to finish this last section of the test.  I was extremely disappointed in myself.  I couldn’t be mad at anybody but Shana.

Academy of Hope has given me so much positive energy, great support, and mentorship.  As my fellow classmates and I aim for our GED certificate or NEDP diploma, we work just as hard, if not harder than the average high school student.  It’s harder for GED and NEDP students because most of us haven’t been to school in decades and have to be taught from beginning to end in order to pass.  I am learning subjects that I haven’t seen for several years, so you could say for most of my class it’s like a baby just learning to crawl. 

Moreover, earning a passing grade on the new GED is equivalent to earning a high school diploma.  GED 2014 has been revised to be more difficult and in line with requirements of colleges and employers, and it has become an online test that is based on the common core state standards. GED students work extremely hard for this credential and are acquiring skills that meet or exceed 60% of graduating high school students.  We work hard on a day to day basis preparing ourselves to pass the exam.  

Offering the State Diploma would motivate the students even more by allowing them to have more confidence in passing the exam and to reach a goal that many have tried to achieve many times before.  The State Diploma is one of the best ideas that could be thought of for adult learners. It opens more doors to achieving the excellence we’ve earned.

To learn more about how you can support Shana and other #DiplomaBound youth through the creation of a State Diploma, please contact DCAYA Policy Analyst, Amy Dudas (

For more on youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook,SUBSCRIBE to this blog and VISIT us at

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Summer Learning Loss: How Communities Are Reversing the Trend

In her June 19 Summer Learning Day message, First Lady Michelle Obama thanked communities for their summertime investments in youth: “Summer shouldn’t just be a vacation. Instead, it should be a time to get ahead, to branch out and learn new skills, to have new experiences…and for anyone who’s fallen behind, it’s a time to catch up on lessons they missed.”

Research shows that summers without quality learning opportunities put our nation’s youth at risk for falling behind – year after year – in core subjects like math and reading. These losses over the summer are cumulative and contribute significantly to the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income kids.

At the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), we continue to develop and provide resources around strengthening and expanding summer learning programs in communities. With the support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, our new report, Accelerating Achievement Through Summer Learning is an essential resource for program providers, education leaders, policymakers, and funders who are making important decisions around summer learning programs as a way to accelerate student achievement.

The report profiles thirteen diverse, replicable summer learning program models and demonstrates how these programs address a variety of K-12 education priorities to deliver strong outcomes for children, youth, and educators. As described in the report, we know a lot about the power of summer learning for students and teachers.

  • Summer learning programs can erase early reading deficits. More than 80 percent of low-income youth in this country are not proficient in reading by the end of third grade, making them more than four times as likely to drop out of high school as their peers to who reach this critical benchmark. K-3 summer learning programs have been shown not only to mitigate summer learning losses in reading in the early grades, but to accelerate skill development to get young people up to grade level by third grade.
  • High-quality summer learning programs level the college and career playing field. Alarming data on the skilled workforce pipeline and need for remedial coursework in two- and four-year colleges have created a national sense of urgency around work-embedded learning, apprenticeships and college preparation programs, particularly for first-generation attenders. Summer youth employment programs are proving critical to keeping students productively engaged and learning, making meaningful contributions to their community, learning valuable job skills, and exploring potential careers.
  • Pre-service and in-service teachers want to make the most of their summers. Quality teaching is consistently linked to successfully closing achievement gaps, but most teachers today have between one and two years of experience. Summer learning programs are an increasingly likely place to find the kinds of pipelines into and through the teaching profession that are working. Offering training, mentorship, leadership, and ownership of their work, community-based programs give new teachers additional time to hone their skills, refine lesson plans, and build deeper relationships with students.

Many kinds of high-quality learning opportunities during the summer can make a difference in stemming learning loss. These opportunities can be voluntary or mandatory, at school, community organizations, or even at home. And we know that “quality” is well-defined and rooted in research. A major study from the RAND Corporation shows that individualized academic instruction, parental involvement, and smaller class sizes are a few components of high-quality programs that produce positive results for young people. The “Best Practices in Summer Learning for Middle and High School Youth” resource from NSLA and the New York Life Foundation is an online guide in text and video offering effective ways of engaging older youth in summer learning.

Across the country, NSLA is seeing many states and cities embrace summer learning as a key strategy in helping their students make measurable academic progress.  We hope that if you haven’t already, you will take the pledge to keep kids learning and place your program on our interactive map. Together, we can ensure that students have the opportunity to engage in meaningful learning all year long.

