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!

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