What’s In The Soul Of A Child?

A detailed look at children and what they need to be happy…and whole.

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I grew up thinking that being a child meant you were told to sit down and do the right thing — even if the right thing meant sitting in your seat quietly while the teacher talked because if you asked to go to the bathroom, you’d be yelled at profusely. 

When I was a child, I spoke like a child. I played like a child. I even thought like a child – childish things, like rainbows and muddy puddles. These days our children are growing up in the age where they know more about love and hip hop then they do about Lion King and Mufasa. 

I have done a lot of thinking on the souls of children. I have taken the time to tell each one of them about what I see in them and I have found that even in the midst of this weird human experience, kids have souls too — and their souls need to be fed. 

It’s a strange concept to visualize but one that is very simple to grasp. Kids are like human adults, they need things to survive. Healing, creativity, community, love, and most of all, they need to feel fulfilled in order to feel worthy. 

I work with elementary school students. In case you aren’t familiar, that’s age 5 to 11ish, depending on the grade and date of birth and and what they’ve been doing academically for the past five years. I work with elementary school kids who know right from wrong and can pretty much tell you everything you need to know about hip hop artists of the time.

But what our kids don’t know, is who the lost fish on Finding Nemo is. Or how many dwarfs Snow White had. Or who gave Sleeping Beauty the apple. They don’t know kid stuff. Or things I would consider to be kid stuff. They didn’t know who Elsa was. or who the sad donkey is that follows Pooh around. 

… 

Kids are useless if they don’t have purpose. I know. I’ve seen it. If they aren’t given anything to do with themselves, they’ll find something to do — and depending on what that something is, it may just be trouble or bullying or calling each other names at the snack table. 

I have formed a theory on these kids. And the theory is: they need to find ways to be kids again; and that is not going to be but here are some thoughts. 

First, we need to reintroduce kids to creativity. They need to be reminded that it is OK to create things and then leave them be to create new things. 

In our program, we have these themes we use daily. We call them, Meditation Monday, Trivia Tuesday, Writing Wednesday, Therapy Thursday, and Fun Friday. Maybe not the most creative names in the world but bear with us, we’re doing it. 

Kids are used to themes. They see them in school all the time. They know what these things are, especially writing, and they hate them. They hate them with passion; until they’re forced to do them and then they realize that themes can be fun and meditation can actually relax you. 

We’ve tried very strategic ways to engage the souls of our children over the last 6 weeks or so and found some similarities in their reactions. 

  1. They love story time. On days where we sit and read together as a group, they are 

locked in until the very last page. Wondering and wanting to be a part of something, even if it is just a book. 2. They are innocent. They act big and bad and tough at times but really, they are just 

kids who want to just be kids, without the responsibility of heavy situations that cause 

them angst. When we catch them in their element, they are there, bouncing around, playing games and hugging each other — calling it wrestling or touch football or whatever. 3. They are human. Our human souls are very very prone to connection. We want to 

connect to something. We need to connect to something. And our kids are no different. They need and want to connect to something — even if that something doesn’t benefit them. We find that our kids are just like us, gravitating to what’s popular and “fitting” even if or until they realize that what they are attracted to hurts them, and maybe they need to find a new crew to hang with. 

Our kids need balance. They need to be told what to do but in a manner they can receive it. They need to be loved and helped but also scorned when they are wrong. They need to be shown the way to being healthy and whole and responsible, but really, they just need to be shown that it’s ok to be a kid. It’s ok to mess up and have secrets and feel feelings that don’t always feel good. They need to know there is a teacher or adult who can react calmly to their mistakes or their woes without freaking out or making them feel as if what they’re doing is wrong. 

They have that in our program. We try anyway. And the more we get to know them, the more we understand that the way we speak to them, is the way they’ll speak to us. And the way we treat them, is the way they’ll treat each other. It may take awhile, and we may not ever get to see the fruition but even if we’ve simply laid the foundation, we can be rest assured that they’ll somehow, someway, find their way back to a healthy, beautiful soul. Star-c Blog

We Use Daily Themes to Heal, Connect, and Progress.

 

june blog pic 1Social Emotional Learning has become an important attribute to include in everyday care for our kids. Since Star-C started at Stratford Ridge Apartments in January, we’ve been using daily themes as intentional ways to serve the areas of the brain, body, and soul that often go neglected because of busy schedules.