Rachel Gwaltney is the Director of Policy and Partnerships for the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA). She leads development and implementation of services, projects, and partnerships that strengthen summer learning policy and build capacity of state and national leaders and organizations. Learn more about DCAYA's fantastic partner, the National Summer Learning Association, at And consider attending their Summer Changes Everything annual conference, October 12-14 in Baltimore, MD.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

SYEP: The Promise of Program Year 2015

With the 2015 Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) starting on Monday, and with 15,000 District youth set to participate, we’d like to take the opportunity to talk about the program’s big changes this year: an expansion of youth served (now through age 24) and some exciting new strategies to provide extra supports for youth. Last Wednesday, the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs hosted a Public Roundtable on the MBSYEP to call attention to the planning of the 2015 program, especially for the additional 1,000 youth aged 22 to 24 taking part in the program.

Photo credit: Office of Youth Programs' Instagram
Despite the overwhelmingly positive and constructive tenor of the Roundtable, the MBSYEP still struggles to fully shake its association with a troubled past (you might remember a particularly chaotic year marked by cost overruns and warehoused youth). But as the country’s second-largest summer youth employment program (second only to New York’s 36,000 youth served annually), huge strides have been made in righting the course of the program. When fully utilized by employers and youth, the online MBSYEP portal and matching system can be powerful tools for conveying expectations upfront and ensuring a six-week placement that both parties are happy about. The Office of Youth Programs spearheaded the effort to provide free bus and rail travel to youth who frequently cite transportation costs as a barrier to their success. And a new pilot program between DOES, RSA, and DCAYA member SchoolTalk will ensure that SYEP participants with disabilities will be connected with the supports necessary to have a meaningful and productive summer job placement.

Maybe most notably though, DOES spoke of their plans to provide the 1,000 youth 22-24 that are joining the MBSYEP this year with targeted work placements based on an individual assessment that will be given at the start of this year’s program. The assessments will ask youth about their educational attainment, career goals and interests, work readiness skills and any barriers they face to attaining full time employment. Data gleaned from such assessments will allow DOES to connect these older youth to supports beyond their work placements such as childcare, transportation subsidies, and help navigating TANF. Even more exciting (and impressive) DOES has cultivated the support of 120 SYEP host employers that have signaled a willingness to hire participants at the conclusion of the 6-week program.

This connection to long term employment is critical. The unemployment rate for DC residents ages 20-24 stands at 12.3%-- more than double the national rate of unemployment. The figure jumps to 23.2% when calculated for Black or African American residents in the same age range. With such staggering unemployment, particularly among our most traditionally under-resourced youth, it is a critical time to ensure that our city offers an abundance of entry-points into sustainable career pathways. Going beyond its long-standing functions of providing a productive summer activity, and offering supplemental income to youth and their families, the strategies being put in place this year build on best practices that are employed across the country.

With the DC Council’s addition of a requirement to conduct an SYEP evaluation this budget season, our program stands to join the ranks of Boston and New York as a beacon of data-driven decision-making and innovative strategies to meet the needs of the hardest to serve. For example, Boston has been able to demonstrate through the evaluation of their summer employment program that their combination of a paid work experience with quality supervision, a well-designed learning plan, and connections to supportive services can reduce economically disadvantaged youths’ involvement in risky, violent, and delinquent behaviors. Meanwhile, New York City’s SYEP has proven successful at increasing school attendance, graduation rates, and persistence within education and the workforce through a program design that marries job placement with instruction dedicated to education and training through workshops on topics related to time management, financial literacy, workplace readiness and etiquette, career planning and finding employment. While adjusting data collection efforts and systems to be more robust can be a heavy lift for all involved, the narratives they provide about cities like Boston and New York serving their youth efficiently and appropriately are invaluable.

With all of the planning and preparation on the part of host employers and the Office of Youth Programs at DOES coming to a close for this summer’s program, we’re looking forward to a solid 2015 MBSYEP. The program offers one of the greatest opportunities within the District for young people to step into the world of work. Its quality, capacity and, ultimately, its success matter. So as the program kicks off, and the weeks roll by, be sure to share your MBSYEP stories with DCAYA. We want to hear from you what’s working and where to focus for next year!

For more information on DCAYA's Youth Employment work,contact Amy Dudas, DCAYA Policy Analyst.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

An Update: The Final Budget Breakdown

The final Council budget vote was June 10th. As we suspected, a number of major wins were achieved this year. Here is the final break down, and some major thanks to everyone that made it happen! 


