Sunday, December 15, 2013


The holiday season is upon us — a time of year when we recognize those in our personal lives we are thankful for.  It is also a great time to think about recognizing those in our work life.  Things can get so busy during the year that we forget to let those we work with know how much we value their contributions.  That is why having a Recognition Plan can be so valuable. 

Those that work in our after school programs, and with our most vulnerable youth, really benefit from ongoing support and recognition to feel engaged in the program and get through challenges.  The best thinking and research in this area indicates effective recognition should:
  • Have both an individual and team component
  • Be aligned with organizational goals and values
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Create a positive work environment 
  • Reward innovation, attitude and performance
  • Improve employee retention

At all ages we need rewards, high fives and positive reinforcement.
It is important that recognition is meaningful, specific and connected with activities that staff value.  It doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should be personal and tied to the vision of the organization.  Here are some practices from my experience to get you thinking about your recognition strategy:

Personal Approaches

Write a personal note to a staff member who has done something great, thoughtful, or supportive.  It is so simple but often is the most meaningful.  I remind myself to be specific about what I am thankful for and to connect it to our vision of supporting student success.

Create your own personal certificate to give to those who have an achievement, present at a meeting, or reach a certain goal.  I got this idea from our Superintendent who gives out her own award, which staff often post on their walls with pride.

Invite an employee to coffee or lunch to celebrate an accomplishment. This provides some one-on-one time to acknowledge the accomplishment and make a personal connection and explore future career steps.

Find out what the staff person enjoys and get a gift that aligns with their interests/strengths.  This can run the gamut but it is best when connected to the vision.  As an example, I got a personalized coach whistle to thank a staff person who loves sports and organized a sports league in our after school program.

Provide, as a reward, opportunities for staff development to support career aspirations.  I have offered a registration to the BOOST conference to staff who attain certain goals.

Honor those exhibiting best practices.  This recognizes individual accomplishments and reaffirms specific program strategies and elements you want to see in your program.

Public Honors

Include appreciations at every staff meeting.  At our staff meetings, we always conclude with an opportunity for staff to recognize each other.

Honor a Staff Member of the Month, create a "Catch Inspiration" Award to highlight inspirational staff/stories, or create a staff nominated "Wall of Fame" and post on social media.  We have done a variety of these types of recognition strategies, usually focusing on our Facebook page, blog and newsletter.  It is a great public recognition that the honoree can send to their families and friends.

Honor years of service along with personal milestones.   This is an annual celebration at my organization.  However you celebrate it, the recognition of time given to the organization is an important and motivating right of passage.

Honor innovation with a special award where the winner can challenge you to do something new.  This is a great way to get more deeply involved with staff and it is fun and motivating too.

Team Rewards

Bring a care package to staff teams that have done great work, made it through a challenging time, or reached a milestone.  We honor school site teams with care packages and gifts throughout the year in honor of accomplishments, with thanks for a job well done, and to appreciate the strength shown in getting through challenging times.

Organize a party to appreciate staff and provide time for personal connections. We have a committee that focuses on creating social opportunities and other strategies to support a positive workplace.  It is great to get the whole organization involved and owning recognition—it encourages a culture of appreciation.

Some other Ideas

  • Have staff fill out a "Recognition Preference Profile" so you know what type of recognition is preferred.
  • Keep an inventory of recognition strategies and what works well (or not).

I hope some of these ideas spur your thinking about how to support, recognize, and honor those who do this necessary work.  


Originally posted on the BOOST Breakfast Club Blog,

Friday, November 1, 2013

Family Literacy Night

Why is it important?  The family is at the starting point for the development of language, cultural perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes for their children’s lives.
Student from R.L. Stevens practices his writing and gives a shout out to Cool School at Family Literacy Night!
Consider these statistics noted by the National Center for Family Literacy:
  • Children’s reading scores improve dramatically when their parents are involved in helping them learn to read.
  • Low family income and lack of education are the two biggest risk factors that hamper a child’s early learning and development.
How we support families is vitally important to supporting student literacy. 

I wanted to share some details from the recent family literacy night I attended at R.L. Stevens Elementary.  Our fabulous mentor teacher, Margo Addison, with the help of the CalSERVES team planned a great night for parents and students. 

I hope it inspires you to plan your own literacy night.

AmeriCorps tutor Sarah Gold makes words fun with students
Melissa Moore catches up with a family by the Book Give-Away

This year's night was entitled:

 Fables, Farms, and Family Fun!
Bienvenidos a Fábulas, Granjas y Diversión para la Familia!

The official program begins with a warm welcome from the principal and is followed by workshops conducted by teachers.

6:00 – 6:10   Welcome by Mrs. Pola Hoard/Bienvenidos ( Sra. Pola Hoard)
6:15 – 6:40 Workshops with teachers /Talleres con maestros 
Library Bingo
Lotería Biblioteca
Ms. Grech

Read and Sing!

Lea y Canta!

