Infant University Begins September 27, 2014!

 

I heard her scream “Get out of the car NOW!” They were frightening sounds. Last week, our team and Mason West from Randolph School were meeting with the dedicated academic challenge teachers at University Place Elementary School. It was a hot and steamy afternoon and I had to make a run for iced tea at a nearby grocery for the meal afterwards. It was in our neighborhood-the kind where you have to pay to get a shopping cart that has been locked up to prevent theft. As I got out of my car, I was startled by the strident sounds of a young harried mother screaming at her two small children to get out of the car. It was painful to watch and I could only wonder “If we could reach that mother in Infant University early on, would her behavior towards those children be different? Would their future be more bright and could we help this mother be more patient with her little ones?” Their faces showed such fear and shame.  The little boy had probably started school that day. The small girl might have been in kindergarten. Did they hear any kind words from the volunteers, staff and teachers that they met? What will their future be like? This mother had roughly grabbed the boy’s arm with such force that I feared for him and his sister. Should I have stepped in and said something to this obviously stressed out mama? I did that 2 decades ago and the mother got even more enraged, so I did not. I know that young woman loves her children, but she just didn’t have the skills to speak in a way that was more appropriate. Will those children be in the cradle to prison pipeline of poverty? I pray not.

Because of the generous opportunity given to us by Huntsville Hospital and the Jane K. Lowe Foundation, we are finally able to launch Infant University next month beginning with 25 families. I hope we can assist those mothers, fathers, foster parents and grandparents in a meaningful way. It will be a game changer if we can help them care for their new babies and eventually their young children like the ones I saw in the Aldi parking lot. Along with discussing the physical and emotional needs of an infant, this program encourages early reading and language development.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Wendy Yang to discuss our first upcoming Infant University modeled after Harlem Children’s Zone Baby College. Baby College is a very successful program started by Geoffrey Canada. Infant University begins Saturday, September 27 at AAA school and ends the Saturday before Thanksgiving.   There will be 4 Infant University  9 week courses per year. Each session will be from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Our first class is made up of 25 new parents or expectant parents. Breakfast and lunch will be served.

Infant University will help these parents nurture and care for their children and get them all on a good start in life. We will provide dynamic speakers from many agencies such as the National Children’s Advocacy Center, Huntsville Hospital and offer the expertise of local physicians.

Wendy is very focused and motivated to take this project on. She has attended, along with our founders, Harlem Children’s Zone training for Baby College. It is certainly a best practices program. She graduated from Wellesley College as an undergraduate and received a master’s degree from University of Berkley. Her master’s is in educational psychology and she has worked as a school psychologist for many years. She came to realize during that work the importance of the foundation of the family for the child she was working with. It was obvious to Wendy that her clients loved their children but they didn’t have the resources or the childhood experiences to be more effective parents.

Infant University will target parents of children in our Promise neighborhood from expectancy to 11 months. Wendy would like to eventually expand the program to reach 3 years of age and this signature program will be the beginning of the Village of Promise pipeline. It is her great desire to build meaningful relationships with our families and follow them from cradle to college to a sustainable career. She is being assisted by our co-founder Gloria Batts.

What will happen to that young mother and her two young ones? We may never know, but we do know you can choose to make a difference and a promise, in this neighborhood, at this time and to do it for all the children that deserve a better start in life.

 

 

Infant University

Groundbreakers: First Village of Promise Students in College

They are the first generation Village of Promise college students who graduated from Butler High School in 2013. These students are doing well in college, some better than others. They are academic mavericks, groundbreakers and are now facing campus life in the brave new world of college. On a warm, blamy evening in June, Village of Promise held a College Success Program get together for about 10 of these students who are attending colleges across the country. Some attend locally, some moved out of state, but they were here to talk about their experiences. We were there to encourage and provide some wisdom along with their mentors who also attended the gathering. Their accomplished mentors have been in touch with them throughout the year. There are plans to reconnect at the end of the summer before Jazlynn, Terrell, Jacqueline, Donesia, Briana, Porsha and Sakai head back to school.

