F is for Field Trips!

As the Program Director for the Star-C Programs at Summerdale/Springview my main focus in this season is making sure that our students are well equipped to face the academic challenges that are placed in front them. I am there to help build confidence in their ability to achieve success even with the most difficult tasks. I am there to be a sounding board and for many the big sister or auntie that they don’t have, but wish that they did, and I take my role very seriously! I also recognize that while I am equipping them for academic success and giving them to the necessary tools to mature emotionally and even spiritually, it is just as imperative for me to make sure that while all of this is happening, they are having a good time! As a former preschool teacher, I believe deeply that learning can and should be fun! I am convinced that if we paid equal attention to fun as we did to academics, we would have better outcomes and that’s why I am committed to making learning fun while taking their education seriously!

And that’s how we got to our first field trip! PBL Night at Cleveland Avenue Elementary School! Mind you, we know that we didn’t go very far in distance, but what we gained from the experience was out of this world. PBL Night was an amazing time of learning and fun where my ASP kids got to experience their classmates share about the problems they solved and the projects they created, as well as share what they themselves had learned in the process. They were able to excitedly ask questions of their peers and cheer them on as they reviewed what had been taking place in their classrooms. Having students excitedly pull me over to share with me their work that had been displayed as they beamed with pride reminded me of why these types of “field trips” were critical to their overall confidence and success. They were in a place where they felt comfortable which made them open to exploring! They saw familiar faces which made them willing to ask questions. They were able to share their accomplishments which shot their self-esteem through the roof! And we did it without spending any money! Amen to that! It also showed the school that we were just as committed to their success and the success of their programming as they are to us!

Also, doing the field trip in this way allowed many of my kids to experience something that they would not have otherwise been able to. Many of their parents were still at work and would have been unable to take them to enjoy the evenings activities but using it as an after-school field trip allowed all of them to participate and be a part of what their school community was doing! It was truly a great time had by all and we cannot wait to do it again!

 

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Did you say trick – or treat!

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Halloween is one of the biggest holidays celebrated by both kids and adults. After all, who doesn’t enjoy dressing up to in something fun, spooky or as someone they admire, and getting complimented for how cool they look? However, we must sure we ensure not only a fun holiday, but a safe one as well. On behalf of Star-C Programs, we would like to share some small safety pointers, to help with making sure you and your little goblins enjoy your trick – or – treat tonight!

 

  1. Create a plan for trick-or-treating– before heading out, create a trick-or-treat route that you should use, especially if you have smaller children. If you have kids that are 12 and over who don’t require a chaperone, ensure they have a plan/route as well. Where they plan to be in large groups, stick to familiar areas, well-lit areas, and set curfew as well as behavior standards.
  2. Brush up on street safety– the excitement of Halloween can make us forget the simple precautions of looking both ways when crossing the street. Remind your kids to make eye contact with the driver before crossing with street, stay on the sidewalk/walkways, look both ways, cross at designated cross ways for pedestrian signal and lights.
  3. Make sure costumes are manageable– ensure that all costumes fit properly so there are no fall or trip hazards while trick-or-treating. Try to stick to costumes that are bright in color (so drivers can see easily), the accessories won’t obstruct your child’s vision, and wear comfortable shoes for walking.
  4. Check the candyWhile reports of Halloween treats that have been tampered with are rare, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious when it comes to the candy. A light, healthy dinner before trick-or-treating will dissuade kids from snacking while out, which will give you a chance to inspect all their goodies before they can enjoy them. You should look for candy that has tears or holes in the wrappers or other signs of damage, like discoloration.  If noted, you can discard. Also pay attention and discard homemade treats or candy that could be a choking hazard if you have young children.  Check all labels if your child has a food allergy.
  5. HAVE FUN & BE SAFE!!

GA Power & S.T.E.M!

Georgia Power has been dedicated to improving and strengthening education to help the students within their communities.  On Wednesday October 3, 2018, Georgia Power volunteers joined the children at Star-C’s after school program at Willow Branch Apartments in Clarkston. Some of their staff came to share their time and participate in some STEM activities (science, technology, engineering and math).  The activities involved different station set-ups, giving the kids visuals of what the company does and how Georgia Power is operated.  For example, two of the stations were made up of hand cranks showing how electricity works, and the process of what makes a light bulb come on. Another station was made up of a small hand cranks where the kids connected wires to make a fan turn. Another station set-up was outside where they used solar panels to create electricity. The last station was a lesson about what materials are conductors of electricity. The children rotated through the stations and got to experiment and explore the different equipment. Through these programs, Georgia Power hopes to influence generations of students to think critically and to be excited about careers in science and technology.

