Meet Chris: Youth Development Correspondent

We are excited to introduce a new series on the Big Thought blog from the perspective of an alumnus from our youth development programs. Chris has been participating in Creative Solutions for several years, helped create a new online platform for youth voice called We the Person, served as an AmeriCorps intern during the summer, and was part of the inaugural Artivism performing arts show this past year. Stay tuned for more of his articles in the future, and get to know him better in this first post…

I’ve been an artist since I was born. I was always that kid in elementary school off to the side drawing something instead of doing my work. I started sketching higher quality art when I moved on to the 6th grade and also started doing origami and selling it for some change.

For me, drawing was never enough. My performing potential first started to show at the age of 13. Of course, I was standoffish and reserved in the beginning of my creative lifestyle, but that went away over the course of a year or so thanks to the collective acceptance and support from the audience.

My first on-stage experience was at Southern Methodist University during the summer which paved the road to at least 10 more stage performances. Once you set foot on stage, you become the center of attention. What we do with that attention defines who we are.

Chris MoralesMeet Chris: Youth Development Correspondent
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How to Create a Facebook Fundraiser for Big Thought

Did you know you can create a fundraiser for Big Thought on Facebook? Follow these steps to help share Big Thought’s mission and raise funds for our work:

Click Fundraisers in the left menu of your News Feed

Click “Raise Money” and Select “Get Started”

Select Nonprofit/Charity

Search for/select “Big Thought”

Choose a cover photo

Upload one of your favorite Big Thought photos as the cover of your fundraiser. Click a photo below to save:

Fill in the fundraiser details

Why are you raising money?

Share a personal story or describe why you are supporting Big Thought.

Here’s a template to get you started:

Big Thought believes the key to unleashing the potential of every child is putting imagination at the heart of education. Big Thought’s accessible educational programs ignite the imagination and engage the whole child while reinforcing core academic curricula and developing social, emotional, and 21st-Century skills.

Big Thought strives to deliver best-in-class creative learning experiences across all of its provided programs by designing powerful educational opportunities that effectively boost student engagement, empower youth voice, improve social and emotional skills, and reduce summer learning loss. Please consider making a donation to help Big Thought close the opportunity gap – one child at a time.

Click Create

Invite friends to donate

Share the fundraiser on your personal Facebook page

Stephanie DrenkaHow to Create a Facebook Fundraiser for Big Thought
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Celebrate Lights On Afterschool During the Week of October 26, 2017

Launched in October 2000 by the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On Afterschool is the only nationwide event with a special focus on afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families and the neighborhoods where we serve.

Big Thought Thriving Minds After-School (TMAS) Program helps support students by:

  • Offering opportunities to learn new things in music, art, science, reading, technology and theater
  • Developing creative play for experimentation and development of new skills, the practice of social and emotional learning
  • Energizing and helping to develop a sense of self with confidence and agency
  • Creating safe spaces to enjoy a healthy snack, be with other children and to complete any homework
  • Scheduling special artistic performances

The following campuses will join thousands of other organizations in the success of children in quality after-school programming:

Daniel Webster Elementary School
Date: October 27, 2017
Who: TMAS will participate in a special Daniel Webster’s Fall Carnival where healthy snacks will be distributed and shared at the TMAS booth. Slappys and Mondays will provide performances during this special fall carnival time.

Nathan Adams Elementary School
Date: October 26, 2017
Who: TMAS students will bring thrills in a very special showcase of song and music. Parents will also enjoy a number of solos as well as a grand finale with all the children involved. Afterwards UTD Center of Engineering and Computer Science will conduct a mini class on Scratch and with the families.

Lorenzo de Zavala Elementary School – Abuela’s table.
Date: October 26, 2017
Who: The TMAS students and their families will be posing for a special family picture and will participate in a night of storytelling, food connections and literacy addressing the community issue of food deserts through sugar art and community facilitation.

Martha Reilly Elementary School
Date: October 26, 2017
Who: Students and families will enjoy being “Chefs with Pizzazz” making miniature pizza together during afterschool.