The small  gathering was held at the elegant home of Bobby Bradley, CEO of Village of Promise. Students were offered a delicious buffet of tenderloin, vegetables, rolls, desserts and appetizers. The warmth filled the house with the sound of excited young adults happy to be back home after a year away from familiar surroundings, family and friends. They rejoiced at seeing their old buddies and seemed more mature since we saw them last. It was clear they are growing up and beyond the walls of Butler. They talked of summer plans, internships and their past year at school.

After some ice breaker activities lead by Cynthia Benion, a former college counselor and mentor, we settled in the comfortable den to discuss their first year of college. Michael Cox, an impressive man with a kind and gentle demeanor led the discussion. He asked the students what was the most challenging aspect of college for them. Not surprisingly, getting up early and not having mom to get them up was a big challenge! Their youthful excitement peppered their comments about the collegiate experience. However, looks of concern crossed their faces as well. Time management was an issue for many of the students. One of the mentors made several suggestions about how to manage time better from her own personal experience. Mr. Cox made sure they understood that they were on their own now and the colleges expected them to conduct themselves as adults. “To get the most out of college” he said, “one must be proactive”. It is really the transition time from follower to leader in their own personal life. Elton Askins, another dynamic mentor, offered some salient comments about their college career and asked what they really wanted out of it. The students were encouraged to implement their dreams of graduating by being relentless in their pursuit of  help, either physical, academic or personal. To see the mentors have such genuine concern for the students was a high point of the year for those of us in attendance. Our work is demanding and sometimes discouraging so it was so rewarding to meet to celebrate the students’ victories!

Patricia Daniel from Oakwood College, explained that it is up to them to reap the monetary investment they are putting into their education (many are on student loans that require repayment) by showing up for class, seeking out advisors and asking for any assistance they may need. Most of these students are first generation college students and some did not have parents graduate from high school. They talked about dating, roommates, Greek life, homecoming, parties and grades. There was no subject off the table. The leaders and mentors encouraged the students to try to adapt to others that are different from them because when they begin a career they will run into difficult people there as well and in all of life hereafter. Ah, the lessons of life are sometimes hard!

The young adults were challenged to ask questions and learn to solve problems. The scholars were encouraged to go by their advisors’ office and make a personal visit to get their questions answered. Another life lesson: face to face interactions are always best. Our students saw that many others at their college or university came from more privileged backgrounds than them, but they are determined to persevere on in their college studies. Of course, finances were an issue, but impressively, all the students had already filled out their FAFSA for the fall!! They struggle to pay for books and personal expenses and that seems to weigh on them a lot. Lack of funds hovers over them in every aspect of the college career.

These bright motivated students were surprised how hard they had to study since many of them really didn’t have to work hard in high school. The exuberance in the room erupted again when the students talked about the cafeteria food. They missed their moms’ home cooking a lot!!

Autumn Summers is one of our most dedicated mentors. She checks in a Jazlynn frequently and offers advice and reassurance when she needs it.

We are so proud of our groundbreakers and are grateful to our mentors. The newly minted college sophomores are more than happy that they survived their freshman year and can’t wait for more adventures in education. If you would like to sponsor a student in college please email jcash@villagepromise.com. We hope as each year passes we have more and more students from Village of Promise attending and graduating from college and going on to a sustainable and productive careers. As Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone has said ” We want our Harlem kids to graduate just like privileged people want their kids to graduate.” Well said, Mr. Canada, well said.

 

College Students at Bobbys

“I Walked”-The Story of a Young Girl

 Editor’s Note: The name of the student has been changed.

Purple tennis shoes

Sometimes, to understand the value of something, you have to grasp what others will do to obtain it. “I walked” is the story of someone who was willing to go above and beyond what most children would do to learn in the classroom.

