Thriving Minds

#ThisIsBigThought – Meet Kiara

No comments

By, Carson Bolding

Kiara Dismuke has been at Big Thought for just over a year. Starting as a Project Manager for Dallas City of Learning last May and then a Program Manager for Thriving Minds After School, she now works as the Manager of Talent and Recruitment.

Kiara points to the opportunities she’s had to grow and learn as one of her favorite parts of working for Big Thought. “I’m all about growth,” she explained. “I believe the sky is the limit, and I like working for an organization that believes that too.”

In her current role, she’s in charge of recruiting new talent into the organization, and she’s leading the effort to collaborate with local colleges and universities to provide students with work-study opportunities at Big Thought. These opportunities will primarily be as site guides for Thriving Minds After School. Since 2011, Thriving Minds has been working to “strategically connect partners and resources across the city to address the specific educational needs of students and families.” The program continues to grow each year, with each program site tailored to the community to provide invaluable out-of-school enrichment to students.  

Thriving Minds site guides provide direct assistance to the site coordinators at each school. They learn the ins and outs of the program, so that they can help ensure that things run smoothly and provide a safe, caring and enriching environment for children.

In addition to spearheading the work-study program, Kiara also leads information sessions every first Monday of the month. These sessions provide information about our various initiatives to individuals and organizations that are interested in working with Big Thought. From Dallas City of Learning to Thriving Minds to Creative Solutions, volunteers have plenty of options for where to invest their time and talents. These handy information sessions provide everything you need to make the best choice!

When asked about her absolute favorite part of working for Big Thought, Kiara says it’s “the community-orientedness of it all. Everybody here has a hand in doing great work for the community.”

Apply here to be a part of the great work being done at Big Thought.

 

Big Thought#ThisIsBigThought – Meet Kiara
READ MORE

The Art of Teaching: Meet Donna Carey

Home Base: Dallas

Big Thought History: Carey has been a Big Thought teaching artist since 2010 with the Thriving Minds After School and Summer Camp programs. She’s taught culinary arts, life skills, poetry, visual arts, food photography, performance art and more. Carey coached two America Scores Poetry Slam winning poets during 2014 and 2015, both students from Anson Jones Elementary. The students were awarded a trip to New York to present their poems at a fundraising benefit for America Scores. She also coordinated spring community service projects for America Scores from 2013-2015 benefitting SPCA, American Red Cross with military care packages, and North Texas Food Bank.

Education: Associate in Arts in Culinary Arts from Remington College in Garland.

Teaching Philosophy: “I want to stimulate students’ imaginations and creativity,” Carey says. “If you are strong in imagination and creativity, you are strong in thought, which builds thinking and decision making skills.”

Why Is Big Thought Important? “Big Thought pairs artists with students so that artists can share their knowledge with students that need it. Students can then open up and express themselves. But Big Thought also helps the artists. It helped me. I knew I was a teacher, but Big Thought really helped me become a better teacher. It’s so important to make sure the artists and the students are together because art and creativity are not in schools like they used to be, and kids really need that form of expression.”

Rewards of Teaching Big Thought Students: “Watching the progress of the students, how they build their confidence, express their feelings and opinions, and develop their stage presence,” she says. “You see how they really want to write with enthusiasm and interest they have never had before. The end reward is watching a child get up onstage in front of a group and sharing a piece of themselves that they never thought they could share. They walk on that stage like they own it.”

– Mario Tarradell

Photo: Donna Carey works with a student at Anson Jones Elementary. Photo by Jose Sosa/Big Thought. 

Big ThoughtThe Art of Teaching: Meet Donna Carey
READ MORE

The Art of Teaching: Meet Mark Shelton

Home Base: Lewisville

Teaching Specialty: Percussionist – Marimba, Hammered Dulcimer, Snare Drum, Handpan, Timpani.

Big Thought Teaching History: Mark Shelton has been a Big Thought teaching artist since 1987, when the organization was christened as Young Audiences of North Texas.
He is currently a teaching artist with the Thriving Minds and Learning Partners programs in Dallas ISD.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana; Master of Music (Percussion Performance) from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

Teaching Philosophy: “In my work as a musician I desire that my music entertain, educate and inspire,” Mark says. “I am more interested in promoting creativity than creating great musicians.”

Why is Big Thought important? “Big Thought is an organization that upholds high standards in both artistry and education. My association with Big Thought has given me the opportunity to work with thousands of students.”

Rewards of Teaching Big Thought Students: “It has given me a vehicle to share my skills as a performer and an educator,” he says. “I enjoy it when students connect with me as they experience art. It is rewarding to hear enthusiastic applause from an auditorium full of students or see a smile from a child playing a simple rhythm in a workshop.”

– Mario Tarradell

Photo courtesy of Mark Shelton

Big ThoughtThe Art of Teaching: Meet Mark Shelton
READ MORE

Making Creativity Count: New Year Wishes for Big Thought Kids

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

There’s no stopping the New Year train now. The holidays are rapidly becoming a rear view mirror memory and January 2017 is already cruising along. We have about 360 days to make a mark, to make our imagination and creativity count.

So with that in mind, we at Big Thought are of course thinking of the kids that we serve. We have those young lives foremost in our hearts. Our mission, our programs, our efforts are all about enriching their abilities to learn. We are ramping up our six programs – Creative Solutions, Dallas City of Learning, DaVerse Lounge, Learning Partners, Library Live! and Thriving Minds – for another year of greatness.

Some of our Big Thought staffers got to pondering those opportunities for so many kids in Dallas. They filled in the rest of this sentence:

My New Year wish for our kids is…

…that they find the spark that ignites their passion and the world unfurls its red carpet on their path to pursuing that passion.
Leila Wright, Senior Manager, Programs

…that they regularly experience joy.
Anne Leary, Major Gifts Officer

…to lead extraordinary journeys in life with harmony, hope and love.
Mary Hernandez, Community Engagement Specialist

…that their imagination be sparked so they experience the joys of life-long learning.
LeAnn Binford, Director of Big Thought Institute

…that they will find inspiration and a spark that ignites a passion.
Brandon McKnight, Graphic Designer

…that they never suffer, and live a happy life full of cool adventures, laughter, love and childish play for their rest of their beautiful lives.
Jose Sosa, Communications Manager

…that they feel successful in at least one way, each and every day.
Kristina Dove, Program Manager, Partner Relations

Photo credit: Brandon McKnight/Big Thought

Big ThoughtMaking Creativity Count: New Year Wishes for Big Thought Kids
READ MORE

Big Thought Intern Jesus Cantú is MIT Bound

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

The news is spectacular: Jesus Cantú, a former Thriving Minds student and three-time summer intern at Big Thought, has been accepted into the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He starts classes during the Fall 2017 semester.

Jesus, 17, is a glowing example of the prospering power of exposing kids to creative learning environments. Cantú was born in Laredo and raised in Mexico until his fourth birthday when he came to Dallas. The Oak Cliff resident remembers his involvement in Big Thought’s Thriving Minds program when he was in elementary school, and later summer camps at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and the Latino Cultural Center. It set the stage for his educational trajectory. Come May 2017 he will graduate from Dallas’ magnet campus School of Science and Engineering.

As a Big Thought summer intern in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Jesus was an instrumental force on the ground during the many community events surrounding the Dallas City of Learning initiative. In fact, he was the go-to guy for translations. A huge part of his role was translating English to Spanish – and vice versa – to keep parents and kids abreast of DCoL.

“I felt really good helping out,” says the upcoming Nuclear Science & Engineering MIT freshman. “I saw a lot of kids that were like me when I was their age. My mom didn’t know English that well so it was hard for her to find programs for me. I saw similar kids in similar situations where parents spoke no English.”

That’s a huge soft skill right there. Jesus learned true empathy and resilience. He saw himself in those childhood mirrors. When it came time to craft his MIT admissions package, Jesus was one-up on the game.

“Writing about being a low-income kid able to take courses and attend different camps because of Big Thought,” he said, “and then later being able to help other students get those same educational opportunities was honestly such a huge part of my application.”

During his last two summers with Big Thought, Jesus was part of the Dallas Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program. Nattily attired in a professional suit, Jesus attended the Dallas Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program Luncheon, held Aug. 1, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.

“I want to thank everyone at Big Thought, because without all of the internships you all offered me these past years I couldn’t have made it this far,” he said. “I am grateful for everything throughout these years of growing up in Dallas. Big Thought made this possible for me. I didn’t let any of your efforts go to waste.”

MIT is lucky to have you, Jesus. Big Thought wishes you continued success.

Pictured: Jesus Cantú with Erin Offord, Big Thought Senior Director, Program Implementation. Photo by Mario Tarradell/Big Thought.

 

Big ThoughtBig Thought Intern Jesus Cantú is MIT Bound
READ MORE

Vivacious Thriving Minds Student Is a Bundle of Sunshine

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

That vivacious smile and boundless energy belong to 5-year-old Asiyale Thomas. She’s in kindergarten at Highland Meadows Elementary School. She’s also a Big Thought Thriving Minds After School student, having spent the last month in the program.

Asiyale, a bright, friendly bundle of sunshine, couldn’t wait to answer questions about her time in Thriving Minds where she enjoys outside recess. The swings, the slides, that memorable togetherness with friends fuels her already perky personality. Plus, Asiyale never felt shy or timid when she walked into Thriving Minds.

“I wasn’t afraid,” she says. “I’m brave.”

Mom April Owens knows that the Thriving Minds environment elevates Asiyale’s desire to learn, play and share.

“Anytime she’s around other kids she is really outgoing and confident,” says Owens. “She likes to go home and try to read. She enjoys learning and being a student.”

Big Thought’s 2016-2017 Thriving Minds After School program is in nine DeSoto ISD campuses, four Dallas ISD campuses and three community centers. TMAS provides academic and recreational enrichment for children beyond the normal school day.

For Asiyale, it makes her so elated to try new things. “I’m good at math,” she exclaims. “I’m good at writing words. I can’t wait to go to the first grade.”

Big Thought’s Thriving Minds After School program thanks The Pollock Foundation; Roy & Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust; City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs; Pizza Hut/YUM! Brands; The David M. Crowley Foundation; The Wallace Foundation; Target Corporation; Sid W. Richardson Foundation; Best Buy; AT&T Aspire Mentoring Academy; Sammons Corporation; Theodore and Beulah Beasley Foundation; Rees-Jones Foundation; and The Hillcrest Foundation for their generous support.

Photo by Mario Tarradell/Big Thought

 

 

Big ThoughtVivacious Thriving Minds Student Is a Bundle of Sunshine
READ MORE