Stephanie DrenkaCelebrate Lights On Afterschool During the Week of October 26, 2017
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Big Thought and Dallas Independent School District to Receive Wallace Foundation Grant to Foster Children’s Social and Emotional Learning

Big Thought and Dallas ISD will be part of a national effort to help children in six communities gain greater opportunities for social and emotional learning and to understand how schools and out-of-school-time providers can work together to align and improve those opportunities

DALLAS, Texas – (July 24, 2017) – The Dallas Independent School District will share a four-year grant with Big Thought an educational nonprofit that coordinates out-of-school-time creative learning programs for Dallas students. Through the four-year Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, they will focus on implementing social and emotional learning (SEL) during in-school and out-of-school-time, helping children in Dallas develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to be successful in school, work and life. SEL includes knowing and controlling your emotions, understanding and collaborating with others, making positive choices, and demonstrating resiliency.

The initiative supports school districts and out-of-school-time organizations in six communities around the country that have previously decided to include social and emotional learning in their services to children. Programs will be provided to roughly 15,000 children in kindergarten through fifth grade through a phased approach involving up to seven pilot schools in each city.

At the same time, RAND Corporation will conduct independent research on the effort to understand benefits for children – and what it takes to generate them – as well as barriers in the way. This reflects Wallace’s dual goals of creating direct benefits for participating communities and generating credible lessons for the field that can improve the practice broadly.

Last fall, The Wallace Foundation awarded Big Thought and Dallas ISD with a joint planning grant to develop a strategic plan for implementing social and emotional learning both in-school and out-of-school. Dallas ISD and Big Thought were one of nine school district and out-of-school-time partner pairs nationwide that received a planning grant.

“We have been pleased with the collaboration and thoughtfulness that Dallas ISD and Big Thought have shown during the planning phase, as well as with the city’s overall commitment to social and emotional learning,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “We look forward to working with Dallas and the other communities in the initiative to learn more about the potential benefits of how schools and out-of-school-time providers can work together to help children build these skills.”

Joining Big Thought and Dallas ISD in this initiative is Dallas Afterschool. As a valued partner and key out-of-school-time intermediary, Dallas Afterschool has played a big role in supporting the development of the SEL strategic plan, and will continue to play an integral part in the implementation of this work moving forward. The Momentous Institute, City of Dallas Parks and Recreation, Commit and many other organizations have also supported the development of the SEL strategic plan for Dallas and will be involved in the implementation.

“Social and emotional learning makes a great impact on students’ academic achievement,” said Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. “We are appreciative of the Wallace Foundation for their belief in the district’s mission of educating all students for success and are excited to continue partnering with Big Thought to help students develop skills needed to be successful in school, work, and life.”

“Big Thought is pleased to be receiving this grant along with our valued partner Dallas ISD, on behalf of the entire Dallas out-of-school-time learning community,” said Ed Meier, Big Thought Interim Executive Director. “We believe that social and emotional learning is a vital component of a student’s success, and we are looking forward to working with Dallas ISD and The Wallace Foundation to support this important initiative.”

Implementation grants for the initiative, which amount in the first year to between $1 million and $1.5 million shared by each district/out-of-school-time intermediary pair, are contingent on the successful negotiation of grant agreements this summer. In addition, participating organizations will also receive other non-monetary support, such as inclusion in a professional learning community, regular convenings with other cities in the initiative, access to a continuous improvement system, communications counsel and other technical assistance.

About Dallas Independent School District
The Dallas Independent School District is continually preparing its more than 158,000 students for college or a career. The district offers a competitive mix of innovative programs, choice programs and instructional initiatives that support the increased academic achievement and socio-emotional development of its students. To learn more, visit

About Big Thought
Big Thought is an education nonprofit that works with partners across the city to ensure all Dallas students have access to high-quality learning opportunities that promote creativity and social and emotional learning to better prepare kids for success in work and life. Learn more at

Media Contact for Big Thought
Linda Graham
The Power Group
[email protected]

Media Contact for Dallas ISD
Robyn Harris
Dallas ISD
[email protected]

Catherine NodurftBig Thought and Dallas Independent School District to Receive Wallace Foundation Grant to Foster Children’s Social and Emotional Learning
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How to Support Big Thought with AmazonSmile

AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon that mirrors The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice, like Big Thought (hint hint).

Every item available for purchase on is also available on AmazonSmile ( at the same price. Eligible products will be marked as “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages. Ready to shop? Follow the instructions below and happy shopping!

Step 1) Visit and sign in

Step 2) Search and Select Big Thought as your charity of choice

After you’ve signed into AmazonSmile, you’ll be prompted to search for a charity. Type in “Big Thought”

Step 3) Start Shopping!

Bookmark and use this link every time you make a purchase from Amazon. After you’ve selected a charity, the functionality will be the same, but now Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchases to Big Thought!

Step 4) Sharing is Caring

Connect your social networks (Facebook and Twitter) so you can share with your friends!

Stephanie DrenkaHow to Support Big Thought with AmazonSmile
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Dallas City of Learning: Neighborhood Resource Initiative

The Neighborhood Resource Initiative (NRI) offers partner organizations the opportunity to submit a proposal to receive resources to enhance existing or new summer programming to be connected with Dallas City of Learning during the summer. Resources include but are not limited to: Financial, Curriculum, Transportation, Professional Development and Facilities. Proposals were reviewed and scored on a rolling basis by an outside Advisory Committee.

We asked that proposals address these three main components:
1) target one or more of the Neighborhood Plus, Neighbor Up or Grow South areas,
2) incorporate social-emotional learning
3) help students access high-quality experiences.

Big Thought was proud to convene our Summer 2017 NRI grant recipients for an orientation last week at Dallas Contemporary.

As a mindfulness exercise, we asked our partners to tell us what brings them to this work. Here are some of the things they had to say!

  • Knowing that I have changed many people’s lives for the better
  • Ability to affect a change in the children and their families’ lives in a meaningful way
  • I do what I do to give back and expose people to opportunities they may not normally see
  • A higher calling/purpose
  • Serving the students in the community and seeing lives changed in a positive manner
  • Jesus, Family, Children
  • Passion. Way of giving back to my community and being a positive influence
  • Make our community better! To be the solution and not the problem!
  • I am here to share my talents and gifts with others. I want to make the economic playing field fair by making my students become bilingual or trilingual
  • To inspire, to advocate, to education, to challenge myself & others
  • The look in the children’s eyes when they realize they have learned something new!
  • Desire to share God’s love with youth and families providing access to services, education, and support in various areas of need
  • Legacy responsibility/Knowledge of self & history
  • Knowing kids have potential that is lost because they don’t have the connections or resources to be the greatness that is within them
  • Passionate about the art form of jazz and trying to keep alive with the youth of today
  • The love and respect of young people
  • Impact youth + staff that work for me
  • My childhood upbringing
  • To impact the lives of young students + parents, introduce to technology industry and STEM
  • The need to help people. The gifts I have to help them
  • I enjoy the gift & reward of positively impacting someone else’s life
  • To put Christian values into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all
  • This is my life’s work. I believe art can change lives and make the world better
  • My momma brought me to this work – to treat others with love + kindness, to engage with others in service + joy, to embrace others in pain + give them hope
  • To spread awareness of issues beyond our narrow sphere – to call people to action & empower them to make a difference
  • Love for learning and sharing of knowledge
  • Being able to show kids a greater educational opportunity
  • Community Sustainability
  • Because I have a passion and purpose to help children discover their “best self”

We are so excited for this summer and to be a part of the amazing work that will be happening in our own city of learning!