Rm. 18
Mrs. Schoellhorn
Reading with your child in Spanish
Leer en espanol con su hijo/a

RSP Room

Ms. Campos
Autumn Finger Plays and Rhymes
Teatro de mano y juegos de rima otonales

Rm. 4

Ms. Rodebaugh
A Taste of Reading
Un poquito de lectura
Rm. 15
Ms. Lesset&Hill
Scrabble and Boggle
Juegos con palabras
Rm. 5
Ms. Valleado
Kids Rule Board Game
Juego de mesa par ninos
Rm. 3
Ms. Wandel
Songs, Poetry, and Rhythm
Canciones, poesia y ritmo
Rm. 14
Mrs. Noveh
Rhyming Bingo
Loteria de Rima
Rm. K1
Ms. Ritch

CalSERVES Counselor Carmen Wandel checks out some bingo after leading a "Kids Rule" activity
Site Supervisor Craig Jacques joins a game of Boggle
After these activities concluded, the group congregates in the cafeteria for more activities, farm fresh produce, and a book give-away.

6:45 – 7:15   Activities in the cafeteria / Actividades en la cafeteria  
  1. Flip books /Libros de modismos y homófonos
  2. Library Card sign-ups and book information/Tarjetas y información para la biblioteca pública
  3. Family Name Poetry/ Poesía con su apellido
  4. File Folder Games / Juegos para hacer
  5. Word Wheels/Rueda de Palabras
  6. Sight Word Bingo/Loteria con vocabulario reconocible
Sean Fitzgerald builds sentences with his students

To go with the theme, the school partnered with farmers to provide fresh fruits and veggies
7:15 – 7:30 Snack and book give away / Bocadillos y libros gratis
The Book Give-Away is a great encouragement for reading
The Carrot suit promotes good health and is lots of fun!
There are lots of great resources and themes for Family Literacy nights online.  Here is a fun one on Pinterest:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Visiting Napa After School

In my role, I have had the pleasure of working with 17 after school programs in Napa County.  Over the past few weeks, I have been able to visit some of these programs. Last Friday, I visited Napa Valley Language Academy (NVLA) which amazingly hosts nearly 300 students in their after school program—every day!  Eric Dreikosen and NVLA Site Director Julia Matison with Boys & Girls Club of Napa Valley show us around the NVLA program.

Director of Operations, Eric Dreikosen and NVLA Site Director, Julia Matison of the Boys & Girls Club of Napa Valley
We joined them on Friday and there were activities going on in all corners of the school, with upper grade students preparing a dance performance outside...

To students receiving individualized homework support in the multi-use room.


I also visited two of the ACE program sites this Friday.

At the Silverado Middle School program, I met Coach Tracey Emberley and her students in Silk Screening club.

The students explained the process of creating a silk screened print from sketching the design to creating the screen to the printing process itself.  

The students get to create their own designs and follow the process through to the end product, learning valuable skills along the way.

At Harvest Middle School, we checked out lesson conducted by the CalSERVES AmeriCorps members focusing on propulsion. The team worked with students to test their creations.

This balloon-powered car project had kids exploring the best and fastest designs using balloons and paper plates!


Students come back in the classroom to modify their designs after testing.

Napa After School program manger Yesenia Salas-Chavira and AmeriCorps Content Leader Enoch Page take in the culminating car race.

Many members of the After School team at Harvest Middle School debrief the day and explore ways to improve their lessons to create the best experience for students.  Way to go team!

Yesenia Salas-Chavira, Casey Wedding & AmeriCorps Members Enoch Page, Anthony Farina, AJ Smith, and Lisseth Ramirez

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Career Day at the CalSERVES Summer Program

Over 50 students were able to explore this question at Taylor Mountain Career Day.  Representatives from a broach range of careers, from a firefighter to a chef, a computer technician to an engineer, and even a video game designer...students were able to ask questions to find out more about these careers.  The goal is to engage them in thinking about their future careers now and learn what education and life choices it takes to achieve these aspirations.

Roberto Bonefont, Kenwood Inn & Spa
The students asked insightful questions of Chef Bonefont, including "How did you know you wanted to be a cook?" and "How much school did you need?"

James Hallahan,
Our video game designer James was popular with the students.  He was able to share the development process with the students who craved for information on this exciting career.

Cyndi Foreman, Central Fire Authority of Sonoma County
Firefighter Cyndi talked with the students about what her days involve.  She dispelled the myth that she is a police officer (despite the similar uniform) and talked about life at the Firehouse.

Joseph Marrocco, Medtronic talks about his work as an engineer.
Our engineer shared the details of his work developing lifesaving heart devices at Medtronic.  It is great to get our kids so interested in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math).

Trenton Schuttler- Team Logic
Trenton volunteered his time to talk about careers working with and repairing computers.  The students were amazed to learn how much this career earns.

Both students and their parents enjoyed the day, loading up with great information and goals for the future. 

CalSERVES will introduce a new program in 2013-2014, CalPREP.  The CalPREP program run by NCOE Community Programs will be in 40 schools across the State, including Sonoma and Napa, and will focus on mentoring to promote college and career readiness.  The goals of the program are to improve academic engagement, habits of the mind, and college knowledge.

Days like this and programs like CalPREP plant seeds for the future...What do YOU want to be when you grow up?...and how will you get there?