These daily themes are Meditation Monday, Trivia Tuesday, Writing Wednesday, Therapy Thursday, and Fun Friday. The activities we do in our program are fun and intentional ways to serve our kids, while providing extra support to help them be well, overcome obstacles, and heal from trauma they may experience every day.

june blog pic 2Meditation Monday

Meditation Monday is our way to create some calm in the room. Every Monday, we do different things that represent or align with the practice of meditation. Whether it’s journaling quietly, sitting in silence, doing yoga, or listening to soft music, meditation is always a way to calm ourselves, redirect our emotions and have an intentional moment to just relax and reflect.

june blog pic 6Trivia Tuesday

Trivia is our way of bringing learning to the kids in a fun, competitive way. They LOVE competition and doing things that may result in candy for the winning team. Trivia has become a favorite for the kids, because they get to show off what they know. It requires them to use their brains quickly, and we’re VERY intentional about making them work together – emphasizing teamwork and good sportsmanship.

june blog pic 4Writing Wednesday

Writing has been proven to release anxiety, tension, and anger. It’s a universal way of processing emotion and expression. We let our kids be free in their writing without judgment. Not only does it help them express themselves, it helps them work on their spelling, comprehension and storytelling abilities. Some kids get carried away and find solace in being able to write without grading or comparison. It’s simply free expression.

june blog pic 7Therapy Thursday

Therapy Thursday focuses on different therapy practices to help us feel better. Some days, we sit in a circle and talk about our feelings and other days, we work on self-image by drawing a self-portrait and writing words that describe who we are. Art therapy, physical therapy, yoga therapy, and talk therapy are all different ways to help us clear out our minds and hearts.

 

june blog pic 5Fun Friday

Fun Friday is all about games and movies. As human beings, it is essential for us to play for no reason. It gives us joy and happiness to just be free to run around, try new things, and laugh at ourselves when we lose. That’s all Friday is about. Letting go and being free with no inhibitions.

*Kudos to Star-C at Stratford Ridge staff, Katia Bowers and Tasha Brandon for developing these impactful themes!

Thank You!

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A year ago, Star-C Programs had the honor of receiving a new playground lead by KaBOOM, funded by CarMax and built by many employees and community volunteers. Last week we celebrated our one year anniversary for our playground, and the start of Summer for our kids at Willow Branch in the Star-C after-school program.
A special thanks to all the support CarMax has given. And to all of our volunteers who are constantly putting a smile on our children’s faces.
All of you have helped improve the lives of our residents within our community!
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Great Things Come Out of the Southside

What started as an encouragement to the students that I served who were constantly told that they wouldn’t amount to much, has ended up becoming one of my favorite mantras used to encourage and uplift and CELEBRATE the community that I serve in and now call home. For years, I have worked with students that believed the absolute worst about the community that they lived in, and what’s even more heartbreaking, is that it made them believe the worst about themselves because they resided there. They were given this perspective from various sources around them. The news never seemed to have anything positive about their neighborhoods. When they would interact with kids from other areas they were treated as if they were less than their counterparts from more affluent areas. And in the worst circumstances they were treated poorly by adults, whom I believe at the very minimum should do no harm, even if they don’t feel like they can encourage and uplift.

When you are constantly inundated with messages that you are less than and people who are telling you that you won’t succeed, you begin to believe that. When you look around and you can’t seem to find anything positive to say about your community you begin to believe the narrative even if it’s not a complete one. That’s where I came in to the lives of many students. Not only did I believe it was necessary to change the narrative that the outside community had about my dearly loved mentees and the community that they resided in, we needed to change the narrative that they believed about themselves, and it all started with one simple phrase, “Great Things Come Out of the Southside.”

When they found themselves discouraged, I would happily say, “Remember that great things come out of the Southside.” When they would be nervous because they had to face opponents from other schools around the city, we would talk through the fears and end with a solid, “Remember, great things come out of the Southside.” When they found themselves being challenged academically in their daily lessons or when facing a statewide test, I ended whatever pep talk with, “Remember, great things come out of the Southside.” I constantly reassured them that great things came from their community and they were indeed a part of that greatness. It took a while, but I’ll never forget the time that I was having my own personal moment of discouragement and found myself comforted when a student reminded me that Great Things Come of the Southside.

This mantra was with me when I came to Star-C in the July 2019. It was with me when I was determined to MAKE MAGIC HAPPEN even when we couldn’t start the after school program exactly the way we wanted to. It was in the back of my mind at the ribbon cutting ceremony that we hosted when we moved the program into its own building. It stands front and center each time that we host a teen night, and we definitely shouted it from the rooftops when our partner elementary school, Cleveland Avenue, received their INTERNATIONAL STEM Certification from AdvancED, the first elementary school in the Atlanta Public School System to do so!!!!

