Latest News

In Search of Real Life Women Superheroes

Studio Movie Grill and Warner Bros. Pictures are looking for Real Life Women Superheroes who “go out of their way to make their communities better places, and like Wonder Woman herself, exhibit power, grace, and wisdom.”

The woman with the most compelling story will earn a special advance red carpet screening of the Wonder Woman film, which opens nationwide on June 2nd.

“There is only one Wonder Woman – but there are millions of ‘Real Life Women Superheroes,’” said Brian Schultz, Founder and CEO of SMG. “They fight the battles we sometimes choose not to. They enrich communities, and bring comfort to those in-need and love to those with whom they come in contact. In aspirational times, they are inspirational. It’s time their stories are told and time we recognize those women in our community who, like Wonder Woman, fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.”

Visit http://www.studiomoviegrill.com/womensuperheroes to nominate women in your community who are making our world a better place each day. Nominees could range from a special needs school teacher, to a social worker at an elder care facility, to a community advocate fighting social injustice.

“Govern yourselves with love, kindness, and service to others.”

The nominating process will run through Sunday, May 14th (Mother’s Day) after which a review committee will select the “Real Life Women Superheroes” – one from each of SMG’s 11 markets – to travel to Dallas.

Prior to the film, each will be honored with SMG’s “Opening Hearts and Minds, One Story At A Time” Award and a $1,000 donation to their charity of choice. The award highlights SMG’s commitment to extending its influence past the walls of its theaters with an authentic and clear vision to make the world a better place by opening hearts and minds, one story at a time.

Stephanie DrenkaIn Search of Real Life Women Superheroes
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How To Create a Summer Learning Plan

Chances are that whatever your student might be interested in, there is somewhere in Dallas this summer where they can go to do it! Dallas City of Learning is a citywide initiative to ensure all students have access to high-quality summer learning programs. We encourage you to sit down with your student this spring and create a summer learning plan.

What is a Summer Learning Plan?

A summer learning plan is simply a list of activities, events or programs that your student can participate in over the summer. You and your student can use our free worksheet to create a summer learning plan together. Click here to download.

Why Create a Summer Learning Plan?

Students who participate in learning and enrichment experiences over the summer see significantly more gains in reading and math scores during the school year versus those who do not.  

By discovering and developing their interests, young people can engage with what they are passionate about and can see how things they are interested in are connected to other activities and career paths.

What is Dallas City of Learning?

Dallas City of Learning lets you search through hundreds of free or low-cost summer programs, events and learning experiences that match your child’s interest in a single, easy-to-use website: DallasCityofLearning.org.

From robotics to zoology to workplace internships, Dallas City of Learning provides a wide variety of enriching opportunities for youth of all ages to find new interests, develop new skills, and increase their academic gains achieved during the school year. In other words, it’s a one-stop-shop for summer learning.

Additionally, all Dallas ISD students will be given a Dallas ISD Discover Summer Catalog that they can browse to find opportunities in their area. Visit www.dallasisd.org/summerlearning to learn more about summer opportunities within Dallas ISD.

Stephanie DrenkaHow To Create a Summer Learning Plan
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Big Thought Announces President & CEO Accepts Position with Wallace Foundation

For Immediate Release

Education nonprofit remains active in addressing needs of Dallas children: narrowing opportunity gap; reducing summer learning loss; and promoting social-emotional learning

DALLAS, Texas – Feb. 23, 2017 – Education nonprofit Big Thought today announced that president and CEO Giselle “Gigi” Antoni has accepted a position as the Director of Learning and Enrichment at The Wallace Foundation in New York. The foundation’s mission is to foster improvements in learning and enrichment for disadvantaged children and the vitality of the arts for everyone.

“Gigi’s experience and talents are a natural fit for The Wallace Foundation and her selection is a direct reflection of the strength, solidarity and national reputation built by Big Thought’s staff, board, community partners, advisers and donors,” said Pat Porter, board chairman, Big Thought. “In her new role, Gigi will have the opportunity to develop and implement ideas that will impact millions of underserved youth nationally. We wish her well in her new endeavors.”

Ms. Antoni remains with Big Thought through the end of April 2017 before assuming her new role at the foundation after May 1. Big Thought has initiated an interim leader search and has identified several potential highly-qualified candidates. A national search for a permanent leader will launch shortly.

“I’m honored to have played a role in Big Thought’s mission to close the opportunity gap for underresourced children in Dallas,” said Gigi Antoni, president and CEO, Big Thought. “I must say how rewarding it was to hear from key partners and stakeholders who were notified and told us they remain steadfast in their support of Big Thought because of the work we’ve done and will continue to do in addressing the needs of Dallas children.”

“As a partner of Big Thought, Dallas ISD has enjoyed a close working relationship with Gigi over the years and we wish her well in her new position,” said Dr. Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of Dallas Independent School District. “Big Thought is a significant organization in our city and we are committed to working together with the organization on the many successful programs that serve thousands of students in our community.”

Big Thought focuses on addressing the needs of Dallas children, especially in narrowing the opportunity gap for under-resourced youth, reducing summer learning loss, and promoting social-emotional learning.

“We will continue to bring relentless optimism, innovation and imagination to these critical issues,” said Ms. Porter. “We have passionate leadership, a deep and engaged board and a collection of caring, smart employees—many of whom have been with the Big Thought family for years and know where we’ve been, along with new faces lending a fresh perspective. We have more than 330 partners across the city and country providing the highest quality programming in neighborhoods with the greatest need.”

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About Big Thought
For nearly three decades, Big Thought has worked to innovate education in Dallas by providing youth with access to creative learning programs to help them imagine possibilities, excel academically and contribute to their community. Driven by its mission to make imagination a part of everyday learning, Big Thought develops campus and community based programs that impact academic achievement and address youth development by connecting classroom objectives and traditional teaching methods with arts, culture and creative learning. Through its partnerships, Big Thought serves more than 140,000 Dallas children, families and teachers each year, both in and out of the classroom. Learn more at bigthought.org.

Media Contacts

Linda Graham
linda@thepowergroup.com
214/498-6313

Andy Shane
andy@thepowergroup.com
214/498-4915

Big Thought
Jessica Malek
jmalek@bigthought.org
214/520-0023

Stephanie DrenkaBig Thought Announces President & CEO Accepts Position with Wallace Foundation
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Social Emotional Learning: Developing the Whole Individual

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Social emotional learning, also known as “soft skills,” isn’t a new phenomenon. But it is rapidly gaining momentum nationally as educators, employers and even economists recognize the value of developing the whole individual, not just academic readiness. In this three-part series, we look at social emotional learning from a human interest standpoint, as a burgeoning local and national movement, and as an investment in the future through a grant from The Wallace Foundation awarded to Dallas ISD and Big Thought to create SEL implementation in the district.

Social Emotional Learning At Work

Here’s a story about emotional redemption: A teenager on probation enters the Creative Solutions 2016 summer program at Southern Methodist University. He’s withdrawn, non-verbal, can’t even make eye contact. He has closed off the world in his attempt to hide behind a broken soul.

Two weeks into his work with Creative Solutions, a partnership with the Dallas County Juvenile Department, SMU and Big Thought that teaches performing and visual arts to teen probates, proves cathartic. He suddenly felt comfortable enough to write down his emotions and recount past traumas through poetry.

“A couple more weeks later and he felt safe enough to share those with his mentors,” says Allison Caldwell, Youth Development Specialist at Big Thought. “During the very last week of the program, he decided that he wanted his words published in the poetry anthology and that his poem was worthy of sharing in front of an audience. His voice shook towards the beginning, but his confidence grew as he felt the support from his peers.”

Writing was the salve, the elixir that helped this teenager overcome depression. “His story is the perfect example of the beginning of a journey towards social emotional growth,” says Caldwell. “He reflected on his emotions and experiences, connected with others, and was beginning to learn how to manage his emotions.”

There you have social emotional learning at work, its transformative powers in full throttle. But what exactly is social emotional learning, and why has it become a national buzz phrase in education? According to CASEL, The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, “social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Caldwell has spent more than five years applying social emotional learning to her work with Creative Solutions and DaVerse Lounge, the spoken word program for middle and high school students in partnership with Journeyman Ink.

“Social emotional skills exist on a continuum – you can never truly master a skill, rather you continue to deepen your understanding of yourself and your relationships as you practice social and emotional competencies,” she says. “All of our programs at Big Thought are infused with opportunities for kids to develop SEL skills.”

Photo: Creative Solutions students triumph onstage after last summer’s “The Island of Lost Souls” performance at Southern Methodist University. Photo by Can Turkyilmaz @turk_studio.


Big ThoughtSocial Emotional Learning: Developing the Whole Individual
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The Art of Teaching: Meet Donna Carey

Home Base: Dallas

Big Thought History: Carey has been a Big Thought teaching artist since 2010 with the Thriving Minds After School and Summer Camp programs. She’s taught culinary arts, life skills, poetry, visual arts, food photography, performance art and more. Carey coached two America Scores Poetry Slam winning poets during 2014 and 2015, both students from Anson Jones Elementary. The students were awarded a trip to New York to present their poems at a fundraising benefit for America Scores. She also coordinated spring community service projects for America Scores from 2013-2015 benefitting SPCA, American Red Cross with military care packages, and North Texas Food Bank.

Education: Associate in Arts in Culinary Arts from Remington College in Garland.

Teaching Philosophy: “I want to stimulate students’ imaginations and creativity,” Carey says. “If you are strong in imagination and creativity, you are strong in thought, which builds thinking and decision making skills.”

Why Is Big Thought Important? “Big Thought pairs artists with students so that artists can share their knowledge with students that need it. Students can then open up and express themselves. But Big Thought also helps the artists. It helped me. I knew I was a teacher, but Big Thought really helped me become a better teacher. It’s so important to make sure the artists and the students are together because art and creativity are not in schools like they used to be, and kids really need that form of expression.”

Rewards of Teaching Big Thought Students: “Watching the progress of the students, how they build their confidence, express their feelings and opinions, and develop their stage presence,” she says. “You see how they really want to write with enthusiasm and interest they have never had before. The end reward is watching a child get up onstage in front of a group and sharing a piece of themselves that they never thought they could share. They walk on that stage like they own it.”

– Mario Tarradell

Photo: Donna Carey works with a student at Anson Jones Elementary. Photo by Jose Sosa/Big Thought. 

Big ThoughtThe Art of Teaching: Meet Donna Carey
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The Art of Teaching: Meet Holly Lapinski

Home Base: Wylie

Big Thought Teaching History: 16 years, incorporating Learning Partners, Creative Solutions, Make a Connection Through Art programs. Now Creative Solutions, including the summer program at Southern Methodist University and other CS assignments.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Art from Montana State University.

Teaching Philosophy: “I just really want them to have a positive experience,” Holly says. “I want to share what I do with young people. It’s really all about feeding into what we become as adults and their place in society as a whole. We need to expose kids to art, to a creative outlet, so they can develop an interest in something other than getting in trouble. I want them to have something positive to focus on so they can make better choices and have great opportunities.”

Why is Big Thought Important? “Big Thought is a great connection to the local arts world. Meeting somebody that was part of Young Audiences of North Texas, as the organization was at that time, connected me to the arts community. That community is small compared to the overall population. Big Thought gave me what I always wanted, to be part of citywide arts and make art with kids. I make a big mess with the kids and then send them home.”

Rewards of Teaching Big Thought Students: “When I take the kids through pottery, which is a long process, and they see it all done they realize they have made something that lasts or is even useful,” she says. “It’s such an incredible experience for them. You take this lump of clay and sometimes it takes weeks to get things finished. When I open the kiln and all their pieces are in there, it’s amazing that these kids didn’t know anything at first, and now they feel so much pride in their work. It’s also important for kids to have the experience of doing something that isn’t instant gratification. It’s really satisfying to teach them an art form that rewards patience.”

– Mario Tarradell

Photo: Holly Lapinski imparts her knowledge of art with two students at an art exhibit. 

Big ThoughtThe Art of Teaching: Meet Holly Lapinski
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The Art of Teaching: Meet Mark Shelton

Home Base: Lewisville

Teaching Specialty: Percussionist – Marimba, Hammered Dulcimer, Snare Drum, Handpan, Timpani.

Big Thought Teaching History: Mark Shelton has been a Big Thought teaching artist since 1987, when the organization was christened as Young Audiences of North Texas.
He is currently a teaching artist with the Thriving Minds and Learning Partners programs in Dallas ISD.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana; Master of Music (Percussion Performance) from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

Teaching Philosophy: “In my work as a musician I desire that my music entertain, educate and inspire,” Mark says. “I am more interested in promoting creativity than creating great musicians.”

Why is Big Thought important? “Big Thought is an organization that upholds high standards in both artistry and education. My association with Big Thought has given me the opportunity to work with thousands of students.”

Rewards of Teaching Big Thought Students: “It has given me a vehicle to share my skills as a performer and an educator,” he says. “I enjoy it when students connect with me as they experience art. It is rewarding to hear enthusiastic applause from an auditorium full of students or see a smile from a child playing a simple rhythm in a workshop.”

– Mario Tarradell

Photo courtesy of Mark Shelton

Big ThoughtThe Art of Teaching: Meet Mark Shelton
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Making Creativity Count: New Year Wishes for Big Thought Kids

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

There’s no stopping the New Year train now. The holidays are rapidly becoming a rear view mirror memory and January 2017 is already cruising along. We have about 360 days to make a mark, to make our imagination and creativity count.

So with that in mind, we at Big Thought are of course thinking of the kids that we serve. We have those young lives foremost in our hearts. Our mission, our programs, our efforts are all about enriching their abilities to learn. We are ramping up our six programs – Creative Solutions, Dallas City of Learning, DaVerse Lounge, Learning Partners, Library Live! and Thriving Minds – for another year of greatness.

Some of our Big Thought staffers got to pondering those opportunities for so many kids in Dallas. They filled in the rest of this sentence:

My New Year wish for our kids is…

…that they find the spark that ignites their passion and the world unfurls its red carpet on their path to pursuing that passion.
Leila Wright, Senior Manager, Programs

…that they regularly experience joy.
Anne Leary, Major Gifts Officer

…to lead extraordinary journeys in life with harmony, hope and love.
Mary Hernandez, Community Engagement Specialist

…that their imagination be sparked so they experience the joys of life-long learning.
LeAnn Binford, Director of Big Thought Institute

…that they will find inspiration and a spark that ignites a passion.
Brandon McKnight, Graphic Designer

…that they never suffer, and live a happy life full of cool adventures, laughter, love and childish play for their rest of their beautiful lives.
Jose Sosa, Communications Manager

…that they feel successful in at least one way, each and every day.
Kristina Dove, Program Manager, Partner Relations

Photo credit: Brandon McKnight/Big Thought

Big ThoughtMaking Creativity Count: New Year Wishes for Big Thought Kids
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Big Thought Intern Jesus Cantú is MIT Bound

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

The news is spectacular: Jesus Cantú, a former Thriving Minds student and three-time summer intern at Big Thought, has been accepted into the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He starts classes during the Fall 2017 semester.

Jesus, 17, is a glowing example of the prospering power of exposing kids to creative learning environments. Cantú was born in Laredo and raised in Mexico until his fourth birthday when he came to Dallas. The Oak Cliff resident remembers his involvement in Big Thought’s Thriving Minds program when he was in elementary school, and later summer camps at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and the Latino Cultural Center. It set the stage for his educational trajectory. Come May 2017 he will graduate from Dallas’ magnet campus School of Science and Engineering.

As a Big Thought summer intern in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Jesus was an instrumental force on the ground during the many community events surrounding the Dallas City of Learning initiative. In fact, he was the go-to guy for translations. A huge part of his role was translating English to Spanish – and vice versa – to keep parents and kids abreast of DCoL.

“I felt really good helping out,” says the upcoming Nuclear Science & Engineering MIT freshman. “I saw a lot of kids that were like me when I was their age. My mom didn’t know English that well so it was hard for her to find programs for me. I saw similar kids in similar situations where parents spoke no English.”

That’s a huge soft skill right there. Jesus learned true empathy and resilience. He saw himself in those childhood mirrors. When it came time to craft his MIT admissions package, Jesus was one-up on the game.

“Writing about being a low-income kid able to take courses and attend different camps because of Big Thought,” he said, “and then later being able to help other students get those same educational opportunities was honestly such a huge part of my application.”

During his last two summers with Big Thought, Jesus was part of the Dallas Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program. Nattily attired in a professional suit, Jesus attended the Dallas Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program Luncheon, held Aug. 1, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.

“I want to thank everyone at Big Thought, because without all of the internships you all offered me these past years I couldn’t have made it this far,” he said. “I am grateful for everything throughout these years of growing up in Dallas. Big Thought made this possible for me. I didn’t let any of your efforts go to waste.”

MIT is lucky to have you, Jesus. Big Thought wishes you continued success.

Pictured: Jesus Cantú with Erin Offord, Big Thought Senior Director, Program Implementation. Photo by Mario Tarradell/Big Thought.

 

Big ThoughtBig Thought Intern Jesus Cantú is MIT Bound
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One Line Wonders: Powerful Prose That Cleanses Souls

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Oh those one line wonders. They come at you fast and furious at DaVerse Lounge. We’re talking about young, expressive poets who get up on the platform, face the mic and unleash powerful prose that cleanses their souls as it enlightens the audience.

The third DaVerse Lounge event of the 12th season, held December 9, 2016 at Life in Deep Ellum, is certainly no different. The evening drew 300 readers and receivers, with 13 schools represented and plenty of emotional literacy merriment. We even had Gopal Raman, the Southwest Region winner of the National Student Poets Program 2016, in the crowd as well as on the stage.

So without further ado, here are a dozen one line wonders to remind us that personal poetry covers all cathartic bases.   

“She strokes my head and pats my back, bringing back memories of when I was young”
– An ode to mothers
Jamyah, Thomas J. Rusk Middle School

“I guarantee you I’m going to make it there 10 minutes early because rush hour traffic doesn’t apply to me”
– A humorous manifesto to the self deep inside
Vertiz, High school graduate

“Doesn’t it feel like I’m a rapper because I talk too much”
– Stream of consciousness self-expression
Jaziel, Uplift Luna Preparatory – Secondary

“Have you ever met that one person that makes your heart beat and puts air in your lungs?”
– The heightened state of ripe love
Semira, John Horn High School

“Our own opinion is the only one that should matter”
– Life exasperates as it exhilarates
Elizabeth, Oliver W. Holmes Middle School

“I dissolve in tea, life dissolves in me”
– Tea as a metaphor for life
Gopal, St. Mark’s School of Texas

“I wrote this just to get funky, just to get funky on this microphone”
– A tribute to great and powerful musical voices
Camika Spencer, Teacher, Lancaster Middle School

“So I take pictures of my big beautiful smile with a dog face…that’s my hashtag selfie life”
– Life as experienced through hashtags
Johanna, Thomas J. Rusk Middle School

“The moon was the one who lit my way through darkness, the one who appeared when I needed someone”
– A love letter to the moon
Casey, Thomas Jefferson High School

“People look at me like I’m crazy, but I am nothing but space”
– An existential look at life
Francisco, Oliver W. Holmes Middle School

“We keep preaching about peace, but keep using a piece”
– A lament about violence in our current society
Julissa, Cedar Valley College

“My panic attacks were not scheduled like doctor’s appointments”
– The dissection of an emotional crisis
Ellery, The Novus Academy graduate

DaVerse Lounge thanks TACA, Dallas Mavericks, State Farm, Liberty Burger, and the M.R. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation for their generous support.

Photos by Can Turkyilmaz @turk_studio; collage presentation by Mario Tarradell


Big ThoughtOne Line Wonders: Powerful Prose That Cleanses Souls
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