DC Trust: The Committee on Health and Human Services, which oversees the Trust, committed an additional $2 million to the Trust’s baseline budget. With this additional funding, the DC Trust will be able to fulfill the majority of their grant commitments to afterschool programs. Much of the funding, $1.6 million, was moved over from the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, thanks to Councilmember Mary Cheh. Councilmember Yvette Alexander filled the resulting gap with just over $400,000 through reallocating funding from within two different health agency budgets. Although advocates originally pushed for an additional $2.5 million, the resulting $2 million is a huge win for afterschool programs and speaks to the power of our members and the community speaking up to testify on behalf of their life-changing programs.

DCPS: The Committee on Education did not find the $6.5 million to stop the cuts to DCPS afterschool, which will result in a cut to 25 cluster coordinators within the DCPS Out-of-School Time Office. The committee budget report rationalizes the cut with the following explanation, “DCPS has assured the Committee and school communities that there will be no reduction in service levels to families in FY16.” However, the committee report went on to say “The Committee also encourages DCPS to monitor this situation throughout the summer and utilize reserve funds, if necessary, to fill any gaps to service to families that may arise as a result of funding challenges for CBOs.” In other words, since DCPS insisted there was no need for the money that was cut, the chair of the committee, Councilmember David Grosso, was not in a position to fill that cut. We will continue to work closely with Councilmember Grosso to monitor the situation and offer on-the-ground feedback from CBOs and schools.

Many thanks to the members of the Committee on Human Services, the Committee on Education and the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, for working so collaboratively to make these critical investments. 

Youth Homelessness

Single Youth: Funding for homeless youth services remains stable at $1.3 million by the Committee on Health and Human Services in an effort to properly scale initiatives through data-informed measures. Advocates supported this funding mark and are continuing to collect data on homeless youth with the newly established Coordinated Intake System. Through the collected data, advocates and DC agencies will have a greater understanding on the investments needed to stabilize homeless youth and guide them onto a path of self sufficiency.

Youth-Headed Families: The mayor’s allocation of $40 million to replace DC General through FY17 was confirmed by the Committee on Health and Human Services.

Parenting Minors: The Committee on Transportation and the Environment, under the leadership of Councilmember Cheh, moved $500,000 to the Committee on Health and Human Services to enhance services to minor headed households. As a recent Washington Post article illustrated, homeless minors with children have few housing or service options. The pilot will begin to fill the service gap for homeless, parenting minors who do not experience levels of abuse and neglect that warrants CFSA involvement and cannot access adult shelters because they are under 18.

DCAYA would like to first and foremost thank Mayor Bowser and her entire Administration for their diligence in addressing homelessness in this budget.  We’d also like to thank the Committee on Health and Human Services and the Committee on Transportation for their hard work to find supplemental funds to address the needs of homeless parenting minors.  

Youth Workforce Development

SYEP Evaluation: During a Committee of the Whole legislative session, the Council approved an amendment introduced by Councilmember Elissa Silverman to require DOES to produce and publish basic information on SYEP participants, including long-term employment outcomes and participation levels at various points in the program. The amendment also lays the groundwork for the development of a rigorous SYEP evaluation to determine a baseline of program quality and identify opportunities for effective interventions within program design and delivery. Along with an amendment introduced by Councilmember Jack Evans to cap SYEP enrollment for youth 22-24 at 1,000 slots, an SYEP evaluation will go a long way to ensure that Mayor Bowser’s additional investment in SYEP of $5.2 million will be used effectively to engage youth 14-24 in a quality career exposure and work readiness training experience.

UDC Funding Restored: In a letter to Council outlining revisions to her proposed FY16 budget (called the Errata Letter), Mayor Bowser included the restoration of $3.5 million to the University of the District of Columbia. The mayor also committed to working with the UDC flagship and the community college to ensure that this investment will benefit programs that place DC residents on career pathways.

The focus of the entire Council, but in particular members of the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for all they have done to ensure the Summer Youth Employment Program is of the highest quality in years to come. Equal thanks to Mayor Bowser and her entire administration for the thoughtful investment recommendations outlined in the Errata Letter. These investments will go far in preparing our youth for success in the workforce. 

Disconnected Youth

Expansion of Kids Ride Free: At the Committee for Finance and Revenue budget oversight hearing for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Committee Chairman Jack Evans expressed concerns about Mayor Bowser’s expansion of Kids Ride Free to rail. The Committee’s budget report stated that the Committee is “analyzing the funding sources for the School Transit Subsidy program to better understand the administration and distribution of the proposed $7 million for Kids Ride Free”.  After much deliberation: Funding for Kids Ride Free is indeed secure, and the Councilmember will work to ensure the sustainability of the program.