Stephanie DrenkaDallas City of Learning: Neighborhood Resource Initiative
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Things to Do with Your Kids During the Summer

Summer is an exciting time filled with fun and exploration! It can also be a time for children to learn a new skill, improve their reading ability or explore the arts. At the Dallas ISD and Dallas City of Learning “Discover Summer” Resource Fair last Saturday, families from all across Dallas discovered hundreds of free and fun summer activities in the city for children of all ages. We asked parents and caregivers to share their advice about things to do with kids during the summer to keep them engaged, learning, and having fun! Here are more than 100 of the tips we collected:

1. Give each child one on one time Go to the park, bowling, watch movies, play sports
2. Make kids busy in learning new things
3. Darles ánimo para fuerce a explorar en algo campamento que nos ofrece el estado de Dallas y asistir
4. En las vacaciones de verano repasamos las tareas de las escuelas y después de completar vamos al parque
5. Take kids to summer camp and have children read books over the break
6. Tomar tiempo para hablar con ellos siempre que podemos
7. Read all the time. Turn off TV and the internet
8. Deporte, ciencia, lectura
9. No cable. Go to the library every Sunday to read!
10. Keep them busy in different activities
11. Lectura, baile
12. Jugar con ellos sentarse en la mesa a comer, platicar de nuestros metas
13. Keep them entertain all summer
14. Mantener mucha disciplina en hacer que aprenden los niños
15. Ejercicio
16. For dance and some music .Listen to your kids
17. Be a good example! Read everyday
18. Keep them and listen
19. Go out and keep them active Read more, more fun activities
20. STEM program
21. Reading. Spending time together. Have fun
22. Trabajos manuales. Leer libros
23. Que apoyan a sus hijos con la lectura es muy importante.
24. Exercise. Stay cool.
25. Buscar actividades de calidad No estar en la casa viendo TV o en el teléfono celular
26. Spend time talking with your child Understand their needs and wants
27. Let kids be kids
28. Each child is an individual and should be treated and respected as such
29. Read and Play “every day for 30 minutes”
30. Pasar tiempo con ellos para jugar, leer, pasar caminar en el parque and hacer trabajos en casa
31. Make learning FUN.
32. Que practiquen más deportes y coman saludables
33. Compartir tiempo de calidad
34. Ensenar a cultivar plantas
35. No dejar que los niños se queden todo el día viendo tele. Busquen actividades para enriquecer sus habilidades.
36. Teach them to have the correct attitude towards learning, teachers and school
37. Parents spend time with kids – water park, zoo, science fair
38. Ayudaremos a nuestros hijos a permanecer en el estudio, enfocarse en cosas positivas, estar activos en deportes. Ya que los mantiene enfocados para no tener tiempo en cosas negativas. Dios los bendiga
39. Motivar a nuestros hijos
40. Read
41. Have fun. Read a lot.
42. They should be responsible, cleaning, learning to cook, learning to draw, reading, writing, play different games, Julie
43. La comunicación es muy importante entre padres y hijos
44. Cuidarlos, quererlos, enjoy every momento with them during the summer
45. Read, Relax. Premade meals and snacks Rhoades Elementary
46. Keep child engaged in activities academic and extracurricular
47. Lo más importante es que ellos tengan actividades con otros niños, actividades variedad que no estén encerrados.
48. Dedicar tiempo a los hijos. Jugar con ellos y escucharles – muy importante
49. Visit public libraries where they offer fun free activities by Gabriela
50. Podrían poner clases para ensenar a nadar a los niños
51. Soy abuela y les quiero decir que cuiden de sus hijos e hijas. Son tesoros especial, ámalos Monica
52. Compartir más tiempo con ellos y hacer actividades juntos
53. Have fun, stay active
54. Hay unas escuelas que tienen parques para los niño y no estén encerrados en sus casa
55. Picnics swimming camping walking the dog in the morning
56. Darles el tiempo para jugar y ayudarles en sus tareas
57. Que participan más los papas con los hijos. Que sigan apoyarlos. Ángela
58. Continúa con lo que han aprendido durante el año. Drill with your babies every day for at least 20 minutes William and Alicia
59. Reading, Outside play
60. Advice Play with your kids outside
61. Pasar tiempo en actividades al aire libre sin tanta tecnología y jugar como lo haría en sus niñez
62. Pasar tiempo de calidad con nosotros Hijos son los más importante para nosotros
63. Darles un buen ejemplo Somos un espejo
64. Interact, communicate, stay active
65. Mantenerse activos y menos televisión
66. Visit the library Perot Museum Local camps waterparks or splash pools
67. Keep them active play outside and do homework
68. Take kids to library
69. Animarlos a seguir estudiando durante el verano y buscar campamentos para ellos. Leer.
70. Feed them healthy meals
71. Enjoy the time with your children. Make memories
72. Keep active and involved Also reading continuously
73. Read! Read! Read!
74. Hacer actividades al aire libre
75. Take your kids to campinvention
76. To be healthy. Be creative
77. Actividades físicas Actividades académicas Visita la biblioteca
78. Go on vacation
79. Read
80. Keep them active and safe, have fun, cherish moments that we share
81. Leer , jugar, ir al parque
82. Keep them active
83. Entretenerse sanamente y con vivir con los hijos
84. What we need to with children during the summer is keep them active, motivated and strengthening in every area
85. Find a great camp, use Khan academy, go camping
86. Con vivir con la familia y hijos
87. Enjoy every time with your kids. Have fun.
88. Keep them active and motivated at all times (Smiling Face)
89. Enroll into summer camps reading programs be active in everything they do.
90. Listen to your kids
91. Make children responsible for their actions
92. The advice I give is spend lots of quality time and love them and of course read to them Edith Lopez
93. Listen to you children Keep them active
94. Educate them teach them about caring sharing, bullying Have lots of fun Angela
95. Read every night to and with your child
96. Keep the kids busy
97. Listen to you kids
98. Work life balance Kid development society contribution
99. De dejar de practicar la lectura durante el verano
100. Help your child to read more books and more books
101. Keep them reading EVERDAY!
102. Get your children out of the house and moving
103. Play outside
104. Que se mantengan ocupados en una actividad o deporte
105. Que los niños lean todos los días aunque estén en vacaciones
106. Ensenarlos a respectar a todos los niños
107. Mi mejor consejo es estar al lado de nuestros hijos y brindar el apoyo que necesitan
108. Ensenarle y que no pierden lo que aprendan
109. Biblioteca, leer juntos para ayudar en el aprendizaje
110. Always make time for the kids
111. Be productive and persistent
112. Working on drawing skills
113. Tiempo de calidad con los hijos, escucharlos
114. La televisión no protege y no educa
115. Disfrutar can los hijos cada día.