Thanks to the event organizers, Mimi Marrocco and Erick Rodriguez, our wonderful CalSERVES Counselors!

CalSERVES Counselors Erick Rodriguez (left) and Mimi Marrocco (right) and Counseling Program Coordinator, Jeannie Puhger (center)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fundraising Success for our Students

The Human Race walk occurred on May was a great day for the nearly 100 CalSERVES AmeriCorps members, staff members, and friends and family who participated.

We have now completed our Human Race fundraiser and raised nearly $14,000 to purchase books and supplies for over 1,000 wonderful students.  I wanted to take some time to recognize those that worked hard and achieved milestones in their fundraising.

The honor roll includes those individuals who raised over:

$100 :
  • Sandra Hwang (office)
  • Kathy Chosa (office)
  • Lauren Serpa (office)
  • Mimi Marrocco (office)
  • Megan Schuttler (office)
  • Francesca Soriano-Hersh (office)
  • Megan Cockrum (Bellevue)
  • Aidan Collins Smith (Kawana)
  • Rebecca Dunckley (Kawana)
  • Ashley Schalich (Meadow View)
  • Kate Briggs (Meadow View)
  • Nightsnow Vogt (Meadow View)
  • Sarah Gold (RL Stevens)
  • Diana Sharkawy (RL Stevens)
  • Stephanie Martin (RL Stevens)
  • Melissa Moore (RL Stevens)
  • Amanda Houlemard (Taylor Mountain)
  • Ariel Moreo (Wright)
  • Lauren Loeffler (Wright)

  • Carmen Wandel (office)
  • Sara Sitch (office)
  • Alejandro Tinajero (Bellevue)
  • Joshua Bettencourt (Bellevue)
  • Ashley Fike (Meadow View)
  • Megan Simon (Meadow View)
  • Elena Bermudez (Meadow View)
  • Allison Hunter (RL Stevens)
  • Hanh Tran (RL Stevens)
  • Laura Fromuth (Taylor Mountain)
  • Yesenia Mendez Silva (Wright)

  • Katie McCormick (office)
  •  Sara Craige (Bellevue)
  • Carmen Hernandez-Albor (Bellevue)
  • Ana Hernandez (RL Stevens)

Over $1000:
  • Me!

And the Site Teams that raised over:

  • Meadow View
  • RL Stevens
  • Wright
  • Bellevue
  • Office

All those who raised over $100 got a book set for their site.  This was the book set I won...all about Trucks!

I had fun taking them to Taylor Mountain and giving it to their team to put into rotation with their students this year and beyond.


Those who raised over $250 got year-end parties for their students!

Students from all of our schools enjoyed getting their books to take home for the summer!

A giant Thank You to everyone who participated and who donated.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fundraising for the Human Race

Every year our organization participates in the Human Race, an event run by the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, that enables hundreds of non-profit and educational organizations the opportunity to fund raise for their cause. 
CalSERVES at the Human Race 2012
This year we are exploring some new strategies that build upon what was successful in previous years.  Check out my blog from last year to read about my Top 10 fund raising ideas.

Because we are fairly large organization, we focus quite a bit on teams. We provide recognition for team achievements as well as individual successes.  We encourage teams to work together to come up with both their own strategies and their own incentives.  Our schools make up their own teams and are able to make incentives (ex. extra planning time) and group strategies (ex. recycling program, bake sale) that are specifically meaningful to their group.

In previous years, we have always given prizes for top fund raisers.  This year, we are also giving prizes for achieving certain levels.  That way, those who may feel like they cannot compete to be the highest fund raiser, still have levels to something to shoot for...and who knows, once they get started they may reach the top!

Meaningful Recognition
It is difficult to raise funds in this economy.  We celebrate and honor those who put the time and energy into supporting our cause.  We have a "Wall of Fame" in our office to honor those individuals and groups who have achieved benchmark levels.  We have a special recognition lunch that I host to honor those who have raised $250 or more.  We post the accomplishments of those who fund raise in our social media which is a great way to expand your reach as friends and family of those high achieving fund raisers will check out those posts.  For our group, we provide incentives that are both personal (ex. 1 hour massage) and meaningful (ex. a set of books for the students).  When the prize is for the students or school, we make it clear that it came because of that person's achievements (ex. book plates recognizing the fund raiser).

Unique Fund Raising Ideas
We encourage any and all ideas to promote the Human Race and raise funds for our students.  Many of our strategies are home grown and offer an easy way for all to participate.  Here is a list of strategies that have been successful over the years:  bake sales, car washes, providing a service (photography, flower arranging, etc.), art sales (including children's art), lunch delivery, dine and donates, corporate sponsorships, matching donors, and much more

Jump Start Strategies
Every year some teams get a slow start.  There is a lot going on in our program and in peoples' lives, so we try to give incentives to start early.  We give out our first prizes about 6 weeks prior to the event.  We also send out committee members to work with sites who are struggling on developing fund raising ideas.  To motivate their team, some team leaders will split the donation they intended to give among their team to give their members that important start and some success to build on. 

These strategies and more will hopefully lead our organization to its goal of $15,000 and me personally to my goal of more than $1,000.  If you would like to help me, my Human Race web site is accepting donations: