Summer Camp

Dallas City of Learning Partners: Frazier Revitalization

Established: 2005 in Dallas, as an independent 501(c)3 organization. 

About: To revitalize is to improve from the inside out. So Frazier Revitalization recognizes that all-encompassing improvements do include acquisition and development of real estate, but also planning and building activities that address social equity and environmental conservation. Frazier works closely with neighborhood leaders and associations, crime watch groups, the police department, neighborhood schools, non-profit development corporations and faith based organizations to share resources, to cooperate and coordinate at every level. The Frazier goals: renewed civic engagement, improved educational opportunities, family health and social well-being, law enforcement and crime prevention programs, economic development and job creation. 

Why is summer learning so important?

“Summer learning is so important because it helps to keep our kids focused on education,” says Tabatha Allen, Frazier Revitalization Office Manager. “Without summer learning opportunities, kids would return to school behind or lacking the knowledge needed to face new challenges and objectives at the next grade level. In addition to academic enrichment, summer learning provides continued structure for youth who would otherwise have nothing to do during the summer and it helps to remind kids that learning never stops. Access to quality summer learning programs provides an opportunity for kids to interact with people outside of their neighborhoods. I like to think of summer learning as a vehicle of exposure to people, places, and possibilities that otherwise
would not be available to the kids and families we serve.”

Why partner with Dallas City of Learning?

“Partnering with Dallas City of Learning opens up many windows of opportunities for our kids,” says Allen. “In the role of community quarterback, Frazier Revitalization coordinates and guides the activities of residents, service providers, government agencies, businesses, and philanthropists who share a mission of revitalizing neighborhoods. Frazier Revitalization believes in collaboration as the means by which families can access quality out-of-school-time educational opportunities for their children. Our partnership with Dallas City of Learning helps to strengthen relationships and gives kids and their families the tools they need to thrive. “ 

How does your participation in Dallas City of Learning benefit Frazier kids?

“Our participation in Dallas City of Learning is exposing our scholars to engaging robotics programs, radio and TV production, as well as enhancing their reading comprehension skills,” says KD Brown, Program Manager, Frazier Revitalization. “In addition to reducing ‘summer slide,’ the scholars will be able to envision careers that were previously foreign to them. Through our partnership with DCoL, the summer learning program is developing life-long learners.” 

What is your vision and passion for the future of education?

“My vision and passion for the future is a learning environment that not only engages all students in developing academic proficiency to master mathematics and language arts skills assessments, but also encourages them to become creative thinkers; an environment where parents and teachers work together as partners,” says Brown. “Education should focus on differentiated learning that meets each child where they are and takes them on an exciting learning adventure to where they should be.”

— Mario Tarradell

Big ThoughtDallas City of Learning Partners: Frazier Revitalization

Summer Is a Season for Learning, Achieving and Creating

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Summer is abuzz at Big Thought. Yes, the season doesn’t officially begin until June 20 but we are already prepping for the upcoming Dallas ISD Summer Achievers Academy, a core and enrichment 5-week camp that runs June 27 through July 28 at five local elementary schools and three middle schools.

Summer Achievers Academy is also in partnership with Dallas City of Learning, a public-private citywide commitment convened by the City of Dallas, Dallas ISD, and managed by Big Thought. Summer Achievers Academy can earn students several DCoL badges stemming from core academic and enrichment classes.

Thursday afternoon at the Big Thought headquarters bustled to the beat of our 2016 Achievers Academy Summer Camp trainings. Our creative learning experts coached Big Thought teaching artists, Dallas ISD instructors and teachers, and teaching artists from community partners on social-emotional learning, growth mindset, and collaborative planning.

Social-emotional learning is all about being artistic, taking creative risks, and providing students with the freeing environment to take those risks. Growth mindset is an education philosophy on how to talk to students to encourage them. And what about collaborative planning? Well, it’s a 5-week camp with only 19 days of teaching, so plan, plan, plan. Order your supplies and figure out all of your logistics now.

For the kids, Summer Achievers Academy cranks up four days a week (Monday through Thursday) with core academic classes from 9 am to noon and enrichment classes from 12:30 to 4 pm. Big Thought will be heavily involved in the enrichment portion. The five elementary and three middle schools participating are: Rufus C. Burleson Elementary School, Leonides Gonzalez Cigarroa MD Elementary School, Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center, Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School, Arturo Salazar Elementary School, E.B. Comstock Middle School, Billy Earl Dade Middle School, and Francisco Medrano Middle School.

