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Community Engagement with SEL

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As a apart of Anatomical Quality Assessment (AQUA) standards, SEL site coordinators and their afterschool students are required to do a community event. The activity is curated through youth-led community service projects.  The students nominated and then voted on a project and selected a food drive. With springtime being in full effect students came up with the concept of giving away gift baskets with canned goods inside.

Alongside the canned food drive, after school program staff developed a two-week curriculum to discuss the importance of healthy living and giving as part of mindfulness.

One of the main activities the students enjoyed was reading the book “Uncle Willie and The Soup Kitchen,” by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. In the story, Uncle Willie volunteered his time in the community. The uncle wanted to instill the importance of volunteering to his nephew, in hopes that the nephew would follow in his uncle’s footsteps.

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?

The next week the students learned how to cook from Master Teaching Artist Jennifer Kindert. She shared the importance of giving back in healthy ways and introduced an international dish, Mexican fruit. The two main lessons were learning the importance of cooking for yourself (mindful eating) and the importance of giving healthy foods to others.

Following the two-week lesson plan, the students collected canned goods for their gift baskets. Weiss School Counselor, Tiffany Daniels started a food pantry initiative and partnered with an agency to keep the initiative alive. The students were thrilled and collected more than 200 cans.  Half of the canned goods were donated to the North Texas Food Bank and the other half were used as gift baskets to the food pantry at Martin Weiss. The food at the North Texas Food Bank was also made available for families of Martin Weiss Elementary.

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.

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. From learning to cook, promoting the food drive, and visiting the food pantry, the youth demonstrated their commitment and perseverance throughout the project.

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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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Through the Lens: Community Building at Red Bird

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By, Elysse Alvarado

Walk into Southwest Center Mall (or Red Bird Mall as it’s commonly known) on any given day and it is clear to see that this once burgeoning shopping center has lost its spark. With shuttered storefronts and phantom parking lots, it may seem at first glance that there is not much left for visitors to enjoy. But in fact, this mall has flourished into a unique community of its own.

SOARS REDBIRD

Apart from the few anchor department stores, local businesses are the pulse of what’s left at the mall and what makes it special. Morning walkers make their rounds through the long shopping halls, while store owners set up for the day ahead. And this summer, Red Bird SOARS has returned to provide engaging, summer programming for students. Summer learners are greeted by shop owners as they walk in for camp and the mall itself serves as the backdrop for activities such as photo walks and dance practice. This shopping mall has become more than just a mall, it has evolved into a close-knit community of its own.

Big ThoughtThrough the Lens: Community Building at Red Bird
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