Sunday, March 28, 2010

Maggie's Cleaning Service

I went to dinner with one of the college students last night. Now that she's in college, we go to dinner every once in a while to talk and catch up. As she has continued in college, she has found that, unfortunately, most of her friends from high school did not. Though she keeps up with some of them, most have babies now and she doesn't feel like she has a lot of similar interests. I am so impressed with her determination to persevere on her own. She often feels like the lone rider on her trek to graduate from college.

I am in awe of her hard work. Not only does she commute an hour back and forth to Denton each day to attend school at UNT, she also works with her mom cleaning houses and mentoring her brothers and sister. She's the oldest. She wants to ensure her siblings move in the right direction as well so despite her exhaustion, she makes sure to help them with homework, talk to them about college, and help the oldest brother try to figure out what he wants to be and encourage him to find a direction after high school.

When we get together, she often tells me about working for people who have so much money that they don't have to think about if they can afford something. She never speaks with any condescension. As she tells me, it's always with surprise that people can afford stuff at a whim and with no thought about the cost.

Last night as she was talking, she said one day she wanted to hire "Maggie's Cleaning Services" to clean her house. Since I knew she and her mother clean houses, I thought maybe her mom worked for someone else and that was the name of the company. She laughed and said, "No, I joke with my mom and call her Maggie because the people she works for call her that. I guess they think 'Margarita' is too long of a name to say."

We laughed about the ridiculousness of that. Quite honestly, I was rather irritated and appalled. Who gave anyone the right to change or shorten her given name? Why do people think they can do that? Does Margarita sound too Latino for them? I'm guessing 'Maggie' sounds more like a name in their community so they just decide to call her that. How insulting!

I always remember my mom telling me, "I named you Janet. If I would've wanted you to be named Jan or Janice, I would've named you that." I don't like when people change my name for me. I understand an unintentional mistake, but I will correct them if they call me something other than my name.

I'm going to try not to speculate and make comments about why I believe people have shortened Margarita to a more childish sounding name like Maggie. Instead, I'm going to hope they are reading this and have an a-ha moment of how degrading and insulting that is. I hope they will apologize to Margarita and any other people they might have disrespected in that way and make it a point from this day forward to take the time to learn and pronounce each person's given name no matter how different it sounds to them.

Names are important. We were each given a name and unless we decide to change that name, it isn't anyone else's right to change it for us.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Moments that make me smile

I absolutely LOVE being around kids...well, during certain moments. :) ...and today was one of those moments.

I went downstairs to the After-School Academy to get some footage of the mural the kids designed, drew, and are now painting. (I'll put it together in a post soon). As I stood watching three of the kids paint, one of the other kids stood beside me. Quite honestly, I wasn't paying him any attention whatsoever. I was focused on the mural painting for one, but I've also learned to ignore his antics at times when he decides to act out. So I guess I was unconsciously tuning him out.

I can't quite explain my brain, but I could hear him talking, but it was little one or two word phrases so I guess I thought he was just talking to himself figuring someone would notice and tell him to be quiet or something (that's the way he often gets the attention he desires). Something in my brain told me what he was saying was familiar, but I guess I was just too focused on other things to pay him any mind.

"Hey. Who?"





His words somehow soaked in to my brain and I realized what he was doing! I turned on my heel and faced him with a big smile on my face. He looked at me with a big grin and said, "I saw it."

See, on our After-School Academy blog I post a Story Time section that I or someone else has read to our Flip video camera and I have posted on YouTube. I started it thinking of Reading Rainbow and thought we could use our technology to re-create something similar. I didn't know if it would catch on, but I figured it couldn't hurt and it doesn't take a lot of effort.

Yo! Yes! has been up quite a while. I'd never heard any kids comment on the story so I didn't know if they were listening to it. Evidently some are. much so that they've memorized the words to it. This particular little guy has, at times, been one of our biggest challenges. Either the book, the readers, the computer, or all of the above drew him in. It doesn't matter what it was that drew him in. We all know that reading books leads to improvement in all areas. Since he started with us last summer, I've seen all kinds of improvement in him. This is just one more moment to add to the list. :)

Yo! Yes! is one of my favorite children's books. I'm sure you'll love it, too. You can listen to it here:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dream Walkers

Some of our DREAM Act kids, Monica and Anabeli, are headed to Washington D.C. as I write so they can attend the Immigration March on Washington on Sunday. I wish them the best and hope their actions Sunday will move people to action.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Meeting Ms. Martin

Getting out of the office is always the best thing I do. It's not the most productive in terms of what needs to get crossed off my to do list, but it oftentimes feels way more productive and beneficial than checking off the list of things I need to do for work.

So, I was happy to show off our programs on a tour. Guests are always impressed by the way all of our youth greet with a formal handshake, eye contact, and, "How are you today?" Because we expect the kids to greet every new person they see, it also challenges me to do the same. So, as we toured, I introduced myself to an adult who walked in.

She introduced herself as Rose Martin, David's mother. I knew immediately who she was talking about. David will be 6 years old next month. He is enrolled in the After-School Academy. I hear funny stories about David all the time because he answers with incessant stream of consciousness when you ask him a question. His stream of consciousness talking makes you think his brain is working so much faster than he can tell you, but he's going to keep talking until he gets his point across. Though David talks a lot, his verbal skills are not that great. He is a little difficult to understand. However, like just about any person, when you listen long enough, you begin to understand everything he says.

Knowing all of that, I never expected what Ms. Martin told me. After our introduction she explained she was there to pick up David. She went on to thank us for what we are doing. She explained that she had never been able to communicate with her son. For some reason, his verbal skills had always been delayed. When he got into school, they tested him as having the verbal skills of a 3-year old. She said for the longest time he could never communicate with her. She was frustrated as a parent because she wanted him to talk to her. She wanted him to be able to tell her what was wrong, but he simply couldn't verbally communicate.

Since he has been in the After-School Academy, she explained, his verbal skills have increased dramatically! She told me that his teacher was now thinking about moving him on up to the first grade (which, I'm guessing, is where he is supposed to be age-wise). They will be testing him for learning disabilities just to make sure he is developmentally ready. She thanked me several times for our program and for what it has done for her and her child.

I invited her to our Parent Academy that evening, but she explained she was just there to pick David up so she could run him over to his speech therapy place before she went off to school. Ms. Martin is working on her basics and preparing for nursing school. She is hoping to transfer to TWU in the fall in order to complete her degree.

Days like these encourage, inspire, and challenge me. It is because of and for Ms. Martin that I will go back to my office and continue to work on my to do list and figure out ways for us to measure our progress so that we can continue to exist.

If you would like to help make sure we can continue to exist, please consider donating to our Children's Education programs at this link: (be sure "Children's Education" is designated)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

SMU...Here he comes!

I was sitting in our Parent Academy when Tameshia came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and said she needed to talk to me. Thinking the worst, I  walked to the back with her. Once we got to the back, she explained to me, "Michael just got a $200,000 scholarship!"

I was speechless! $200, SMU! Oh my goodness!

I first met Michael a few years ago when the great people at Education is Freedom provided us with a summer intern. Michael helped us get things organized that summer. Michael attends North Dallas High School. This year, when we started our Digital Connectors program out of Roseland, we recruited from North Dallas. Though we hadn't seen Michael in a couple of years, he remembered us and was one of the first people to sign up.

Though we can't take credit for all of Michael's hard work and persistence in being involved in many different programs and writing and following through on college applications and such, we can say that Michael will be more prepared technologically when he finishes Digital Connectors in May.

By May, Michael will be equipped with a Cisco IT Essentials certification that will provide him with the skills and knowledge of rebuilding computers from scratch. He will know how to create a mobile app. He will have completed a leadership skills module as well as a financial literacy module...all of which will be extremely important in college--especially at such a competitive school like SMU...and especially as an engineering major!

When Tameshia told me, I immediately went downstairs to congratulate him and do a quick interview. He reads this blog so help me in congratulating him on his amazing achievement of receiving one of only four Dedman Scholarships offered each year at SMU!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Engaged parents

My to-do list never seems to end. Sometimes I have to realize my workload will never go away no matter how hard I try and recognize visiting the programs are sometimes the best thing I can do.

At lunchtime, I decided to check out our LOL (Ladies Oxygen Luncheon) led by Dr. Rhonda, a pediatrician in our clinic. LOL is an opportunity for current, future, and seasoned parents to come together and talk about different parenting and relationship issues. The number and variety of women at the luncheon were impressive--a young mother, pregnant with her 3rd...a couple of mother/daughter pairs...grandparents. Some parents came on their lunch breaks. I was encouraged by the attendance. Our CEO once told me, "people vote with their feet." It seems to me the parents in our community are voting.

Play Connection, an interactive support group on play for parents and children, met this evening. Though a smaller number of parents came, their engagement was energizing! When I arrived, Joshua was saying his "cloud" was when he didn't get to play with his daddy. His "sun" was when he did. At Play Connection, the kids get to play and interact with their parents. Parents and kids work together to create activities together out of very easily accessible materials. The energy in the room was contagious!

When one person said, "Great job!" to a child, other parents followed. Clapping, compliments, and celebrations were in abundance. I heard more "excuse me's" and "I'm sorry" from the kids when talking to each other. The smiles tell the story. 

The homework assignment given to the parents when they left? "Play with your kids for 30 minutes this week." After this evening, I don't think that will be a problem.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

After the Bell: Roseland Jr. Reporters

In case you just couldn't roll out of bed...or forgot to...this morning, here is our WFAA Channel 8 segment on the Roseland After School Academy and Dallas South News Jr. Reporters.

Watch out Chris Flanagan! :)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Turning the tables

Last Thursday, WFAA (Channel 8) came out to visit the After School Academy and video a piece that will air on their After the Bell segment. As was expected, we prepared for their visit and chose two of the kids in the Jr. Reporters program and Shawn Williams, President and founder of Dallas South News (also the founder of our Jr. Reporters program) to speak to Chris Flanagan, the reporter for the event.

However, before they left, our Jr. Reporters turned the tables on them. Ishmael asked to sit down with Chris in order to conduct his own interview. You can see the preview of the segment in the video above.

Watch the entire segment tomorrow morning at 6:20 a.m. on WFAA Channel 8.

We found out yesterday that Channel 8 liked the segment so much, they put it at the end of their "sweeps" period (for those of you who are journalists, I'm assuming you know what that means. For those of us who aren't, I've been told it's a really good thing! :) )

Tune in tomorrow!!