Shoes say a lot about a person. Hers were usually tennis shoes, either all purple or pink and white. They were the color of penny candy and she often wore colorful socks pulled up to her knees. Katrina is a wisp of a girl, petite with a head full of beautiful hair that she loves wearing ribbons in. She is a ball of energy and bursting with potential.

Her early morning Bible study teacher, Carolyn Landry, describes Katrina as joyful, respectful and someone she would be happy to have as a daughter. Carolyn, herself a jolt of electricity, is a staff minister and administrator at First Missionary Baptist Church. She volunteers to teach the fourth grade girls’ class at Montview Elementary School. Village of Promise holds Bible classes every morning at 7 a.m. for interested students at Montview. About 100 students are taught by a team of amazing volunteer teachers every single day. These teachers are headed by the talented and compassionate duo of Gloria Batts and Linda Riley.

Katrina, a very bright girl with luminous eyes, would sit outside Carolyn’s Bible class and listen intently. Their eyes would meet for a split second after every class. Eventually Carolyn asked Katrina if she would like to join the girls’ class. Her eyes lit up as she said “Yes!” For days Katrina arrived several tens of minutes late as it was the only time that Katrina could get a ride to Montview. One bright Monday, she arrived on time, even quite a bit early!

When Carolyn asked her how she got there so promptly, she replied, “I walked”. Katrina and her little sister, whom she cares for deeply, walked to school to get to her Bible class on time crossing Pulaski PikeA busy thorough fare, Pulaski Pike is a street most adults wouldn’t attempt to cross, even with a crossing guard. Katrina’s mother is Haitiian and they have few resources. From her prayers at prayer time, it is obvious that her prayers are the prayers of a responsible child feeling the burdens of her family’s struggles. While her family may have very few material resources, it was obvious to her teacher that they are rich in the thing that matters most-love! Katrina often speaks of her lovely mother and the scrumptious dishes she prepared for them; dishes her mother ate while growing up in her native Haiti.

Katrina has grown in confidence in Carolyn’s class. She is so focused on learning that she learned The Lord’s Prayer from listening to the other children recite it. Despite her small stature,  Katrina is a natural leader in every sense of the word and her potential to succeed is obvious. Village of Promise will support Katrina and the others at Montview Elementary to reach college college and help her flourish there. The early morning Bible study is just one Village of Promise program which nurtures the whole child. The teachers at Montview report that the students we reach through early morning Bible study are reading better, and their reciting and their classroom behavior has improved.

When you look down at small feet, do you see a child willing to walk early in the morning in purple tennis shoes to spend time with the Village of Promise teachers? Would you have such a hunger and thirst for knowledge and mentorship from someone like Carolyn Landry? Katrina’s story is just one story out of many about the students we serve at Village of Promise. We always hope to provide encouragement  and resources to succeed academically while helping the scholars graduate college and a obtain a sustainable career.

If you would like to know more about Katrina and other children in our program and would like to sponsor one of them, please contact jcash@villagepromise.com.

 

Academic Challenge Changes Lives 2014

Pearls

 

Under the uber capable leadership of Julie Groark and Marcie Wingo, the Village of Promise-Academic Challenge was thrilling and inspiring. But, more importantly, it changed many lives on April 20, 2014. When I started working with Monique, a tall, slender, beautiful 5th grader with a Jamaican accent, she was preparing for the oratory portion of the academic challenge. Many at Village of Promise volunteered to help her rehearse and craft a speech. For months, 2 days a week after school, she would prepare and memorize her speech about bullying. At first, Monique would rush through the text to just get it over with. She began to learn to slow down, pause for emphasis, and to raise and lower her voice all while looking around the room. Monique is bright with lively eyes that tell a story of a old soul. Monique is a student at University Place Elementary School in our Village of Promise neighborhood. It is rife with unemployment, crime and poverty.