In the midst of morale boosting cheers and creative thinking activities, the Dallas ISD media team filmed part of the day’s activities to use in their This Week in Dallas ISD section of The Hub, the Dallas ISD blog. Tiffanie Blackmon Jones, with Dallas ISD Internal Communications, was on hand to act as on-camera interviewer on important issues such as social-emotional learning, creative learning, and summer learning.

Biola Rotibi, a Dallas ISD music instructor and principle in Fine Arts Nth organization, will be an instructional partner for Big Thought during Summer Achiever Academy. Rotibi will be guiding, collaborating and evaluating the enrichment classes at Burleson Elementary. He will also be mentoring and cultivating his Fine Arts Nth instructors at other SAA sites.

“The focus of Big Thought is to build relationship skills,” says Rotibi about the ever-important social-emotional learning. “If they have those skills they can coexist within their own community. Then they bring those skills back to school and they build relationships with students to help them excel in their learning.”

Since SAA will be half enrichment, there is dramatic emphasis on creative learning, the ability for kids to take chances, to tap into their curiosity and experience the trial and error that’s a natural part of fearless experimentation. The arts are perfect vehicles for promoting creative learning.

“They can choose their classes or activities,” says Rotibi. “They learn to make better choices because they are practicing decision-making. They are problem solving and that will help with core subjects like math, science, social studies. They are also learning to be creative in the arts and they are becoming individuals.”

Ashli Henderson, a Dallas ISD teacher and Big Thought teaching artist, will be teaching at Billy Earl Dade Middle School during Summer Achievers Academy. She is adamant that children need the benefit of summer learning, those special kernels of knowledge that pop during an environment casually removed from the rigors of the regular school year.

“They learn teamwork,” says Henderson. “They learn to be flexible, open, motivated, all working toward one goal. They work with people they don’t normally get to work with. Ultimately, the summer program gets them motivated to stay in school. It keeps them active and engaged in learning.”

Summer is always energizing. It’s about feeling the buzz of the season. Summer Achievers Academy, Big Thought, Dallas City of Learning and Dallas ISD all have hands on the pulse.

We thank our Dallas City of Learning donors for their generous support. For a list of donors, visit the Dallas City of Learning page.




Big ThoughtSummer Is a Season for Learning, Achieving and Creating

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

Summer Learning Leaves Lasting Impression

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Summer always arrives with palpable anticipation. It’s the season to break free from the regiments, to turn daring and try something new, to explore and embrace a side of you that laid dormant for far too long.

Warm weather, carefree spirits, open minds make the ideal combination perfect for learning.

Last summer approximately 35,000 students participated in programs and events that were part of Dallas City of Learning, the Big Thought-managed initiative that ensures all students have access to summer learning opportunities. That included 285,000 student-learning hours and 38,000 digital badges.

This summer the goal is even loftier. With the support of the national LRNG endeavor, we aim to reach 60,000 youth, partner with 210 local organizations, and offer more than 50 pop-up events ripe for learning and badging.

But in order to project the future we need to take stock of the past. We look back to move forward. So let’s shine a spotlight on last summer’s Geek Squad Academy, a most successful turn-up event brought free to kids thanks to Best Buy and Dallas City of Learning.

Geek Squad Academy drew 250 students to Friendship West Baptist Church in Southern Dallas on July 16 and 17. More than six months later, two of those kids are still full of excitement and enthusiasm about what they learned.

Michael, 10, and Zuri, 9, still vividly remember diving into the variety of activities, especially robotics, digital music, 3D printing, video production, circuitry and coding with Legos.

Zuri wants to be an engineer when he grows up, so he immediately connected to his dream career when learning the programming ins and outs of modern technology.

“I think it would be very, very fun if I kept on doing it because it taught me how to program stuff like an engineer,” he says. “And if it’s not perfect you have to try again to make it perfect, because if something goes wrong it can really go wrong.”

Michael was taken by the 3D printing. He designed a house. But not only that, Michael made the real-life career connection to realtors trying to sell you a house.

“I realized how they did it and now I understand that,” he says. “I learned how to design my own house. It was cool, too. It had a garage and everything.”

Then there are the interpersonal relationships, the social and emotional learning aspects of a two-day camp. Michael says he made a lot of new friends there; while Zuri felt the interaction with the teachers, particularly during the circuitry sessions. He worked with teachers as partners to transfer energy.

“It’s like wires when they touch to make a circuit,” Zuri says. “Your hands are like wires. If they don’t touch, it’s not a complete circuit.”

And yet, perhaps the most important lasting impression from the Geek Squad Academy camp is leadership. Kids were given projects to manage and complete.

“When we are doing group projects in school,” Michael says, “I think about the way I did it at Geek Squad Academy and I do it the same way.”

There you have it. Summer let Michael and Zuri stretch the boundaries of their knowledge, of their ability and motivation to learn. Summer gave them impactful learning. This is learning they will never forget.

Big Thought extends sincere thanks to its corporate, foundation and individual donors supporting Dallas City of Learning. For more information about this program, please visit


Big ThoughtSummer Learning Leaves Lasting Impression

Summer Programs Report Highlights Learning, Enrichment

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

We are proud to present our Big Thought Summer Programs 2015 report, a comprehensive overview of the people, activities and places that made this past sunny season one kids won’t soon forget.

More than 35,000 Dallas ISD students enjoyed learning and enrichment via programming supported or delivered at 83 locations. This includes Thriving Minds Summer Camp, Dallas City of Learning, Creative Solutions, Library Live! and I Love to Read! Venues included the African American Museum, the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, Latino Cultural Center, St. Philip’s School & Community Center, South Dallas Cultural Center, Heart of Oak Cliff at Village Oaks and so many more.

We’re getting ready for another summer of learning fun, which will be even bigger and better. The kids deserve it.

Big ThoughtSummer Programs Report Highlights Learning, Enrichment

Dallas City of Learning, LRNG Platform Debuts Spring 2016

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Dallas City of Learning, managed by Big Thought in partnership with the Dallas Mayor’s office, along with three other Cities of Learning, national education, technology and corporate leaders, merged under the new LRNG initiative. LRNG is a bold new endeavor to close the nation’s opportunity gap – the growing divide between young people who have access to 21st century opportunities and those who don’t. The new platform takes effect in Dallas in Spring 2016.

LRNG has joined forces with Gap Foundation, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Electronic Arts, the Schultz Family Foundation and Grammy Award-winning musical artist John Legend, along with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to launch a movement that combines in-school, out-of-school, employer-based and online learning experiences into a seamless network open to all youth.

Locally, Big Thought thanks the current support of Bank of America, Best Buy, City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, DART, Fossil Foundation, Microsoft, NBC Universal, and other generous sponsors.

“With the support of Cities of LRNG, we’re now part of a national network that channels resources towards local cities, broadening our program offerings for students,” said Gigi Antoni, President and CEO of Big Thought. “Young people will be able to explore even more options, and earn digital badges credentialing their out-of-school learning from across the country.”

LRNG is powered by Collective Shift, a new nonprofit funded in part by the MacArthur Foundation and dedicated to redesigning social systems for the connected age. Collective Shift will scale the work of vanguard cities, including Dallas, and grow the program to 70 cities in three years.

Since 2014, Dallas City of Learning has served 34,743 students via 1,753 programs encompassing 285,140 hours of student learning while earning digital badges for exemplary work in science, art, computer literacy, design and many more. Since the DCoL launch, 37,727 digital badges were earned.

“Dallas City of Learning, now Dallas LRNG, will continue to give youth the opportunity to learn in potent, pertinent and stimulating ways,” says Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “By tapping into a variety of strong resources throughout the city – parents, schools, cultural institutions and corporations – we can broaden the reach of top-notch education programming allowing every young person to keep learning.”

Cities of LRNG will build on the success of a three-year demonstration project in Dallas, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. that served more than 100,000 youth during recent summer programming.

Cities of LRNG will network the rich learning opportunities available at schools, creative camps and classes, science museums, and workplace internships and link them to the larger LRNG ecosystem. LRNG will fulfill the promise of learning in the connected age, making in-person and online experiences visible, available and inviting to all youth.

For more information about LRNG, visit

Big ThoughtDallas City of Learning, LRNG Platform Debuts Spring 2016