Year in Review: 2014-2015 Highlights

Courtesy of Community ONE

The Community ONE 2014-2015 school year was one for the books!  Now that summer is upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at some of our most memorable sessions.

At one of our favorite events, students at J.O. Wilson Elementary School had the honor of interacting with the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro.  Secretary Castro told his story of growing up in Texas, where he and his twin brother came from humble beginnings.  The two were the first in their family to attend college.  To teach the students about his role in the administration, Castro asked the students to build communities, choosing what businesses and establishments they wanted to inhabit.  The Secretary then approved and signed off on communities- some of which included police stations, hospitals with free health care, and grocery stores.

At another outstanding event, Jim Shelton III, the former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education, shared his experiences with students at J.O. Wilson.  Shelton explained that a large portion of his work as Deputy Secretary was to make policy decisions with senior staff at the Department of Education.  When asked “what is the hardest part of your job?” he took a deep breath and answered that it was when people advocated against his decisions and the media covered the controversy.  As an activity, the students were divided into groups and given specific policies to discuss among themselves. They then had to convince their fellow colleagues to choose their policy.

The above are just two examples of the great speakers we welcomed this year.  Other notable guests include the following:

In addition, this year we received national attention! Community ONE  was selected by National Geographic as part of their “Killing with Kindness” campaign.  During the special showing of “Killing Jesus”, the channel highlighted non-profits that were dedicated to showing others kindness everyday. Thanks NatGeo!

Community ONE has served successfully in schools for two years. Our mission is to expose kids to interesting careers and we are proud of our progress this year:

  • 68% of students this year said they were more interested in a career they learned about from a Community ONE session.
  • 62% of Students are now considering going to college who were not considering prior to Community ONE.
  • 87% of Students said that due to Community ONE sessions, it is easier to talk to their parents about their career goals.

We would like to thank all of our speakers and students for their participation over the past several months.  We look forward to learning and making more memories in the upcoming year! If  you are interested in learning more about volunteering with Community ONE or making a donation, please visit our website at www.communityone.org.

Out in the Cold: Homelessness & Academic Performance

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Photo courtesy of  Lexie Flickinger

Written by Courtney Battle

As the Fall season gets underway, days get cooler and our clothes get warmer.  We look forward to football and Thanksgiving, but we often forget about those who are less fortunate than us, and have no homes or families to go to during these times.  Homelessness itself is a very serious issue, but can be especially difficult for children.

According to this report, 1,258,182 homeless students were enrolled in American public schools during the 2012-13 school year.  Wrap your head around that number:  1,258,182.  Now imagine what that experience is like- you and your family having no place to live, and yet still getting up every morning to go to school.  Most of us probably could never imagine this life, but unfortunately this is a reality for more than a few kids.

On top of the larger issue of homelessness, one of its side effects are poor performance in school.  The stress alone of being homeless can have several detrimental effects on how a child does in school.  Homeless students are prone to learning disabilities, emotional-behavioral disorders, anxiety, and depression.  Make no mistake, children that live in happy, healthy homes can struggle with these issues as well, but are much less likely to.  A comfortable place to do your homework that has heating and cooling, food in the fridge, and shower to bathe in are all basic amenities that many students probably take for granted, but others would give anything for.

So what is being done to address this problem?  Children’s advocacy group First Focus and several other organizations are pushing their support for the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which would broaden the current definition of homelessness to include children who are temporarily staying in hotels, motels, or with others.  81 percent of homeless children do not fall under the current definition, therefore leaving them ineligible for certain services.

Across the country, Americans are taking notice well.  These Ohio students spent a night outside with few personal items to feel what homelessness is actually like, and raise awareness.  In San Francisco, the nonprofit Hamilton Family Center has a goal of raising $6 million over three years to add to city funding.  In addition, the organization plans to meet with schools with the highest homeless student populations to hopefully reach families before or right after they become homeless.

Community ONE believes that all children should have the right to excel.  It is our goal to expose students to people who have overcome various challenges, and still ended up with successful careers and lives, no matter where they came from or where they lived.

Random Acts of Kindness

In the end, only kindness matters

Photo courtesy of SweetOnVeg.com

Written by Courtney Battle

Bullying.  It’s an issue that you have probably heard more about than you ever thought you might in the past few years.  Divorce. It can take its toll on anyone, but especially more on children that are involved.  Body Image.  Young girls are struggling with it more and more as images they see of how they ‘should’ look are plastered all over pop culture, television, and movies.  Abuse.  Outside of the classroom, and behind closed doors, it happens way more than we talk about. What do all of these issues have in common?  Students are bringing them to school every single day, carrying them on their backs, and in many cases, probably having no one to talk to.  But what if they did? What if someone showed them that they cared?

Adam Sherman, a teacher at Spoto High School in Hillsborough County, Fla. inspired this post with his recent post on Education Week.  One day in class Sherman noticed that one of his students was looking kind of down, and not really engaged.  He wrote him a note reading, ‘Are you ok?’ and simply put it on his desk, so not to distract any of the other students or bring attention to his gesture.  The student returned the note with his response of ‘No,’ and Sherman reassured him that he understood and was available if the student needed someone to talk to, and that was that.  It turned out the student’s parents were going through a divorce, and he wasn’t receiving the attention he needed at home, but that simple post-it showed the student that Sherman cared- and sometimes, that’s all we really need, right?

If you fast-forward, Sherman spoke to his class and after some brainstorming they came up with an entire program entitled To Be Kind, which ‘seeks to prevent bullying rather than react to it.’  Through social media compliments, positive messages stuffed in lockers, and other gestures, they implemented a ‘culture of kindness,’ at their school and inspired others to do the same.  So now, we would like to take it a step further.

What if acts of kindness took off like the #ALSIceBucketChallenge?  What if people remembered to be kind as often as they check their cell phone in a day?  What about kindness as routine as your daily Starbucks fix? We are inspired by Sherman and his students, and encourage you to get out there and perform a random act of kindness for someone today.  Let us know how you’re spreading kindness around the world, too!  Take a picture, tag @communityoneinc on Twitter with the hashtag #RAK this week and remember, no matter how small you think it is, it could make a huge difference.

Community ONE knows the power that one person has to impact another, and we strive to do so in the programming and activities we provide to students.  We all can do our part in some way, so get in on it today!

Star of the Month: Daniel Bradley

Daniel Bradley, CEO & Co-Founder of Dreams Work, Inc.

Daniel Bradley, CEO & Co-Founder of Dreams Work, Inc.

Daniel Bradley strives to inspire, uplift, and encourage all those that cross his path.  As the CEO and Co-Founder of Dreams Work, Inc., he uses the fine arts as a mode of reaching youth.  The non-profit organization is designed to equip young people to face critical social issues plaguing their communities, preparing them to become “artistic activists.”

Bradley has often been inspired by song lyrics recited by his Grandmother:

“If I can help somebody, as I pass along…Then my living shall not be in vain.”

Bradley has traveled extensively throughout the United States, the U.K. and the Virgin Islands to facilitate training sessions in youth development strategies. With more than 10 years of experience in youth development and community organizing, it is our honor to name Daniel as our Star of the Month!

You can find out more about Dreams Work, Inc. here.