Monique has two younger siblings that her single mother must care for, but Monique wants to attend Harvard someday. We practiced just minutes before she went onstage and she froze and faltered. She said “I can’t follow the script! I can’t do this!” Prior to this event, I told her that I would let her wear my pearls, as every President giving the State of the Union Address must wear pearls! I had actually forgotten about it until the minute she spotted me in the crowds of people entering the auditorium and said, “You promised me your pearls!!” With minutes to go before her speech, she had those pearls on.

Aaliyah and Savannah, from Lincoln Academy did a wonderful job giving their State of the Union address. Monique was next and as the Randolph Jazz Band played “Hail to the Chief”(as they did for the others), Monique was escorted in by secret service men in dark suits and glasses. She was shaking hands like a seasoned politician. Monique climbed the steps slowly and began her speech. I held my breath as did all of us who worked with her. She wore her finest dress and she was stunning. Her speech was almost flawless. She overcame her heavy accent to be understood clearly and took her time with each salient point about bullying. Monique had never heard of Italy, so she called it It-ALY over and over in practice. In her speech, she got it on the money.

When she left the stage, we could all see tears in her eyes. She worked hard, she got up on the huge stage at Thurber Arts Center at Randolph School in front of politicians, judges and dignitaries and she did it. That is the magic of the academic competition. Children who have learned harsh boundaries meted out by poverty realize that by working hard and overcoming obstacles that they can accomplish anything. When the winner was announced and it was Monique, she was glowing with pride. This is just one example of the experiences of the students who competed in the academic challenge.  They will never be the same. We have already set the date for the next academic challenge-May 3, 2015, and our scholars can’t wait!

Village of Promise-Randolph Challenge: You are Invited

On April 13, 2014, we invite you to the second annual epic academic competition. Well, maybe not epic, but impressive. It will be from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. at Randolph School, Thurber Arts Center, Garth Campus. The competition is a result of a partnership with Randolph School and Village of Promise. This event strives to encourage our students and all participants to work hard and to “go for the gold” in academics.

The competition will comprise of teams from Butler High School, Lincoln Academy, Randolph School and University Place Elementary School. The sub categories are debate, math attack, State of the Union address, and entrepreneurship. There will be mixed teams as well as individuals competing.

What I saw last year were students who enjoyed learning how much they could accomplish with hard work, no matter what their socioeconomic background was. I saw students from different life experiences form friendships and come to truly care for each other. I saw the judges’ and guests’ mouths drop in amazement during the math attack as the scholars did the exhaustive math in their head and explained the concepts behind it. I saw the slow smiles of other judges as the students debated the Accountability Act. I saw the amused  look of the audience as the darkly clad “Secret Service” escorted the State of the Union President participants to the podium. I saw the Junior League of Huntsville provide warmth and hospitality at the intermission (along with lots of cookies!) with such enthusiasm. I saw the proud faces of the volunteers, parents and teachers who worked with our students to prepare them for this event. I honor the many volunteers who provide after school snacks for our scholars on the academic challenge prep days. Mason West has tirelessly trained mentors and volunteers to help the students prepare for the competition. Last year, I saw community leader judges willing to give up their Sunday afternoon to be a part of an event that has never been done before in Huntsville. We have another slate of judges willing and excited to help out this year.

What will you see this year? We expect the Village of Promise-Randolph Challenge to be even bigger and better with more students participating and hopefully more in attendence. Julie Groark and Marcie Wingo have agreed to chair the event and we could not be more grateful. Their capable committee is up and running to showcase the talents of our students. This year, you will see the results of one on one mentoring of our entrepreneurship entrants from the Huntsville business community. Kenny Anderson will emcee the competition.

If you would like to volunteer,  please go to the volunteer application and indicate that you are interested in the academic competition.

The competition is free and open to the public. Come and see academics celebrated in a new and exciting way!

 

 

Teachers Are Terrific! Ms. Schertz

Biography of Ms. Candace Schertz by Tatiana Barnes

Editor’s Note: This is another installment in a series of articles that is part of our “Teachers Are Terrific!” program.

January 3, 2014

Ms. Schertz

            William Arthur Ward once wrote, “The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, and the great teacher inspires.” It takes a teacher of outstanding willpower, motivation and skill to inspire. Ms. Candace Schertz, Assistant Principal of University Place Elementary School, is one of those exceptional individuals whose main goal is to inspire her students and faculty at University Place.

            Charismatic, energetic, young, and attractive are just a few words that describe Candace Schertz. A native of Lincoln County, Tennessee, she grew up understanding the importance of balancing hard work and fun, as most individuals that grow up on a farm do. The 70 acre farm where Ms. Schertz grew up gave her an appreciation for nature, and the childhood experiences that most city girls are not fortunate enough to come in contact with. As a small child, she was richly blessed to be able to roam the open land, breathe the fresh air, and get dirty. That formative experience was a far cry from unremitting exposure to the technology and television that her millennial generation contemporaries have been so inundated with.

After graduating high school, Ms. Schertz began her studies at Athens State University, Alabama. Initially, she was not interested in teaching, but she began to reassess her future plans while taking a course in literature. It was her literature professor, Dr. Betty Newman, who pointed out that she had a gift for teaching as she observed her helping other students in the class. As a result, Ms. Schertz began taking courses in elementary education and classroom management, and it made her realize how important her role as a teacher could ultimately be. Dr. Newman, although only she only taught her one literature class, was the most influential person in her academic growth and subsequent career choice.

In 2005, Ms. Schertz graduated from Athens State University and was fortunate enough to obtain a job immediately after college. She began her career at Challenger Elementary School, located in Huntsville, Alabama. Although young and inexperienced, she faced teaching her elementary students with aplomb and with a smile on her face. Due to her keen sense of organization and gentle patience, she accepted the challenge of teaching 6th grade, but found her astronomy class to be a bit of a challenge. Taking into account that she never took astronomy classes in college, Ms. Schertz studied the subject and created new and stimulating ways to help the students and herself grasp the overall concepts of astronomy.

While teaching at Challenger Elementary, Candace became the curriculum specialist at Chapman Schools. Ms. Schertz accepted another professional challenge, which was becoming the Assistant Principal of University Place in the fall of 2013. Becoming vice principal at a new school is not easy, but she is determined to focus on building relationships with students, faculty, parents, and staff, which is a nod to her college professor. “Feeling like I am part of making a difference in this school and seeing the kids excited about the positive implementations at their school is one of the most rewarding experiences”, said Ms. Schertz. She would like to increase the attendance rate at the school which has been a concern of the staff for some time. In addition, she aims to progressively increase the focus on reading for her youngest students, which she believes will be a fundamental foundation of their success academically.

Although still very young, Ms. Schertz has accomplished an enormous amount in her career with great persistence and poise. This once carefree farm girl from Tennessee has used her abilities and her gift for teaching to create a willingness to learn and work together within the school. Her passion and understanding of the importance of relationships with her students would make Dr. Newman quite proud. Even though she may have some time to go before she sees some areas of concern improve, she is well on her way to  accomplishing whatever goals she has set before her. We salute our terrific teacher Candace Schertz!

The Story of PeopleTec, Inc.: People First…

PeopleTec InterviewShortly before the Thanksgiving holidays, on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon, I interviewed the management and staff of PeopleTec, Inc.  Ushered into a large conference room, I met with Terry Jennings, Tasha Jones, Kate Breitbach, Katy Stowe, Linda Scalf and Jennifer Cooper.  PeopleTec is a relatively young company, founded in 2005 by Terry Jennings and Doug Scalf,  and provides technical support in the defense industry. This organization prides itself in providing a people centric workplace and in making customer and employee satisfaction a top priority. Their motto is People First, Technology Always.

In 2013, PeopleTec chose Village of Promise as their charity of choice. I wanted to learn more about PeopleTec, the charity selection process, and their impressions of Village of Promise. The corporate headquarters for PeopleTec is located in Huntsville, Alabama.

A small but mighty PeopleTec Charity Committee selected a handful of finalists from the many local and national non profit corporations who submitted comprehensive applications. The entire company of 250 employees voted on the final selection. Casting a vote allowed all the employees to feel included in the selection process even if they were based in other cities.The initial vetting process and final decision was was full of thought and discussion.

After the finalists were chosen, each non profit was asked to make a presentation about their organization. Bobby Bradley, CEO of Village of Promise, spoke to the PeopleTec employees about the mission of Village of Promise. Several were struck by her statement “If you don’t have great means, you can still volunteer and be a part of making a difference in the Village of Promise neighborhood”. They also chose VoP as their company charity because they felt that this non profit solved problems at the local level and in a tangible and personal way. They understood that Village of Promise was impacting lives one child and family at a time by tutoring, mentoring, and by enriching the academic experience .

Terry Jennings, CEO, expressed that “Huntsville has been good to us, and we wanted to give back to the city and its people”. Ms. Jennings also stated that she admired Bobby Bradley, the CEO of Village of Promise very much and that Ms. Bradley “always did what she said she would do”. Another discriminating factor leading their decision was that Village of Promise has made a positive change in the Huntsville community and especially for those less fortunate in the Village of Promise neighborhood.

PeopleTec frequently holds employee morale events to allow employees to meaningfully connect with each other in a more casual setting. It was decided that these events could be tied to fundraising for the company charity of choice. Each year, a new charity is selected and all funds raised goes directly to that charity. Under the leadership of the PeopleTec Charity Committee, the employees and their families have published a cookbook titled “Cooking Up Success”. All the 2013 cookbook proceeds goes to Village of Promise. The children of the employees drew pictures of the completed recipes with childhood zest and colorful hues. PeopleTec set a goal to raise $8000 for Village of Promise this year and they have met that goal. What an accomplishment! One of many events that helped reach that goal was a company picnic that sold hot dogs and hamburgers. As Ms. Jennings stated, “Everyone is tired at the end of the day, but we thought this was such a worthy cause. Everyone was willing to rise to the challenge and raise money for Village of Promise”.

Some of the PeopleTec employees have personally invested their time and have volunteered at University Place Elementary School in a hands on way. They found it to be such a rewarding and satisfying experience. The entire staff that I interviewed expressed great satisfaction that they got to be a part of something bigger than themselves. A few of the employees will go on to continue to volunteer with Village of Promise children at University Place Elementary School after being exposed to the warm smiles of their young students, the problems of generational poverty in our city, and the solutions offered by Village of Promise.

PeopleTec sets an inspiring example for other companies in Huntsville that want to become involved in helping others in the community and to put people first.

It was a pleasure to meet the team at PeopleTec and we are so grateful for their support. It was truly a perfect start to the 2013 Thanksgiving week. To purchase a cookbook or to contact PeopleTec about their charity program contact Tasha Jones at tasha.jones@peopletec.com or 256-319-3875.

Pumped Up Kids: Freedom School by Tatiana Barnes

Pumped Up Kids: Freedom School

By Tatiana Barnes

 

“If your actions inspire others to learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” Our sixth President, Mr. John Quincy Adams made a good point with this inspiring statement. It’s not enough just to lead individuals and have them follow you. As a leader, you must direct those who put their faith in you, and guide them in the right path that is not only positive, but inspirational. So briefly, I’m going to write about how I was inspired by a group of kids and a man who has more energy than a minion from the movie Despicable Me.

From the moment I entered the gym at Freedom School, located in University Place Elementary School, I knew that I was in for a real treat. Freedom School is a six week summer enrichment program that aims to encourage underprivileged students to pursue an education and foster a love of reading. Fortunately, that day I was thrown in the midst of an activity that was being directed by the company Song Lever, and led by founder and CEO Monroe Jones. Like those of you who are not real music gurus – I had no idea who this man was. I discovered that he is a musical genius. Monroe Jones is a Grammy Award winning producer who has produced over 30 number one records. He has also written or played for Stevie Nicks, David Crosby, and even U2. Yet in all of his endeavors, he took the time to come to Huntsville with camera crew and equipment to inspire a group of children who do not always have the opportunity to be inspired.

As the kids began to settle down in their respective areas on the gym floor, I was quite pleased with how well behaved they were. They were all quiet and attentive as Mr. Jones explained that he would be teaching them how to write songs. Now it would not seem so unusual that the children would listen while this man spoke, if you had seen, as I did, the children singing and laughing and dancing with their student interns doing warm up exercises to get rid of all the energy from their early lunch. Within minutes of his introduction,  Monroe had the children learning all the parts that make up a song; then the energy escalated within the entire gym facility. The children jumped up and danced as he played each beat. Mr. Jones was just as energetic, encouraging the kids to be creative, spin, dance, and twirl. There was even a group of younger boys in the back doing their own versions of break dancing. This embodied  the moments for me that were so inspiring. I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling, because the energy in the room was so powerful. These children weren’t excited because they were in front of a television screen playing video games, or listening to their media players. They were in the moment of musical discovery, creative movement, and being part of something that was a fun, learning experience.

Mr. Monroe Jones helped these students with these exercises so that they could write their own unique song. Before I excused myself from the gym, Mr. Jones played songs that he had previously helped other students create. One such school was  Lincoln Academy. Their song was called, “Kids are cool” and another school wrote a song called “Zig Zag,” which was a song about basketball. I thought that was really nice that they could listen to other kids’ songs. You see, Mr. Jones doesn’t just write the lyrics, beats, melody, and  phrases for the children and say that the kids wrote it. He allows the children to understand their likes, dislikes, and what it is that they want to say through music. He gives them some rhythms, and allows them to go with it. The could shout  feelings, ideas, dreams, and hopes. Monroe then skillfully guides them in creating their own songs, which I truly admired about him. Its wonderful to see kids be able to speak their minds and have someone take the time to listen with their ears and heart.

I hope that whoever is reading this feels as inspired as I did. No matter what age you are, young or old, we can all try and make a difference in someone’s lifemusicvideo with our gifts. I feel that it’s inspiration which allows us to sometimes push ourselves just that much more. Unfortunately, it’s not every day that we get to encounter someone who can inspire positive changes. So, for all of you out there who maybe have been feeling a little uninspired, remember these kids and the Despicable Me minion, Mr. Monroe Jones, and try to make some positive changes in your life as well as others.

 

My Summer Interning in Southern Style by Tatiana G. Barnes

TatianaEditors Note: Village of Promise is dedicated to providing support services for students from cradle to college to sustainable career. Helping students by rewarding them with internships is just one of the ways we support our students to find meaningful employment after their college graduation.

I recently watched an episode of The Hills, a reality show on MTV. This particular show follows a young woman from Laguna Beach, California, who lands an internship with Teen Vogue Magazine in Los Angeles, California. From the moment I started watching highlights from the show, I realized it was an unrealistic situation. I felt as though the countless mistakes being made on her part was more so for entertainment, than for a realistic view of what it is actually like to be a young woman interning. Therefore, I would like to share with others, my sometimes dramatic, honest, and personal accounts of my internship experience thus far.

As a senior, majoring in public relations you would think that I have it all figured out. My resume should be full of internships, job experiences, and a list of recommendations from my professors. Unfortunately, that is not exactly the case. The one thing that I was missing was a great internship in public relations, since my last internship was previously at the Oakland Post newspaper over three years ago. So when the opportunity arrived for me to help plan an Oakwood Communications Seminar, a light bulb went off. I thought, ” Get an internship at the seminar”. The seminar went great as we had hoped. There were plenty of professionals in a wide range of communication areas on campus, and they were willing to spend time talking to students. While attending my last seminar, I decided it was now or never. As soon as I walked out of the room I personally introduced myself to Ms. Jennifer Cash, the Communications Director for Village of Promise and after weeks of emails and prayers, I got the internship with Village of Promise.

