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Community Engagement with SEL

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During April students from Martin Weiss Elementarylearned the importance of community giving. As a part of Afterschool Quality Assessment standards, SEL Site Coordinators and their afterschool students are required to complete a community event. This was a youth-led service project, and students chose a food drive. To kick off spring, the idea was to give gift baskets filled with collected can goods. Following the service project, the staff developed a two-week lesson plan to teach the importance of giving back with healthy food options, and eating healthy regularly.

To help the student’s understand the importance of community giving, the students were read “Uncle Willie and The Soup Kitchen,” by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. This was a great way to introduce the subject of helping poverty and homelessness to children, and encourage them to give back in their communities. In the story, Uncle Willie works part-time at the Soup Kitchen because he believes that sometimes people need a little extra help. The boy in the story becomes sympathetic toward people having a hard time making ends meet, he then finds a sense of pride in his uncle. By sympathizing with the boy in the story, it uplifted the class work as team making the food drive a big success. 

After reading the book, the students were asked reflection questions. They were separated into two groups with age-appropriate questions for each age group. Group A was kindergarten through third grade and group B was fourth and fifth grade. The questions included:

1. Why it’s important to volunteer? Why is it important to volunteer at food pantries?

2. When might a person need to visit a soup kitchen or food pantry? What experiences might they be going through?

3. Could you relate or identify with someone in the community center from the book?

4. Why is it important to give back to others?

5. What are some ways other than money that you can give back?

6. If you could give back somewhere, where would it be? Why?

To further engage the students, Weiss school counselor, Tiffany Daniels, started a food pantry initiative partnering the students with the North Texas Food Bank. As an incentive, the staff offered the students a pizza party, which motivated them even more. The students were very excited and continued to share how they wanted to help their own communities. The students ended up collecting more than 200 can goods! Half of the collected can goods were shared with the North Texas Food Bank, while the other half were used in gift baskets created by students.

SEL Coordinator Deborah Carey stated the only challenge was getting a speaker from North Texas Food Bank to talk about the food pantry to the students.

From learning to cook and promoting the food drive to visiting the food pantry, the youth demonstrated their commitment and perseverance throughout the project. The staff realized that the community service initiative was a success when they could see the enthusiasm and commitment of the youth for the project — and the smiles on the student’s faces. 

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Del Barrio al Liderazgo Comunitario

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Más de un billón de niños viven en pobreza en todo el mundo, yo era uno de esos niños. Hija de una madre adolescente y producto de la educación pública en América Central, hoy tengo mi propio negocio y soy considerada una líder en América.

Mi nombre es Betzy Arosemena y nací en Panamá, uno de los países más bonitos y corruptos del mundo. Mi bisabuela no fue a la escuela, no sabía escribir ni leer. Tuvo 7 hijos, el primero lo tuvo a los 15 años. Mi abuela solo terminó 6to grado pues tuvo que trabajar desde los 12 años para ayudar en casa. Mi mamá logró terminar la secundaria pero no hubo celebración, en su último año descubrió que estaba embarazada de mí.

Esto significa que antes de nacer yo formaba parte de estadísticas que decían que mi destino era repetir el mismo patrón de embarazos y pobreza, pero no fue así. Esto se lo debo completamente al apoyo familiar que recibí por parte de mis abuelas, mamá, abuelo, tíos y tías. Todos hicieron lo que pudieron y me repetían casi a diario que si alguien iba a salir del barrio, sería yo.

Hace unos días llegué por primera vez a Dallas y tuve la oportunidad de iniciar una relación profesional con Big Thought, específicamente con Dallas City of Learning. Esta conexión se dio a través del programa de intercambio empresarial Young Leaders of America Initiative, mejor conocido por sus siglas como YLAI.

Este programa busca brindar oportunidades de entrenamiento, recursos y networking a empresarios de toda América Latina, especialmente mujeres. Su objetivo es reducir la división social y económica con prosperidad y crecimiento en el mundo del emprendimiento. Enfocados sobretodo en ideas de negocios que tengan causas sociales, ambientales o relacionadas a derechos humanos.

YLAI Professional Fellows Program es la razón por la que estaré de visita en Dallas. El programa tiene una duración de 5 semanas en donde los 250 participantes visitaremos 3 ciudades de Estados Unidos, en mi caso: Detroit, Dallas y Washington DC. En la primera ciudad, Detroit, conocimos acerca del programa, las expectativas y acerca de los emprendimientos de los otros participantes.

En Dallas es donde estaré la mayor parte del tiempo, compartiendo con Big Thought y con otros 9 maravillosos emprendedores de América Latina: Alberto de México, Alejandra de Honduras, Mark de Aruba, Hugo de El Salvador, Mariana de Uruguay, Fabio y Gabriel de Brasil, Eloisa de Chile y Darwin de Perú.

Todos vienen de industrias muy variadas que incluyen diseño de modas, gastronomía, desarrollo web, mercadeo digital, medios de comunicación, sostenibilidad ambiental, educación, transporte y asesoría legal.

Mi emprendimiento entra en el área de medios digitales, soy la co-fundadora de Dandelion Media una agencia de mercadeo digital en Panamá, pero estoy aquí en partnership con Arckalab, una empresa social dedicada al desarrollo de ciudadanos globales a través de cursos y talleres para niños y adolescentes.

Ahí es donde cobra sentido mi relación con Big Thought. En Arckalab buscamos brindar actividades extracurriculares variadas para que los niños adquieran una nueva forma de pensar, de comportamiento y habilidades que les ayuden a tener su propia empresa cuando sean grandes o simplemente a tener las herramientas necesarias para tener un mejor futuro y poder enfrentarse a una economía global con cualidades resilientes.

Actualmente trabajamos con niños y jóvenes de 8 a 17 años, así que nuestros programas comparten el mismo target que los programas de Big Thought y Dallas City of Learning. También tenemos 3 tipos de programas after school, summer y dentro del horario escolar.

Nuestros talleres atrapan su imaginación e interés con temas muy variados para que los chicos aprendan de todo un poco mientras les enseñamos acerca de cosas que muchas veces no aprenden ni en casa ni en la escuela, como respeto propio y a otros, honestidad, puntualidad, trabajo en equipo, colaboración, ciudadanía global, etc.

A pesar de que vendemos nuestros cursos y talleres a precios accesibles, siempre buscamos la forma de integrar organizaciones con niños que podrían verse beneficiados con este tipo de iniciativas sin costo para la organización. En el 2018 hemos tenido el placer de trabajar con el Hogar de la Medalla Milagrosa y el Club Atlético Independiente, cambiando así la vida de más de 50 niños.

Esto es empoderamiento que está impactando a familias y comunidades enterasen Panamá, así se cambia el mundo empezando por uno mismo. Por eso me involucré tan de cerca con la visión de Abdiel Barranco, Fundador de Arckalab, porque todos merecemos la oportunidad de tener un mejor futuro y dejar a un lado cualquier etiqueta que nos imponga la sociedad. Así que estar aquí representando a Dandelion Media y Arckalab es un honor.

El cierre del programa será en Washington DC, donde volveremos a encontrarnos los 250 participantes y hablaremos de todo lo aprendido y de la experiencia de pasar 5 semanas en Estados Unidos. También habrá una competencia en donde los participantes podrían conseguir algo de dinero para impulsar sus negocios.

En Big Thought he aprendido mucho, y sé que faltan muchas cosas por aprender. Faltan menos de 20 días para que yo termine mi intercambio, hasta ahora todo ha sido genial. He tenido la oportunidad de convivir con personas maravillosas que buscan cambiar el mundo a través de su trabajo y no hay nada más respetable que eso.

Big ThoughtDel Barrio al Liderazgo Comunitario
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“Let’s Read Together!” 5 Family Literacy Tips

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Ms. Mary Hernandez is the literacy specialist at Big Thought, where she shares her passion for reading with families and students in our programs. Read her advice on how to make reading fun for the whole family! 

Making personalized book crates during a family literacy event at Jubilee Park and Community Center 
  1. Books need a valued place in the home. Find a special way to store and display books, whether it’s a bookshelf, crate, or even a little box. 
  2. “You can’t love what you don’t know.” Expose children to a variety of genres. Help them select their own books based on their interests. 
  3. Public libraries are great resources. There may even be a Little Free Library in your neighborhood! For discounted books, stay tuned for the Scholastic book fair at school. If children are given an allowance, take a trip to Half-Price books, and make it a family shopping stop. 
  4. Read aloud. Listening to or reading books out loud helps expand children’s vocabulary. Encourage older kids to read to their younger siblings. Read together so children can ask you questions about things they hear or say. Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams says, “Reading Aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.”
  5. Lead by example. Interaction between family members is critical. Children learn from their parents/guardians. They will mirror what they see and value what you value. Demonstrate the importance of reading, by modeling for them.

Ms. Mary’s Favorite Books

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Summer of Discovery at Trinity River Audubon Center

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By, Elysse Alvarado

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Dallas, the Trinity River Audubon Center is the perfect place to take a pause and enjoy a walk in nature. This summer, Pleasant Grove SOARS and Dallas City of Learning flew into session and sparked students’ imaginations through discovery, play, and creativity all while exploring their own backyard.

Students on a trail at Trinity River Audubon Center.The Trinity River Audubon Center is the gateway to the largest urban forest in the U.S. and sits on a former illegal dump site which has been reclaimed as a nature sanctuary with five miles of walking trails, a butterfly garden, and conservation center. While the center has been open since 2008, many Dallasites don’t know this urban oasis exists.Peek at the home of Pleasant Grove SOARS at Trinity River Audubon Center.

Pleasant Grove SOARS wanted to bring awareness to this amazing facility. Summer learner, Valerie, is eleven years old and loved attending camp at the Trinity River Audubon Center. “I didn’t know this was here. I love nature and every day we take walks and learn about it.” This kind of interactive learning is what Big Thought is all about. Program Manager, Sergio García points out that the goal is not only to “engage the whole child but to engage the whole family by sharing new opportunities and new experiences.” A student’s parent explains that her family has never had the chance to explore this area until SOARS. “The kids love being outside and taking walks. We want to come back as a family now.”

Students took advantage of their time at the center by learning about nature through classes on art, science, and tech. From every corner of the Trinity River Audubon Center, views of the surrounding Texas plains can be seen and as a result, inspired many of the projects students created. From painting butterfly murals to dissecting frogs, learners were able to discover more about their environment through hands-on learning.

Big ThoughtSummer of Discovery at Trinity River Audubon Center
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Big Thought Names Amanda Rainey as New Chief Advancement Officer

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Big Thought, one of Dallas’ most respected education nonprofits, announced it has named Amanda Rainey as the organization’s new chief advancement officer. Rainey, who began her new position September 10, will oversee all Big Thought fundraising efforts, as well as its communication and advocacy strategies.

“Amanda is a game changer for our work,” said Byron Sanders, Big Thought President and CEO. “Her vast experience in fundraising for education and youth development organizations makes it clear to us that she truly gets our mission.”

Rainey joins Big Thought after serving as Vice President of Fund Development for Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, where she lead the organization’s first ever capital campaign. Her expertise in relationship building, cultivation and stewardship comes after more than 10 years leading fundraising and marketing efforts for higher education. She previously served as the Vice President of Advancement at Parker University, the Vice President of Advancement at the University of Dallas and Executive Director of Development at Saint Louis University.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining the Big Thought team,” said Rainey. “There has never been a more important time to empower our youth to become creative leaders in designing their futures.”

This announcement comes as Big Thought prepares to mark its 30th year working to improve education in the Dallas area. Big Thought works with local and national partners to develop in-school and out-of-school-time programming for students in Dallas neighborhoods with the greatest need.

“What’s most exciting about having Amanda join our team is that she not only understands where we’ve been, but also where our new vision is taking us,” said Sanders. “There isn’t a leader more equipped to help us build the relationships and resources we need to close the opportunity gap.”

Big ThoughtBig Thought Names Amanda Rainey as New Chief Advancement Officer
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