On behalf of Star-C Programs, we would like to thank Georgia Power for all their community efforts

Partners in Purpose – Part II by Kristin Hemingway

In addition to partnering with the school, I am also a partner with parents in the development of their most precious gifts. I may have the background and experience in education that they don’t possess, but that doesn’t mean that I know what is best for their kids. I encourage parent participation by explaining that we are in this together. I let them know that I can and will meet them where they are to help them get to where they need to go. I encourage and uplift their roles as parents and advocates for their children, and I let them know that I am here to assist them, not takeover for them. I consistently remind them that it is where we work together that we will see the greatest gains for their children and this approach has never failed me. In recognizing that regardless of socio-economic status or educational attainment the vast majority of parents want the absolute best for their children and are doing the best with what they have, I have been able to break down barriers that have previously seemed impenetrable.

And these small things have created the opportunity for even deeper partnership to take place. Not only do I get to provide after school care for these sweet babies, I get to visit them in their classes and learn how best to help them right alongside of them. I am able to reinforce that I care about them beyond what they do for the few hours a week that we are together. I can eat lunch with them and support them in classroom projects, as well as visit them in their homes and support them in their outside of school activities. I can ask teachers for the extra help that their parents may not be able to recognize that they need. I can help equip their parents to help them in ways that their teachers just may not have time to do as they do the 50 other things that they are responsible for.

I have the privilege of being the presence that every student desires, but not all students are able to have. I can stand in the gap for the parents that want to do more, but for whatever reason can’t. I can be the liaison for the teacher that can’t get the parent on the phone, but I get to see face to face. Through purposeful partnership I can be the extra set of hands that most teachers and parents yearn for as we are developing these little loves into the amazing people that they are becoming with our guidance and care. I can play both sides of the fence with great enthusiasm and even better results because I am partnering with both educators and parents to create the absolute best outcomes for the kids that we all love.

Recognizing that no one faction of a students’ community of care has all of the answers necessary to improve overall student outcomes makes becoming a partner in purpose one of the greatest gifts that we can give to our kids and community.

Here’s to an amazing year of partnership opportunities and improved outcomes for our communities’ most precious gifts – our children!

“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African Proverb

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Partners in Purpose – Part I by Kristin Hemingway

 

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Since I’ve been back with Star-C, I have rediscovered one of my greatest joys as a nonprofit professional. The ability to partner with schools and parents as true allies for making the most of education for the students that we care so deeply about. It has been and always will be a highlight of the roles that I have possessed to become a part of a child’s village.

In both of my most recent previous jobs I was able to build deep and meaningful relationships with school administrators and staff to make sure that we were surrounding the students that I was privileged to serve with the care and support necessary for them to achieve success both in and out of the classroom. My current opportunity to do this in partnership with Cleveland Avenue Elementary School is honestly one of the highlights of my current position. Three times in my career, I have had administrators completely open to the vision and the work that I was being tasked with as I sought to increase student achievement and social and emotional development. However, there has been something uniquely special about this opportunity with Cleveland Avenue Elementary. They have not just invited me into their school to partner with them, they have willingly and excitedly come to our property to be a part of what we are doing outside of their campus.

Under the leadership of Dr. Anyee Payne, the staff has welcomed me into their meetings as well as their classrooms. They have allowed me to assist in small ways and become a part of the Cleveland Avenue family because they understand that in working together we can create environments that promote the thriving of these tiny humans that have been placed in our care in this season. They help me to remind others that partnership is not only about what you can get, but more importantly about what you can give in the process. So yes, I have been able to share the Star-C vision with the staff so that they are informed about the services that we will be providing to the tiniest of residents in our apartment community, but this introduction also fostered a warm and welcoming environment that has received me with open arms any and every time that I have made my way through the doors of this sacred institution.

 

 

Making Magic Happen!