To discover more fun and free or low-cost summer activities in your neighborhood, visit and start exploring!

Stephanie DrenkaThings to Do with Your Kids During the Summer
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Big Thought Selected by Dallas ISD as Recipient of 2017 Jeanne Fagadau Leading the Charge Award

Education nonprofit Big Thought today announced that it has been selected as a recipient of the Jeanne Fagadau Leading the Charge Award for outstanding support of Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD). This award recognizes organizations or individuals who have been great advocates for Dallas schools and who have expanded and enriched the relationship with the school district.

Additionally, Kristina Dove, senior program manager for partner relations at Big Thought, was nominated for a Partner of the Year award from Dallas ISD this year.

“Big Thought has been a valued partner and collaborator with Dallas ISD for nearly 30 years,” said Tracie Washington, principal at Dallas ISD’s Billy Earl Dade Middle School. “We are delighted to recognize Big Thought’s contributions through its excellent work in coordinating after-school and summer learning programs that add to the education and enrichment of Dallas students.”

The award was presented during the Dallas ISD April 27 board meeting. This year’s award was named in honor of the late Jeanne Fagadau, who was an education visionary and served as president of the National Council of Jewish Women Greater Dallas Section. Ms. Fagadau supported the formation of the School Volunteer Program, an organization that connects volunteers with Dallas schools’ teachers, and she served as the Dallas ISD Volunteer Coordinator from 1970-1980.

“Big Thought is honored to receive this recognition from our long-time partner, Dallas ISD,” said Kristina Dove, senior program manager, partner relations, for Big Thought. “We’ve worked side-by-side with Dallas ISD and the city of Dallas to offer the Dallas City of Learning summer program, and through this program we’ve served more than 50,000 students in the last three years. We look forward to many more years of working together.”

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.

Stephanie DrenkaBig Thought Selected by Dallas ISD as Recipient of 2017 Jeanne Fagadau Leading the Charge Award
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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 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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