SLED Remains Stable: While the Committee on Education expressed their commitment to the maintenance and continuation of the Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System (SLED), the needed $1.36 million was not secured to fill the gap left by an expiring federal grant. However, the Committee and DCAYA received assurances from OSSE that a reduction in personnel-related funds will be absorbed internally through efficiency and prioritization and SLED will not suffer as a result. DCAYA will continue to monitor SLED’s operation, but we are confident in OSSE's commitment to maintain the system.

The commitment of the Committee for Finance and Revenue and WMATA to ease student access to school was fantastic.  Equally important, we thank the Bowser Administration, OSSE and the Committee on Education for their work to ensure that SLED remains a strong and valuable resource. 

Finally, we’d like to thank the children, youth, and member organizations who put tons of time and energy into the advocacy work for this budget. Your input into our advocacy agenda is, as always, priceless. Your willingness to mobilize and devote hours to testifying, attending meetings, writing letters and making calls is what gives the DCAYA community its strength and its power.  Thank you. 

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Doing Great Together: DCAYA's Do More 24 Digest

"Do More 24™ is a local movement that brings together nonprofit organizations, companies, and people committed to making a difference. Through focused online giving on June 4, 2015, Do More 24 provides the opportunity for people to create solutions to our region’s most difficult social challenges by determining which issues matter most to them and channeling their funding towards tackling those problems."

Do More 24 is one day away and this year, DCAYA decided to take a step back and feature some of our members! Below you will find some amazing youth-serving organizations in DC. Browse through the stories and be sure to give to a few of your favorite organizations on Thursday June 4th for Do More 24! 

To find out how you can Do Even More 24, check out the full list of participating organizations (including DCAYA and more of our members) here!

Disclosure: The following organizations are DCAYA members who submitted content for this blog. 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington
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Mission Statement: The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington is to help boys and girls of all backgrounds, especially those who need us most, build confidence, develop character and acquire the needed skills to be productive, civic-minded, and responsible adults.

Issue Area: Expanded Learning

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington's Impact: 
Poetry was my outlet for everything I had inside that was negative. The first time I performed my poetry was at an event for Nick Cave through FBR Branch Boys & Girls Club. From that day on, I continued to write and perform my poetry. For 12 year old Ayanna, walking into FBR Branch, from that day on her life would be changed. Today, 17 year old Ayanna aka Sunshine is appreciative for all that they have done for her. My first program, SMART Girls, asked us for a rose as a positive event from the day, and a thorn as a negative event. Well, if you were to ask me, my past was a thorn but the Club was the bud to my rose. For a long time I was angry, but I couldn’t identify why. Maybe it was from childhood trauma, maybe it was from being teased in school. With help from Ms. Green’s many Club programs for empowering women, I realized how important I am and to cherish my life. You all don’t know how many times I’ve come to the Club ready to burst into tears and do so because to me the Club is home.

Chess Challenge
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Mission Statement: Chess Challenge 
in DC seeks to promote the academic, social, and leadership development of underserved youth in the District of Columbia. Using the game of chess, children learn to think strategically; develop self-discipline and positive social skills; and increase their self worth.

Issue Area: Expanded Learning

CCinDC's Impact:

Erikah M. joined CCinDC in 2009 while a fifth grader at Leckie Elementary School. She showed immediate promise as she quickly and enthusiastically grasped the basic concepts of chess and began applying the same strategic thinking to her own life. Erikah chose to remain with CCinDC after her transition to Hart Middle School where she became one of the chess team captains, assisting with student recruitment and instruction.
She continued to excel in her academics, as well as her chess skills, during her years at Hart and is now a sophomore at Banneker Academic High School, a top DC public school. Throughout Erikah’s participation in our program she was vocal about how chess positively impacted her life. We were so impressed by her accomplishments and determination to succeed that she was named the first recipient of the Chess Challenge in DC Richard England Promise Award. This year Erikah chose to fulfill community service hours by returning to our program at Hart as a volunteer. It is clear that Erikah is motivated to succeed and we know that her commitment to mastering the game of chess has helped her in this quest.

College Bound
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Mission Statement: The mission of College Bound is to prepare public and public charter school students in the metropolitan D.C. area to enter college, earn a degree, and achieve their personal and professional goals.

Issue Area: Expanded Learning

College Bound's Impact:
To be a student of College Bound meant I had to become a student first. I seldom took academics seriously and here that wasn’t an option. The culture of the students that surrounded me shocked me initially. I knew I had to make something of myself with only a little time to do so. My first step into success was actually buckling down academically; I lacked good academic news to share at site, so there stood my motivation. I had to develop a new mindset and with the help of my mentor I did just that. I’m pretty positive I would have barely made it to college without the assistance of College Bound, but I know that I would not have been prepared! I would have ended up like many students who drop-out. Instead I’m on track to attend college this fall with no reservations about what’s ahead.

 Covenant House Washington
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Mission Statement: Covenant House Washington has served over 35,000 homeless and disconnected youth within the national capital region since 1995 through a variety of different services which include a 36 bed immediate housing center, transitional housing programs, street outreach, workforce development training and job placement, education classes, prevention services program for middle and high school students, and a nationally accredited Child Development Center. Our mission is to serve homeless and disconnected young people with absolute respect and unconditional love.

Issue Areas: Youth Homelessness, Youth Workforce Development, Disconnected Youth, and Expanded Learning

Covenant House Washington's Impact:
I came to Covenant House Washington after being evicted from my home. My job at the time did not have maternity leave and once I entered my ninth month of pregnancy, they let me go. With the loss of my job I was unable to pay my rent, and eventually found myself on the street and pregnant. Looking back, that was one of the hardest times of my life. I was alone, with little money, and no place to stay for me and my son.

When I found Covenant House, I found my strength again. I felt like they were offering me a second chance at life, and this time the stakes were much higher because I had a son to take care of. I’ve learned that being on the streets can either break you or make you humble yourself toward life. I chose to humble myself and ask for help. While living at Covenant House I was able to get back on my feet and find stable employment. My goal was to not just find a job, but a career which would offer me health benefits for my son and a consistent, secure lifestyle. Nearly 9 years after first walking through the doors of Covenant House, I now have a great career as a banker and am able to care for my son without any doubts or fears for the future.

I owe a lot to Covenant House for helping me get back on my feet. They offer so many troubled young people a chance to get their lives back on track. They taught me discipline and helped me find clarity about your goals. My life is definitely better off because of it.

DC School Reform Now
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Mission Statement: DCSRN helps families, particularly in underserved communities, navigate the DC school choice application process.

Issue Area: Disconnected Youth

DCSRN's Impact:
Charles Hudson, Sr. is a military veteran and single father who lives in Ward 8 with his son CJ, a rising sixth grader who wants to be a pediatrician when he grows up. He knows how important the middle school years are for any child and wanted to find a school with a rigorous, structured academic environment that would nurture CJ’s interest in science. Before Charles received DCSRN’s free services, he knew little about the DC school choice application process. After working with one of DCSRN’s parent advocates and applying to 13 quality schools, Charles was ecstatic to learn that CJ was matched to The SEED School of Washington, DC, a quality public charter boarding school located close to where Charles and CJ currently live.

After informing his parent advocate that he lacked transportation to SEED to submit CJ’s enrollment paperwork—which parents must submit in-person during school hours—DCSRN provided him a free shuttle ride to-and-from the school. Charles was immediately impressed with the academics of the school and quickly became comfortable with the boarding aspect upon learning that the Head of School and many faculty and staff live on campus with the students. A boarding program would also enable Charles to work longer days which would allow him to afford to move sooner. This is important to him as he has safety concerns about the neighborhood in which he and CJ currently live.

Like any parent, Charles simply wants the best for his child. He is relieved to know that his son is now positioned to receive a quality education in a safe environment.­­

Fihankra Akoma Ntoaso (FAN)
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Mission Statement: Fihankra Akoma Ntoaso (FAN)'s mission is to cultivate a focus on youth well-being and positive development in an environment infused with safety, security, and love. We provide youth in foster care opportunities to gain a sense of personal and group recognition.

Issue Areas:Youth Workforce Development, Disconnected Youth and Expanded Learning

FAN's Impact:
Twelve year old Dante has been a part of the FAN program since the summer of 2013. At the time, Dante lived in a foster home with his brother Virgil. Whereas the older Virgil was soft-spoken and even-keeled, Dante was animated and boisterous. Dante loved being a kid. He would ask for help opening a juice box, or talk wondrously about cartoon he had just seen. Dante's home-life changed rapidly when he was put back into custody of his biological mother. He was forced to grow up quickly. He now rode the metro alone to school.

Whereas most other times in his life Dante had to act like an adult, his time at FAN was spent being a kid. He giggled at knock-knock jokes, and still found a sense of wonder in coloring books. He felt like he belonged with the other kids—running and playing and learning. Inside the group he felt a part of something, gaining important lessons in belonging and structure. As a result of returning to regular participation in FAN’s after school program, Dante’s mother reports that his school performance and behavior improved to the point that he was named student of the week at school.

For Love of Children (FLOC)
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Mission Statement: For Love of Children (FLOC) provides educational services beyond the classroom to help students succeed from first grade through college and career. FLOC brings together students, volunteers, families, and community partners in proven programs that teach, empower, and transform.

Issue Areas: Disconnected Youth and Expanded Learning

FLOC's Impact:
A’Tyra first came to the FLOC Scholars program two years ago when she was a freshman in high school. She was a shy young lady and it took her some time to warm up to staff and other students. A’Tyra was not planning on going to college; she wanted to go into the military. Eventually, staff started to realize that A’tyra’s shyness might be stemming from the fact that she was several years behind in reading and math. She struggled in school her first year of high school and ended up repeating the 9th grade.

Unfortunately, last year was no better. A’Tyra was looking at repeating the 9th grade again and started talking to staff about dropping out of school if she had to be in the 9th grade for the third time. FLOC staff supported her mom in finding another high school for her to transfer to and encouraged her to enroll in NTP.

This year A’Tyra is at a new school, at FLOC three nights a week (NTP and Scholars) and has made the honor roll. She is in the 9th grade for the 3rd time but with additional support she is finding confidence in herself. When asked this year what she plans to do after high school she said, “I want to go to college now, I am thinking about becoming a lawyer!” Even though she is tired from all of the work she is putting into school, she is not giving up. A’Tyra is persevering and moving towards her goals.

Homeless Children’s Playtime Project
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Mission Statement: Homeless Children's Playtime Project's mission is to send children experiencing homelessness to camp experiences they'll remember for a lifetime and to nurture healthy child development and reduce the effects of trauma among children living in temporary housing programs through our 18 weekly programs in Washington D.C.

Issue Areas: Youth Homelessness and Expanded Learning.

Homeless Children Playtime Project's Impact:
My name is Jaclyn Borowski and I have been a Site Captain with Playtime at the Turning Point Center for Women & Children for 1.5 years. I joined Playtime because I was new to the area, had always enjoyed working with children and was looking for an opportunity to give back. A few months after joining Playtime, a 4-year-old boy named "Marquan" joined our program. Initially when we tried to get him to participate in activities with the other children, he'd lash out and throw things and scream and run back and forth, working himself into a frenzy. After our Site Manager did a developmental screening that led to an evaluation, we learned that he was on the autism spectrum. It was amazing how much changed once we understood Marquan's needs and how much more we could appreciate his progress!

Marquan started receiving help through school and the results have been tremendous. He now interacts with the other kids in the sweetest ways, telling one girl that her hair looks nice, asking another boy if he'd like to play. Marquan has learned my name and is now able to look at me and engage with me in ways that I never would've imagined before. The progress we've seen in the last year has been a true testament to the benefits of early childhood intervention.

Hope and a Home
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Mission Statement: Hope and a Home empowers low-income families with children in D.C. to create stable homes of their own and to make lasting changes in their lives. We seek to break the cycle of poverty for qualified families through the programs and services we offer.

Issue Area: Youth Homelessness

Hope and a Home's Impact:
LaTrice was a 2nd semester high school senior when she and her family entered Hope and a Home. She failed to meet the requirements for graduation so Hope and a Home assigned her a tutor to help her over the summer. She went on to receive a high school diploma and was accepted to Livingstone College on a full scholarship arranged by Hope and a Home and the Mike Young Education Fund. We are happy to report she’s just completed her sophomore year and has been on the Dean’s List each semester. She also was an RA this year and will continue in that role during her junior year.

Kid Power
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Mission Statement: Kid Power inspires youth leadership by promoting academic advancement, physical and emotional wellness, and positive civic engagement in underserved communities throughout the District of Columbia.

Issue Area: Expanded Learning

Kid Power's Impact:
Felicity joined Kid Power in 2004 as a 4th grader at Miner Elementary, a school in a high crime neighborhood with struggling test scores and student achievement rates. Felicity often found herself in trouble for speaking out of turn and getting into verbal altercations with her peers. With the Kid Power’s commitment to one-one-one mentoring and belief in meeting students where they are academically and emotionally, Kid Power staff worked closely with Felicity to help channel her passion, energy, and strong will. Through Kid Power’s innovative after-school and summer programs, Felicity developed a strong love for acting and an awareness of her personal social responsibility of being a good citizen and neighbor.

Over the years, she became a fearless leader, pioneering the youth-led social entrepreneurial project CookieTime, and a talented actress, earning leading roles in a variety of productions. Felicity attended Duke Ellington School for the Arts and just finished her sophomore year at Emerson College for performing arts in Boston! She has continued to volunteer with Kid Power and is an integral part of the Kid Power family. Felicity recently told her mother that she wants to work for an organization that gives back to the community because she is passionate about helping others the way Kid Power helped her and her peers.

Latin American Youth Center (LAYC)
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Mission Statement: The mission of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) is to empower a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths' social, academic, and career needs.

Issue Areas: Youth Homelessness, Youth Workforce Development, Disconnected Youth, and Expanded Learning.

LAYC's Impact:
Life made Alejandra, 21, grow up rather quickly. Just before her 15th birthday, Alejandra's mother was deported to Mexico and she went to live with her their father, who had been absent for most of Alejandra's life. Alejandra got a job, sometimes two, as a dishwasher and prep cook to help support the family. A short three months later, Alejandra's father kicked her out because Alejandra is gay.

For the next few months, Alejandra slept in her car, laundromats in apartment complexes, the park, and later with friends or observant teachers. After three months of uncertainty, the family of one of her friends opened their home to her, and she has been living with the family ever since. Around this time, Alejandra came to the Latin American Youth Center and began to work with a case manager. Alejandra continued to go to high school while working overnight, and she graduated on time. "Without LAYC, I may not have ever finished high school," said Alejandra.

An artist, Alejandra has been attending a community college, and has completed three semesters worth of general studies toward her Bachelor's degree. Alejandra just received a full college scholarship for the strength of her character and her artwork. Alejandra will pursue a Bachelor of Arts in the fall and hopes to one day run an art therapy studio for homeless youth.

Sasha Bruce Youthwork
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Mission Statement: Sasha Bruce Youthwork (SBY) meets the urgent needs of disconnected youth and their families by providing safe homes, life skills, and workforce development programs throughout the D.C. Metro area.

Issue Areas: Youth Homelessness, Youth Workforce Development, and Disconnected Youth

SBY's Impact:
Raynice was a teenage mother in a tough spot. Sleeping on a hard floor with her newborn child, living with grandparents, and trying to finish school seemed overwhelming.

But this did not stop her. Raynice graduated high school at the top of her class, and began college. But at nineteen years old, another challenge came. Raynice lost both her mother and grandmother within two weeks of one another. With support suddenly gone, she found a family shelter. Soon after, she came to Sasha Bruce. Raynice found stability at SBY for her and her daughter, along with staff that, in her own words, “have become like my family, my new support system”.

Raynice is now a senior at Trinity Washington University studying Business Administration, with an International Affairs minor. Her story reminds us; the call to connect youth to opportunities is necessary. In her own words: “Sasha Bruce is helping me break the cycle in my family, giving me a new opportunity to become what I aspire most to be: a great mom, the first person to graduate college in my family, and an entrepreneur.”Now, Raynice can extend a hand to someone else in need. And her daughter can too.

Year Up National Capital Region
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Mission Statement: Year Up’s mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. We achieve this mission through a high support, high expectation model that combines marketable job skills, stipends, internships and college credits.

Issue Area: Youth Workforce Development

Year Up's Impact:
The "most important thing I have learned on this journey is that it takes hard work and dedication to be successful and that you have to lead by example." said James McGriff, a graduate of Year Up National Capital Region Class of July 2013. James came from "an environment where all [he'd] seen was hardship." James said that he "still had high expectations for [himself]." He enrolled in Year Up, and "the technical and business skills [he] gained at Year Up helped [him] get an internship at FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority)." James now works at FINRA as a full-time Desktop Support Specialist. He is also enrolled at Prince George's Community College.

Young Playwrights’ Theater
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Mission Statement: Young Playwrights’ Theater inspires young people to realize the power of their own voices. By teaching students to express themselves through the art of playwriting, YPT develops students’ language skills, and empowers them with the creativity, confidence and critical thinking skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Issue Area: Expanded Learning

Young Playwrights' Theater's Impact:
"Everything is real. It’s not made up.”

Dominique Butler has powerful stories to tell, and he tells them with authenticity and emotional honesty. I was thirteen [when I started writing],” he says. “My grandfather passed away, so the only thing for me to get over it was just to write.”

Dominique started writing poems and stories, then got a chance to write his first play in YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program. He seized the opportunity and wrote a play called Like Father, Like Son, about a young man whose father is in and out of prison. The play resonated with readers and was selected to be featured in YPT’s 2015 New Play Festival. When Dominique found out that professional actors would be performing his words onstage, he was blown away.“I really couldn’t believe it,” he says. “This is the first time that something like this has happened to me. I didn’t really think nobody wanted to listen, for real.”Now that Dominique knows the world is listening, he is eager to keep writing. He has plans to attend college soon, and when he does will keep in mind one crucial lesson he learned from this process: “My story matters.”

To find out how you can Do Even More 24, check out the full list of participating organizations (including more DCAYA members) here!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Cheers for our YWLA Graduates!

Today we’re bringing you a glimpse into the Youth Workforce Leaders Academy (YWLA) that we’ve been conducting over the last year, and into our celebration of the inaugural cadre of YWLA Graduates! Through our partnership with the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) and the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative[1], YWLA was created as learning community to better support the growth and success of local youth workforce development professionals.

With the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) beginning implementation in July, and the District refocusing on quality and measurable outcomes in its workforce development programming, YWLA provides a way to build capacity within local organizations to scale up the District's quality workforce development programming.  As emphasized by our partners at IEL, YWLA has been a homegrown effort to increase coordination as encouraged by WIOA.

Our inaugural cadre of participants has done an incredible job of implementing the best practices highlighted throughout YWLA, culminating in their Capstone Projects. We’d like to spotlight our 15 participants and the impact YWLA has had on their work:

Najmah Ahmad, Director of Curriculum Outreach at Urban Alliance

Capstone Project: Navigating Success; Staying the Course - Curriculum to increase success of college matriculation

Paula Billingsley, Alumni Programs VISTA at Higher Achievement

Capstone Project: Alumni Career Month at Higher Achievement – Series of career exploration programming

Kimberly Davis, College Access Coordinator at For Love of Children (FLOC)

Capstone Project: Scholars Empowerment Curriculum – Series of civic engagement workshops

Elizabeth Edwards, Associate Director of Programs at Year Up – National Capital Region

Capstone Project: IT Certificates for All – Model program for IT certification of all graduates

Libby Hill, Senior Trainer at Global Kids

Capstone Project: Tracking Youth Workforce Development in Global Kids’ Programming – Outcomes plan for workforce development and career readiness

Marcia N. Huff, Esq., Senior Manager at The Young Women’s Project

Capstone Project: Workforce Readiness Curricula for High School & College Students - Curricula to build employment skills, explore careers, and set educational and employment goals

Angela Hughes, Manager of Program Operations at YWCA National Capital Area

Capstone Project: Job Shadowing Opportunities through Community Mapping – Community mapping that resulted in job shadowing opportunities for youth

Jacob Newman, Workforce Director at Latin American Youth Center/Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers

Capstone Project: Alignment of Job Readiness Training for Disconnected Youth – Aligned JRT across the organization’s workforce development programs

Efuntomiwa “Mimi” Okoh, Outreach Coordinator at National Center for Children and Families

Capstone Project: Career Exploration for Youth in Foster Care – Opportunity for job shadowing in fields of interest to youth

Phyllis D. Powell, Senior Youth Workforce Development Specialist at Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services

Capstone Project: Employment Retention Incentive Program – Developed a stronger job readiness and job search program

Kristina Savoy, Program Manager at DOES’s Office of Youth Programs

Capstone Project: Partnership with Rehabilitation Services – Agreement to ensure the proper referral of Year Round and SYEP participants with disabilities

Rachel Sier, Job Developer at YouthBuild PCS
Capstone Project: Best Practices in Employer Partnership Retention - Strategized to develop and maintain partnerships between workforce development programs and local businesses

Nadia M. Sookar, Supervisory Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist at DC Rehabilitation Services Administration

Capstone Project:  Partnership with Rehabilitation Services – Agreement to ensure the proper referral of Year Round and SYEP participants with disabilities

Trisha Taylor, Programs Director at Sitar Arts Center

Capstone Project: Sitar Intern Leadership Program - Selected SYEP students will learn advanced management skills and have additional responsibilities to lead peers  

Ashley Williams, Program Manager at DOES’s Office of Youth Programs

Capstone Project:  Partnership with Rehabilitation Services – Agreement to ensure the proper referral of Year Round and SYEP participants with disabilities

If you’re interested in joining this network of leaders through our second iteration of the Youth Workforce Leaders Academy, please contact DCAYA Policy Analyst, Amy Dudas, at

[1] An initiative of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region