On August 20, 2018 we officially opened the doors of the Star-C After School Program at Summerdale/Springview and the magic officially began! After a lot of hard work, a little bit of shopping, and a few conversations with Dr. Payne at Cleveland Avenue Elementary, we opened our doors and welcomed 16 eager participants into what we are sure to be an amazing year of learning, enrichment, and fun!

As the Program Director, I started the day by breathing a little bit of life into our temporary home and adding some much-needed pizzazz to our after-school program room in the back of the leasing office. I am a person that ABSOLUTELY LOVES color and a great quote, so I made sure to add a few good ones in vibrant colors to our walls for daily inspiration. I know that these wonderful young people that I have the privilege of working with face many challenges as they push to gain academic success and having the daily inspiration right in front of their faces will serve as a reminder to keep pushing forward when giving up seems like a viable option.

I wasn’t the only one excited about the first day either! We had the pleasure of being visited by our wonderful founder, Marjy, who came baring gifts in the form of arts and crafts supplies, our phenomenal Executive Director, Audrea, who also came baring gifts in the form of books, our security team, our Property Manager, and a few parents! Everyone was very encouraging and super excited that we had finally gotten started and wished us well as we got underway with priority one, which for us is homework! We sailed through homework and into celebrating our first day by taking fun first day pictures. It was truly an amazing time!

Now that I’ve shared all these fun first day updates with you, let me share how this was a first day that almost wasn’t. You see, I am a recovering perfectionist, and there was a huge part of me that thought we should delay the start of the program until we had everything exactly the way that we wanted it. As I mentioned earlier, the space we are currently occupying is our temporary space. It’s a small room in the back of our leasing office, and I knew that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to serve all our tiny residents, so I thought that maybe we shouldn’t do it. Then, we normally have at least two people that work for our programs on top of our volunteers. Well, at this time, I am the only employee and we haven’t gotten our volunteer strategy up and running yet, so I was going to be solo with all these tiny folks vying for my time and attention and that scared me. I didn’t know if I could do it, and instead of choosing to walk in courage and risking potential failure, I just said that we should wait until we had at least the Assistant Program Director in place.

While I was sitting in Starbucks trying to formulate my case for why we should wait, this quote came to mind. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Hearing it in my head made something flip in my heart. Instead of focusing on the reasons why we should wait, I begin thinking of the reasons why we should start and how I could use what I already had to make it happen! And when I tell you that magic happened, MAGIC HAPPENED!

It didn’t matter that the room was small, we could just start without tables and use chairs and clipboards to make the most out the space. It didn’t matter if we didn’t have an assistant director, I managed classrooms full of high school students by myself when I was a high school student, I could surely handle less than 20 elementary school students. It didn’t matter if we couldn’t make permanent changes to the space because it was a temporary space, I could use all of the posters and supplies that I had accumulated over the years to make my mark on the room. And this is exactly what I did!

I am so thankful that I didn’t let the initial fears get in the way of the magic that we’ve been able to make happen for these 16 students and their families thus far and I am excited about being able to expand that magic to more kids in our community in the days, weeks, and months to come!

So. when you’re working on community transformation the odds are you will NEVER have everything that you want and need when you’re getting started, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get started! Just remember to start where you are, by using what you have, to do what you can, and I assure you that even if it is not perfect, it can and will indeed be MAGICAL! Here’s to making it a great year!

 

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Throw Back Thursday.. To The Peace Playground!

As we approach the ending of the first week of school, it’s only right to re-visit one of our most influential activities during Star-C Programs summer camp.  Throughout the summer, Star-C participated every Wednesday evening in an activity called “Peace Playground.” Coordinated by Paul Reeser and the Northlake Church of Christ, the children learned seven principles of peace advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Each week, they focused on one of the principles, which included:

  • Brave people live in peace
  • A loving community makes a peaceful world
  • Fight bad things, not bad people
  • Be peaceful when others are not, because that is the peaceful world we want
  • Avoid violence on the inside and outside, and
  • The whole world is on the side of good

 

The objective of this activity was to enlighten our children on the core values of peace, as well as the skills needed to deal with conflict. They were taught that even though we may face conflict in some stages of our everyday lives, we must always find a peaceful way to handle it. The children demonstrated their understanding of each principle with creative expressions in the forms of art, dance, singing.

 

In every activity planned for Star-C Programs, we strive to give our kids the skills and support they need to thrive at every level of life. We hope our children implement this in their personal perspectives as well as academics.