Village of Promise is a nonprofit organization located in Huntsville, Alabama which serves families, from cradle to college to prepare for a better future and career in the neighborhood surrounding University Place Elementary School. They have several dedicated partners in the Huntsville area, such as the Boys and Girls Club of North Alabama, Huntsville City Schools, Randolph School and University of Alabama Huntsville.

My first meeting with Village of Promise on June 3rd was absolutely great. I arrived at the Village of Promise office right on time, even though I had been lost for twenty minutes. From the moment I walked into the office and saw Ms. Cash, amazingly all my nerves went away. It was her initial smile, and firm hand shake which made me realize how important personality is in the communications world. But what really struck me about the meeting was that we began with prayer. As a Christian myself, I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, and to be able to sit in a professional business meeting with educated and professional women who believe in this same philosophy, I knew that I was in a good place. So far the meetings that I have attended have been interesting. Some days they are pretty short, and discussions consist of all the events that will be happening and Twitter and Facebook updates.

Other meetings can be really interesting. One of the meetings that I attended was held at a local Starbucks with Holly Ralston, the Communications Director for Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama. From the moment I was introduced to Ms. Ralston, I thought to myself, “Boy, does she have a lot of energy”. But I loved it, and unlike some people I feed off of energetic energy and it gets me going. During the meeting, she and Ms. Cash helped me understand the importance of organization and being extremely detail oriented. For example, they had to decide what book Mayor Tommy Battle would be reading to children at an event being held and you would think that any children’s book would suffice. But, there were so many underlying details as to what type of book to choose. They had to make sure that not only the book was age appropriate, but free of biased religious and political views, and entertaining for both the children and adults who would be listening in. I was amazed by how much detail can go into something that seems so simple.

So, far my experience with my internship has been great. Although I’m not interning at the glamorous Teen Vogue, I am interning for an organization that prides itself in hard work and helping others. It is because of Ms. Jennifer Cash and Ms. Bobby Bradley that I have been introduced to so many professional hardworking individuals such as Mayor Thomas M. Battle, Mason West of Randolph School, and Charley Burruss of Kudzu Productions, which is a motion picture and production company in Huntsville. I feel so fortunate to be able to intern this summer, and I hope that I can give as much of myself to those whom I continue to learn from everyday. I hope that others will allow a light bulb to go off in their heads, and that when an opportunity arises they will take it. I hope that courage can ultimately change their lives like it has changed mine.

Harambee!

The words “Freedom School” and “Harambee” go hand in hand. Every day at Freedom School begins with Harambee – a 30 minute celebration that includes a guest reader from the community. Leaders from the Huntsville community participate as readers, including Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who recently visited. Mayor Battle read the Dr. Seuss book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and enjoyed Harambee with the children.

The program develops and nurtures a love of reading.
The program develops and nurtures a love of reading.

Harambee is a very important part of the Freedom School day. It includes motivational songs, cheers and chants that set the tone for the day and energize both the students and the staff. Harambee is a Kiswahili term that means “let’s pull together.” The Freedom School program encourages the students to believe that they can make a difference in themselves, their family, their community, their country and their world. It helps build self-esteem, fosters a more positive attitude toward learning and connects the needs of the children and their families to resources in the community.

Perhaps the best way to describe Harambee is to share a video that al.com taped during their visit to Freedom School. Enjoy!

Village of Promise was chosen by the Children’s Defense Fund to be a partner with its Freedom Schools Program and is the only program sponsor in the state of Alabama. Freedom School is a six-week summer program at University Place Elementary School that provides enrichment opportunities for 60 students in grades K-5. The Children’s Defense Fund was founded by Marian Wright Edelman, who will be the keynote speaker for the Village of Promise Speaker’s Series in October.

Photo credit: al.com