We are so proud of all the amazing work that is being done to help our tiniest of residents to not only meet standards, but to exceed them. We are thankful for a staff full of teachers that clearly care about what they teach and each individual child that they teach as well. We daily give thanks for an administrative team that welcomes us through the door with open arms each and every time that we cross the threshold, and that sees us as partners in progress, not just another apartment community. While it may be hard for some to believe that a little Southside elementary school accomplished this feat, it was no surprise to us. Why, you might ask. Because we’ve known for some time now what others are just coming to understand and that is that GREAT THINGS COME OUT OF THE SOUTHSIDE!

Alcohol Awareness…Changing Attitudes

Alcohol Awareness Month is a public health program organized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence as a way of increasing outreach and education regarding the dangers of alcoholism and issues related to alcohol.

Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease that can be fatal if not treated. The goal of Alcohol Awareness Month is to point out the stigma that still surrounds alcoholism and substance abuse, denial. Denial is a major in alcohol abuse, both for the individual experiencing it and the family and friends who are not comfortable with having that conversation related to the cause and effect of the situation.  Statistics show, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States. 17.6 million people suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems. More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol.

As a result, April is used as an awareness platform for organizations, community centers, and treatment facilities to increase their efforts to raise awareness, encourage people to reach for help and to reach those who are not fully aware of the dangers of unhealthy alcohol consumption.

The more knowledge people have about the dangers of using alcohol and becoming dependent on it, the more they are likely to ask for help if they need to.

Information from:

https://www.cadca.org/resources/get-involved-alcohol-awareness-month

For more information visit:

https://www.facingaddiction.org/resources/alcohol-awareness-month

Making Magic Happen…Again

It has been an exciting time since we launched the Star-C Programs at Summerdale/Springview in August of 2018.

We started our afterschool program in a small backroom off our main office and now we have our own center in the middle of the Springview Community.

We started with 15 students and now have a waiting list.

We went from seeing reading time as a boring activity, to being about our individual opportunities to read as well as group story time.

We started off with students that didn’t believe in themselves or their ability to be successful. We now have a small community that not only believes in their own abilities, but also prioritizes encouraging and celebrating their peers.

And now, we are adding a bi-weekly teen program to serve our middle and high schooler community members. And we couldn’t be more excited!

We kicked off our Star-C Teen Night on Wednesday, March 13th, with a small number of students that had a mighty good time. We spent the first part of our evening talking about the life of a teenager and sharing tips for conflict resolution and ended it with a bunch of fun and games that included an egg toss challenge, a cookie eating contest, a plastic cup building challenge and two exciting rounds of musical cheers.

We are so grateful to Pastor Sam, the Youth Minister from Impact Church, that came by to spend some time with us. He provided amazing tips for managing conflict with our peers and making sure that we are taking the time to make the right decisions so that we can get the long term results that we want! He was also a very fierce competitor when it came time for the games! It was evident that he enjoyed his time with us and we surely enjoyed our time with him.

It was truly an amazing time and we can not wait to do it again! The students felt the same way and each committed to bringing at least one friend with them when they returned.

At Star-C we know that humble beginnings set the foundation for an amazing future. We’ve watched it happen time and time again, and we are excited about the future of our Teen Program as a result!

See you in the future!

 

March is National Nutrition Month!

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics introduces National Nutrition Month. The campaign focuses on nutrition education, information, the importance of making informed food choices, developing sound eating, and physical activity habits.

Nutrition is the study of nutrients in food, how the body uses nutrients, and the relationship between diet, health, and disease. Most people know good nutrition and physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight. But the benefits of good nutrition go beyond weight. Good nutrition can help:

  • Reduce the risk of some diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, some cancers, and osteoporosis
  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Lower high cholesterol
  • Improve your well-being
  • Improve your ability to fight off illness
  • Improve your ability to recover from illness or injury
  • Increase your energy level

Throughout the month of March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares good eating tips such as how to keep nutritious meals simple, the importance of making food safety a part of your everyday routine, the value of preparing meals with foods you have on hand to avoid wasting food, and how to select nutritious food options when dining away from home. The Academy also encourages physical activity such as moderate-intensity acerbic and muscle- strengthen activities.

To become more aware of good nutrition visit Academy’s website https://www.eatright.org/, where you can get articles, recipes, videos and educational resources to spread the message of good nutrition and the importance of an overall healthy lifestyle for people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

*Information came from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics