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Question of the Season: What Are You Thankful For?

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Thanksgiving is upon us, and that essentially means the year is on its way into the history books. So this is a great time to take stock, to reflect on the positives in our lives. It’s the season to be grateful.

What are you thankful for? We pose the question to you, our Big Thought supporter, donor, friend, teaching artist, student and parent. All of us at Big Thought wish you and your family a happy and safe holiday spent among loved ones. Great food on the menu doesn’t hurt, either.

So what are we thankful for? Below find expressions of gratitude from some of our Big Thought staff members.

Gobble! Gobble!

I am thankful for life, freedom, family and a place that I like to go to for work each and every day.
Kristina Dove, Program Manager, Partner Relations

I am thankful for spaghetti squash and persimmons being in season, and the power of a really good hug.
Leila Wright, Senior Program Manager

I am thankful for the love that I am surrounded with from friends and family.
Katelynn Dougan, Specialist, Corporate Development

Today I am thankful for special friends with beautiful hearts and spirits.
Maria Marwill-Magee, Special Projects Coordinator

I am grateful for each day and the love of family and friends.
Sally Hartman, Board Administrator 

I’m thankful to have the opportunity to be part of this great family that is Big Thought.
Jose Sosa, Manager, Communications

I am thankful that I am not a turkey.
Anne Leary, Major Gifts Officer

I am grateful for the breaths I take, for the beauty that surrounds me, for the melodies that fill my spirit, for delightful kinships along my life’s journey. For today to be of purpose in the universe, is my prayer of Thanksgiving.
Mary Hernandez, Community Engagement Specialist

I am thankful for my health and all of my family.
Maria Tafalla, Receptionist

I am grateful for the circle of life. The blessing of our new baby boy during the same year when we lost our two elderly next door neighbors 9 months apart from one another. I am also thankful that my mother in law beat cancer this year. That my father is healing well after his emergency quadruple bypass. And I am especially Grateful for all of those in our community who have embraced me and my wife and kids this year – and of course, our extended familia. I am thankful for family – by blood and by association. Our village is strong, no doubt.
Will Richey, Creator, DaVerse Lounge

I am thankful for family and friends who are near and far.
Shannon Linton, Operations Project Coordinator

Inhaled. Exhaled. How many times have I done that today? I am thankful for each breath of life.
Phyllis Walker, Senior Manager, Human Resources Operations

I am thankful for each and everyday I wake up. As with each morning the opportunity of life is at my door allowing me to live, laugh, and love until my heart’s content. Anything is possible! 
Sarah Matthews, Specialist, Development Operations

I am thankful for finding joy in the journey. 
Bill Wetsel, Senior Manager of Accounting

 

 

Big ThoughtQuestion of the Season: What Are You Thankful For?
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Giving Makes Us Feel Good: The Art of Philanthropy

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Giving makes us feel good. That isn’t a simplistic statement, or one intended to cajole fists full of donations. It’s truth, scientifically proven truth.

A New York Times story from December 2015 analyzes the “feel-good school of philanthropy,” which falls into two baskets of motivation. There is effective altruism, which uses hardcore scientific data to calculate and show people exactly how to ensure the impact of each dollar they contribute.

Then we have the emotional high of giving, of finding heartfelt satisfaction in improving the lives of others through persistent financial support. That high is good for the soul.

“Emotion may also make altruism healthier,” writes Jamil Zaki. “Generosity not only makes givers feel good, but reduces their stress level and even extends their lives.”

Which brings us to North Texas Giving Day, the annual local celebration of philanthropy that begins at 6 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, and ends as the clock chimes midnight. NTGD is your chance to support Big Thought.

At Big Thought, our goal is to bridge the opportunity gap by bringing quality, imagination-based programming to 150,000 under-resourced students across 433 sites in Dallas. We do this everyday with the top-of-mind realization that every child deserves a great education.

Together with our many partners, here are some of the enriching programs we provide:

Dallas City of Learning – A public-private citywide partnership with the City of Dallas and Dallas ISD to ensure all students have access to summer learning opportunities that stems summer learning loss. In the course of three years, with the help and guidance of approximately 150 partners, the DCoL initiative provided programming at over 100 locations, serving approximately 50,000 students.

Creative Solutions – A partnership with the Dallas County Juvenile Department and Southern Methodist University to create performing and visual arts programs for disengaged youth in the juvenile system and lower the recidivism rate. Since its inception in 1994, Creative Solutions has helped 12,000 students find their way back after being convicted of a crime and experiencing probation.

Learning Partners – An initiative that provides public school educators with access to thousands of imaginative, high-quality programs and field trips to help teachers bring learning to life in the classroom. In 2015, nearly 83,000 students benefitted from Learning Partners with more than 1.5 million total hours of programming.

DaVerse Lounge – A cultural movement that’s a partnership between Big Thought and Journeyman Ink with generous support from TACA. DaVerse Lounge creator Will Richey is the mastermind behind this spoken word program that empowers youth by giving them a voice. DaVerse Lounge events, coupled with the DaVerse Works poetry clubs and curriculum in schools, take place at Life in Deep Ellum. This year we have 6 shows – Oct. 7, Nov. 4, Dec. 2, Feb. 3, March 3, and April 7.

See all that giving can do? So whether you are fueled by the emotion or the science, the end results are the same. Your contribution will make a huge difference in the lives of others. Giving is definitely good.

 

 

 

Big ThoughtGiving Makes Us Feel Good: The Art of Philanthropy
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Discovery Faire Kicks Off Dallas City of Learning Turn Up! Events

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Experience learning outside of the classroom!

Explore a world of possibilities at Discovery Faire, the first of three Turn Up! events during this year’s Dallas City of Learning initiative. Discovery Faire features a variety of activities for kids including arts and crafts, 3D printing, music, science experiments, robotics, visual arts, aerialist performances, and so much more.

The 4-hour event kicks off at 11 am Saturday, June 18, at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young Street in Dallas. Discovery Faire includes the participation and support of these Dallas City of Learning partners: Arts Vision, Circus Freaks, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas Zoo, Fine Arts Nth, Tammy McNary, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, PolyPrinter, Science Safari, SPCA, We Teach Science and The Writer’s Garret.

And kids, this is your chance to earn DCoL credentials. Complete any one activity and you got an XP. But why stop there? Complete any five activities to make your Discovery Faire experience a DCoL Playlist and you have yourself a digital badge.

So take your pick. Here’s a list of the activities:

First Floor

  • Circus Freaks circus school and aerialists demonstration
  • Make a balloon rocket car

Second Floor

  • DCoL Registration
  • Build Stix Structures
  • Arts, crafts and entertainment with ArtsVision
  • See predators and prey in action with Science Safari
  • Sign up for the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club

Third Floor

  • Blackout Poetry
  • Poetry, Zines, and journal making with the Writer’s Garret

Fourth Floor

  • Make a glider or polar bear with Dallas Contemporary
  • Make instruments with Fine Arts Nth
  • Take photos with Brightness Box

Fifth Floor

  • Get a preview of Dallas Young Makers
  • 3D printing at work with PolyPrinter
  • Go STEM with We Teach Science

Sixth Floor

  • See some 3D printing with Dallas Makerspace
  • Make a seed bomb or do paper crafts
  • Make cat toys with the SPCA of Texas

Eighth Floor

  • Make your family crest
  • Make enrichment for animals with the Dallas Zoo
  • Explore electronics and robotics with the Perot Museum

Discovery Faire is open to the public. Parking and admission are free.

Dallas City of Learning, which aims to beat the opportunity gap that disproportionately affects under-resourced children in Dallas, is a true public-private citywide commitment convened by both the City of Dallas and Dallas ISD and managed by Big Thought. DCoL is supported by a large network of organizations such as museums, libraries, parks, rec centers and neighborhood organizations. Our goal is to spark imaginations while reversing cumulative learning loss.

Big Thought thanks its DCoL donors for their generous support. For a full list of donors, please visit bigthought.org/dallascityoflearning.

 

Big ThoughtDiscovery Faire Kicks Off Dallas City of Learning Turn Up! Events
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A 25-Year Milestone: Gigi Antoni and Sally Hartman Celebrate Big Thought

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Anniversaries make for great parties. Yes, they certainly rejoice the togetherness of the people celebrating the milestone. But they also create a seamless sense of family. Anniversary parties bring out familiar faces from the past, mingle with the present, and extend open arms toward the future.

We at Big Thought recently feted two very important women to the past, present and future of this organization – Gigi Antoni and Sally Hartman. Antoni, our Big Thought President and CEO, and Hartman, our Board Administrator, celebrated 25 years of service during a lively and well-attended gathering Thursday, June 2, 2016 at the Big Thought headquarters.

The occasion brought out 76 guests, including past board members and former staffers, as well as the honorees themselves, of course. We also had the privilege of seeing Mitch Jericho, 94 years young. Jericho co-founded Young Audiences of North Texas in 1987, which became Big Thought in 2004. She also hired Antoni back in 1991. Her presence was inspirational.

So was recounting the many ways that Antoni and Hartman brought Big Thought into the present, making it one of the most recognized and respected educational nonprofit organizations in the country.

“That dynamic duo worked so well and launched this new era of Big Thought that we have today,” said Melissa McNeil, event co-chair, during a presentation.

Larry Whitt, also an event co-chair, referred to Hartman and Antoni as Academy Award winners. He named Hartman best supporting actress and Antoni best director. By the time Antoni and Hartman got up to speak, emotions were jubilant.

“As I said on my 15th anniversary, I have no plans to retire,” said Hartman, who has endured cancer and deaths of loved ones while at Big Thought. “Big Thought has supported me like a true family. I told Gigi one time that I’m going to be the first 90-year-old Big Thought receptionist. She rolled her eyes and said, ‘Oh good.’”

Antoni immediately thanked everybody in the room, and offered heartfelt words about Big Thought’s lasting impact. “You were the people that helped me find my way in the world and the mission for my life,” said Antoni. “I am surrounded every day by like minded people with such passion. That is a tremendous honor.”

See below for a comprehensive list of the guests at the 25th anniversary celebration of Big Thought’s Gigi Antoni and Sally Hartman. 

Guests of Honor: Gigi Antoni and Sally Hartman. 

Special Guest: Mitch Jericho, co-founder of Young Audiences of North Texas and Big Thought Board Alum. 

Event Co-Chairs: Melissa McNeil and Larry Whitt.

Event Team: Jessica Malek, Kathy Everitt, Laurel Hoitsma, and Anne Leary. 

Big Thought Board Members: Bill Albers, Eric Brewer, Jennifer Chandler, Catherine Corrigan, Shaun Dowling, Steven Gendler, Randee Paur Hefflefinger, Irene Hosford, Jeanette Johnson, Pat Porter, Ketric Sanford, Ginger Sager, and Bill Siegel. 

Big Thought Board Alumni: Maura Wright Conley, Emily Corrigan (with husband David R. Corrigan), Phil Dettle, Ruben Esquivel, Jeanne Fagadau, Paul Leslie, Michael Meadows, Harold Montgomery, Barbara Nichols, Sonya Odell, Connie Petticrew, Tracey Roach, Martha Smither, Norma Stone (with husband Don Stone), Saul Torres, and Jim Welch.

Big Thought Staff: James Adams, LeAnn Binford, Mary Hernandez, Pholesha Johnson, Linda Matthews, Greg McPherson, Erin Offord, Laura Orange, Dolores Raivzee-Bell, Lisa Schmidt, Jose Sosa, Aleta Stampley, Mario Tarradell, Karim Virani,

Big Thought Former Staffers: Patti Edwards, Abbie Kopf, LeeAnn Le Goff, Daniel Morgan, Brenda Snitzer, Jennifer Torres, Susan Underwood, and Nancy Webb.

Guests of Gigi Antoni: Dana Mullen and Analise Mullen.

Guests of Sally Hartman: Molly Behannon, Teresa Daniels, Melissa Couture, Melinda Eitzen, Matthew Eitzen, Cindy Funderburgh, David Funderburgh, Max Hartman, Pat Kelly, Chris Kelly, Terry King, Cora Mason, and Harry Mason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big ThoughtA 25-Year Milestone: Gigi Antoni and Sally Hartman Celebrate Big Thought
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Big Night Fundraiser Attracts Staubachs, Guests and Feathered Friends

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

How would you plan a big night? Would it include gourmet Tapas with craft beer and wine? How about music – maybe a live band? You must have a S’mores bar outside complete with marshmallow roasting fire pit. What about a bird show?

That was Big Thought Big Night at Trinity River Audubon Center. Our version of a big night highlighted Marianne and Roger Staubach, 250 guests, and four feathered friends.

Big Thought’s inaugural Big Night raised $126,535 to help close the educational opportunity gap for under-resourced children in Dallas. The casual-attired event, with TRAC’s 120-acre nature preserve as a backdrop, featured live music by Paradise In the Sun, a stocked bar loaded with craft beer and wine, delish finger foods that tasted as good as it looked, a S’mores bar overlooking the beautifully tranquil landscape.

Guests included Marianne and Roger Staubach, the evening’s Honorary Chairs; Melora and Bill Leiser, the Event Chairs; Big Thought President and CEO Gigi Antoni and her husband Dana Mullen. Also in attendance were Big Night Co-Chairs Alison and DeWitt Corrigan, Trish Parks, Giles Davidson, Emeka Anyanwu, and Irene Hosford.

We had many Big Thought Board Members in attendance including: Bill Albers, Phylecia Bare, Eric Brewer, Jennifer Chandler, Shaun Dowling, Melissa McNeil, Jeanette Johnson, Rina Parikh, Dan Patino, Pat Porter, Carol Riddick, Byron Sanders, Ketric Sanford, Kay McCallum, Terri and Steve Simoni, Joe Stout, Holly Tucker, and Larry Whitt.

Other notable attendees: Emily and David Corrigan, Maggie Corrigan, Haily Summerford, and many others.

The Window to the Wild bird show was certainly the hit of the evening. Window to the Wild co-founders Lindsey and Simon McNeny introduced us to four fine-feathered friends – a great horned owl, a black vulture, a Harris hawk and a screech owl. They flew for treats, perched on pedestals, and even landed atop one guest wearing a towering hat resembling a tree stump.

“Big Night was so wonderful,” said Melora Leiser, Big Night Chair and Big Thought Board Member. “Many people told me that they had a magical time. Roger and Marianne both said they hadn’t had that much fun at a fundraiser in a long time!”

The evening also included dancing, mingling, an Owl Prowl nighttime stroll, raffle giveaways, a student art exhibit themed to Where the Wild Things Are, naturally, and an inspirational call-and-repeat from DaVerse Lounge mentor Alejandro Pérez Jr.

“We all had a wonderful time on Friday at Big Thought Big Night,” said Deniz Usbug, Marketing Manager, IPS Advisors.

“Thank you again for the opportunity to learn more about Big Thought. The Big Thought team did a great job and every last detail was so well attended to from the food to the music.”

We would like to express deep gratitude to our sponsors Kroger, QuikTrip, Capital One, IPS Advisors, and Independent Bank for their generous support.

 

 

Big ThoughtBig Night Fundraiser Attracts Staubachs, Guests and Feathered Friends
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Dallas Fed Forum Banks on Education

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

The truth about education and the economy is direct, piercing – one dramatically influences the other.

To further drive home the point, there’s this: Educational achievement strongly predicts economic growth throughout the United States. Lack of education is highly correlated with unemployment and poverty.

Those are sobering facts when you consider that by the year 2020, 64 percent of jobs in the US will require education beyond high school, and 35 percent will require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Yet in Dallas only 13 percent of high school students graduate with the readiness to succeed in a post-secondary educational environment. This issue is essential to the economic condition and the welfare of our city and state.

But there is hope. And where there is hope, there is opportunity.

An auditorium filled with business, community and civic leaders who want to make a difference were moved by two hours of anecdotes, problems and proposed solutions during the “Educational Attainment: A Pathway to Prosperity” forum Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Speakers painted a passionate picture that helped to humanize the numbers and offered concrete, feasible answers. The call-to-action tone of the event was clearly set by a welcome from Alfreda B. Norman, Senior Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and an inspiring address by Rob Kaplan, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Guest speakers and presenters included Florence Shapiro, Board of Trustees, Communities Foundation of Texas; Ann Stern, President, Houston Endowment; Gigi Antoni, President and CEO, Big Thought; Todd Williams, Executive Director, The Commit! Partnership; and Gerald Chertavian, Founder and CEO, Year Up.

Opportunity quickly became the morning’s buzzword. Antoni talked about the opportunity gap that unsteadies the educational playing field. Children living in poverty are affected by the opportunity gap almost three times as much as kids living in better resourced environments.

Chertavian, whose Year Up will expand to Dallas this fall, delivered this potent sentence: “Talent is distributed everywhere, but opportunity is not.” Year Up is all about a new opportunity. The organization takes young adults, think 18-24, who are disconnected, under-educated, and chronically under-employed but are seeking a chance to change.

Year Up works with these young adults, and in one year’s time they are equipped with the marketable skills and support that makes them ready for a professional job. Year Up partners with leading US employers that need the very talent they are grooming for success.

Shapiro emphasized the burgeoning Early College High School concept in Texas (108 campuses so far), while Stern touted the EMERGE-HISD program that prepares talented Houston ISD students from under-served communities to attend and graduate from top colleges and universities. EMERGE has an 80 percent success rate.

Antoni offered innovative opportunities for children to experience the benefits of summer learning. She focused on Dallas City of Learning and its work with LRNG, the national endeavor to close the opportunity gap by transforming how young people access and experience learning.

In its pilot summer of 2014, 45 percent of the students participating in Dallas City of Learning were economically disadvantaged. In summer 2015, that number jumped to 70 percent. Through local program partners and online experiences, students can tap into new interests, develop new skills and explore and expand existing interests.

Dallas City of Learning is an initiative that is a true public-private citywide commitment convened by both the City of Dallas and Dallas ISD, managed by Big Thought, and supported by a large network of organizations such as museums, libraries, parks, rec centers and neighborhood organizations. Big Thought sincerely thanks its DCOL donors for generous support.

Opportunity kept spirits high at the forum. Where there is opportunity, there is triumph. Investing in the opportunities that advance educational attainment for young people is putting money into our future. That’s always hopeful.

 

 

 

Big ThoughtDallas Fed Forum Banks on Education
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