Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Crafting

I hosted a Holiday Party for the CalSERVES staff and AmeriCorps leaders.  We focused the party around creating handmade gifts.  It was a fun and economical way to send everyone home with some of their holiday gifting done!

I always worry about our AmeriCorps members at the holidays.  These wonderful people are serving the community, receiving only a living stipend each month that enables them to just get by.  This was a great way to partially address the challenge that can pose during the holiday.

In addition to good food (thank you Emily!), egg nog and cheer, here are the projects we did:

1. Cookies in a Jar.
I offered 5 recipes for guests to choose from, and in all the recipes, dry cookie mix would be layered into 1 quart mason jars.  I had all the basic ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda/powder, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.) and from there guests could make whatever they liked.  I had tags where they could write the recipe and raffia and ribbon to make it pretty.  We made 20 jars!

2.  Cross Stitch Ornaments
Kathy brought ornament patterns and everything else for us to cross-stitch our own ornament.  What a wonderful project and new skill that many learned.

3.  Peppermint Sugar Scrub.
Megan brought us this fun and fragrant project.  You use sugar, peppermint oil, olive oil and food coloring.  You can get creative with the pattern as you pack it into a smaller mason jar and decorate it with ribbon and card.

4.  Paper Garlands
These fun and colorful garlands can be used to bring a pop of color to any room!  Lauren brought us this project which involved string, colorful paper, and scissors.

Most importantly, I got to spend the day with so many great people...laughing and learning together like we always do!  Thank you my CalSERVES team....you are all such shining examples of what the holiday time truly means to me.

Monday, December 3, 2012

After School Attractions

This was originally published on the Boost Breakfast Blog

I woke up early this morning in Washington DC where I am attending a conference on School Counseling programs.  We are working on a new program to incorporate school counseling into our after school programs in order to provide students the emotional support they need to succeed.

Despite my desire to linger in bed, I know I must get up in order to have time to stand in line for 45 minutes at Market Lunch at the Eastern Market to enjoy Blue Bucks (blueberry pancakes), eggs and biscuits….yum!  Even though I am in DC for work, I am trying on this trip to see some sites as well.  I have looked at many “things to see” lists and read several “top 10 things to do” articles providing advice on the best attractions in the nation’s Capitol.

As I walk to the Metro and get on the train, I began to think about the important things to see and do in After School programs.  There is so much good and important work being done but if I had to boil it down into the key elements of successful after school programs, what would they be?  Inspiration comes as I sit down with a table of kids and their parents to enjoy my Market treats….

Top 5 After School Attractions (worth waiting in line for):

1.     The relationships.  The success of After School programs starts here.  It is the relationships developed between the program staff and students that make it so special.  The most important thing After School does is connect students to caring adults who want to know them and support their social and academic success.  It is seen in the program coordinator who asks child after child to read them their story and provides each her rapt attention…encouraging at every step.  It is witnessed in the classroom leader who spends time with the students finding out how their weekend was, showing her interest in her wide smile and engaged eyes.  It is the AmeriCorps member working diligently with a student on her reading while inviting her to express herself and take a chance.  These relationships are everything and you must see them when you visit.

2.     The creativity.  We have such an opportunity in after school to encourage creativity and expansive thinking in students.  You should come to see these creative moments that happen every day in After School programs.  It is in the little girl’s excitement at making her own Amazonian Headdress.  It is the pride of expression as a boy performs his rap in honor of Dr. King and his ideals.

3.     The play.  Play is a must see in any After School program.  After School has the ability to encourage play and provide opportunities for students to actively engage in physical activities that build social skills, improve health, and create joy! It is the excitement expressed by the boy who won a rousing game of Jenga.  It is in the students learning the essential skills of volleyball, playing and learning together as a team.

4.     The discovery.  After School has the unique opportunity to expose children to new experiences, new ideas, and new places in the community and world.  You have to see it when visiting After School.  It is the fun of learning seen when students use the KidzScience Falling and Flying kit to make parachutes and build rockets.  It is a student’s experience of the wonder of tidepools in a visit to the beach…for the first time.

5.     The growth.  The most special thing to see in After School is the growth of a student.  It is one of the most special sites.  It is seen in the “a-ha” moments during a science lesson on centrifugal force.  It is witnessed in the smile of accomplishment when a student reaches a new reading level.  It is clearly expressed in the boy who once acted out who now has a leadership role in his class.

So, next time you’re visiting an After School program, please note these must see attractions.  Or, if you haven’t been to a program in a while….get out there and see the great work these wonderful professionals and their students are doing each and every day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I'm Thankful...

I'm thankful to work with such an amazing group of staff, AmeriCorps members and volunteers.  Thank you for all you do, each and every day to promote Passion, Potential and Power.  You are role models to and passionate supporters of children.  I'm proud and humbled to work with such a great group.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fun Times at the After School Conference

Just got back from the Region 1 After School Conference in Ukiah, CA.  It was wonderful to spend time with great professionals working hard to provide the best after school programming to thousands of students!

CalSERVES enjoying the conference:  Katie, Jacky, Sandra, and Sabina

Me posing with Paula Sutherland, our newest After School Ambassador!  Thank you Paula for all you have done to support our partnership with Bellevue School District.

Paula with her After School Ambassador honor presented by Regional Lead Suzy McConnell and After School Division Director at CDE Michael Funk.

Keynote presenter Kevin Honycutt demonstrates using an iPad to teach guitar...very interesting presentation!

Kevin invites Kid Street After School Coordinator Christelle Eddy up to play the drums on the iPad...she was very good.

Circle of Sisters Manager, Amy Chevrolet and Willits Kids Club Director, Kris Wagner pose for the camera.

Suzy McConnell, Region 1 Lead and Pilar O'Cadiz from UC Irvine have a chat.

A little after conference fun with the Region 1 After School Advisory Committee

Kevin models his new shoes...purchased in Ukiah!

These chickens made me eggs for breakfast at the Sanford House in Ukiah.

Some of the CalSERVES gang at closing ceremonies....

In silly mode.

Jacky was our big winner!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

AmeriCorps Service Award Nominees

CalSERVES had several nominees for the Governor's service awards.  We will know who won at the end of the month but they are all winners to me!  

And the nominees are....

Cindy King, CalSERVES Literacy Team Leader, Kawana Elementary
Nominated by Katherine Brooks
Cindy King is a perfect candidate for the AmeriCorps Member of the Year Service Award. I had the pleasure of supervising Cindy in her most recent AmeriCorps term of service, 2011-2012, while she served at Kawana Elementary School through CalSERVES. However, this was not her first year as an AmeriCorps Member, and certainly not her first year dedicating herself to improving literacy in Santa Rosa schools. She has 14 years experience with our program, beginning as an AmeriCorps VISTA and always working to support the literacy development of our students.

During her most recent AmeriCorps year alone, Cindy trained, observed, and coached fourteen other AmeriCorps members in the curriculum and best practices of 1-on-1 literacy tutoring. She scheduled over sixty students to receive this tutoring during the regular school day and the afterschool program. Cindy worked with the Literacy Specialist on site to identify the students who would best benefit from the tutoring sessions. These students were reading one, two or three grades below their current grade level. Once enrolled in the tutoring program, each student was seen by his or her tutor four times per week, for forty minutes each session. They were assessed six times throughout the school year to track their progress and identify their specific needs. Overall, the students enrolled in this tutoring program grew 371 reading levels.

Along with increasing student reading levels, fluency, comprehension, and writing, Cindy paid close attention to improving the learning environment of each tutoring session. Under Cindy’s leadership, members built trusting, mentoring relationships with their tutees. This kind of relationship is an asset to student growth and development, and Cindy made sure to support the members in building it with each child.

Veronica Galdamez, CalSERVES Mentor, Wright Charter School
Nominated by Taylor Ford

Veronica Galdamez completed a year of service as an AmeriCorps member with the CalSERVES program at Wright Charter School. As an AmeriCorps member, Veronica worked to improve literacy scores in the students she tutored and within her 1st/2nd grade after school classroom. In addition to providing them with academically enriching lessons, Veronica participated in all AmeriCorps National Service Days as well as worked to recruit volunteers for our program at her college campus. Veronica was keenly aware of the impact our program had on the community and would always strive to give her all each and every day. 

The classroom community that Veronica and her classroom partner build was one of the best. Their students were happy, healthy and successful. In addition to the academically focused aspects of the program, Veronica provided her students with emotional support as well. She was always there to lend them an ear, hand or a hug when they needed it. She was a constant support figure when many of our students had none. When a student, even one that was not in her class, was late getting picked up, Veronica would wait with them until their ride arrived. She would use the extra time to read with them, work on math facts or even provide extra homework help. She made the most of every minute.

When it came to National Service Days, Veronica was always the first one to jump head first into a project. At our Cesar Chavez Health Fair, Veronica dressed up as a bee in the pouring rain and handed out produce to over a thousand people. For our Make a Difference Day, Veronica was the first to grab gloves and begin weeding areas of a school and park many of our students play at. She did all these things with a smile on her face. 

Veronica did this in addition to going to Sonoma State University where she is studying full time to become a doctor. Next year, she will be taking on the job as a Volunteer Coordinator for Sonoma States JUMP (Join Us in Making Progress) program where she will recruit volunteers to work with “at-risk” youth with Catholic Charities. Veronica Galdamez has proved that service is not just a one-time activity, it’s a life long commitment. It’s clear that Veronica has made that commitment and that is why I nominated her as AmeriCorps member of the year. 

Richelle Andrae, CalSERVES VIP Fellow, Taylor Mountain Elementary
Nominated by Kristen Mowers

Richelle recruited, trained and supported over 150 volunteers to provide tutoring this year.  She started the process last year and decided to return for a second year to further the impact for the students in the community.  The volunteers that Richelle supported throughout the year, helped students progress in their reading, math, and social skills.  The students are more confident, they raise their hands in class even if they might not have the perfect answer.  Students are supporting each other as a community and encouraging each other.  They are also better friends, being patient and empathetic.

Richelle organized volunteers to build a garden for our school.  Families and community volunteers joined us for Make a Difference Day and We were able to build the garden boxes.  She has also recruited volunteers from the families at the school who will continue to care for and grow the garden after her service term is over and she has moved on. Our students practice how to make healthy choices in their lives, but they do not have access to many fresh fruits and vegetables.  Richelle decided to organize resources in the community to build a garden at the school so that children and families could learn how to grow their own food.  She coordinated volunteers to find materials to build the garden boxes and gather the needed supplies.  Richelle also recruited volunteers to come out for the build as well as to support the on going maintenance.  She found gardeners to come in and teach the students and families how and when to plant each fruit and vegetable, and more to teach them how to prepare and cook them.

Richelle has created opportunities for families to be leaders in their communities and to make the changes that they would like to see.

Sara Craige, Literacy Team Leader, Bellevue Elementary School 
Nominated by Yesenia Salas-Chavira
Sara Criage recently completed her first year as a Full-Time AmeriCorps Literacy Team Leader with our NCOE CalSERVES AmeriCorps Program at Bellevue Elementary School.  Bellevue elementary students are predominantly English Language Learners (71%) who live in poverty, with 94% of students qualifying for free and reduced price meals. By matching supportive adults with children in need of extra attention and academic support, the CalSERVES Literacy and After School Programs work in partnership with local elementary schools to increase reading proficiency, improve grades and test scores, and create positive learning environments for students to excel academically.  As a certified credential teacher from Philadelphia, Sara has shared her skills and knowledge on education and literacy to support the 18 AmeriCorps mentors designated to her school team.   

Sara was able to build highly effective relationships with teachers to make sure the program was effective as possible.  Ms. Craige coached and guided her team of AmeriCorps members to give back to their community and inspired them to become educators and role models to students, who according to the California Standards test, are in high need of academic support.  Ms. Craige received extensive training in specific areas of literacy, including curriculum, lesson planning, assessments and leadership which she put into to practice to ensure the success of the tutoring program.  This year the program was able to graduate 42 students because they reached their grade level in reading! It was Sara’s commitment and tireless efforts that helped the program exceed its goal of graduating more than 75% of tutoring students.
Kimberly Sylvester, CalSERVES Mentor, Meadow View Elementary School
Nominated by Kimberly Copperberg
Kimberly Sylvester served as a part-time AmeriCorps member for CalSERVES. Her assignment was to tutor two students in reading and literacy and to co-facilitate the kindergarten classroom in the after school program. Throughout her 10 months of service, Kimberly continued to shine as a dedicated, efficient, and passionate member. Part-time AmeriCorps members are required to serve at least 900 hours; Kimberly served over 1200!

Her contributions to the kindergarten after school program have been immeasurable. It was the first year for our program to include kindergarten in our program which had its own schedule and specific expectations from teachers. Kimberly’s education and pervious in child development and preschool children was a tremendous base for our kindergarten program. She continuously had new and creative ideas for lessons with students, brought new activities and ideas, and consistently gave 100% of her energy in her performance. She shared her lessons and ideas at meetings and was a constant support of her peers at other kindergarten programs.

In group settings or one-on-one, Kimberly stays focused at the task and goal at hand. During her literacy tutoring sessions, Kimberly’s efforts helped her below basic students reach grade level by the end of the year. She was also involved on many committees at her site including the Garden Committee, Events Committee, Literacy Day, and one time projects including organizing a Movie Night fundraiser. Even at the Cesar Chavez Health Fair, Kimberly stepped up into a leadership facilitating set-up and take-down, delegating tasks, and ensuring others made a productive use of their time.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Planning

As we conclude the 2011-12 year, there are so many wonderful achievements, friendships, and memories to reflect upon.  I'm so grateful for the amazing work done by our AmeriCorps members, staff and volunteers on behalf of the CalSERVES programs.


As we move into the new year, planning is underway!  Here are some highlights of what we are working on for next year.

After School:  We are excited to welcome our 35 new Classroom Leaders who will join the CalSERVES staff at our Santa Rosa school-based programs to provide leadership to each of our after school classrooms.  We will also be including Service Scholars interns who will bring focused, inspiring instruction to youth in one of four areas of specialty: Art, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), PE/Nutrition and Literacy.  We are excited to increase the depth and breadth of our services to students next year.  If you are interested in any of these positions, contact us at recruitment@calserves.org.

Healthy Behaviors:  Our PE and Nutrition program continue to bring vital services to thousands of youth in Sonoma and Napa Counties.  We are currently reviewing curriculum so we can provide the highest quality daily nutrition and PE lessons.  We will be focusing on goal setting next year, working hard to improve the health and fitness of all our students.

AmeriCorps VIP:  The VIP program staff is working hard this summer on expanding webinars and providing additional online training curriculum for AmeriCorps VIP Fellows around the State so they can be as effective as possible in supporting high quality volunteer programs.

AmeriCorps VIP Coordinator Lauren Serpa with VIP Leaders Patrick Link and Nikki Maci
While there is a lot going on this summer, I hope everyone takes time to relax and enjoy as well!