The Total Child

From Rural Towns to Robotics: Coming Full Circle with VISTA

(National Awareness, Equity) Permanent link

 The following is a cross guest post of Eileen Conoboy,Acting Director of AmeriCorps VISTA. She is the daughter of AASA staff member Carolyn Conoboy.

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #AmeriCorpsWorks.  Learn more about AmeriCorps VISTA, by visiting this website https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-vista 

When I packed up my car in 1992 and left my familiar bubble in Arlington, VA to serve a year as a VISTA member in rural North Dakota, I was an adventurous 22-year-old, hitting the road with idealism and a duffel bag. With 3 days of training under my belt, I arrived in town, found a room to rent over the shop-keeper’s house, and settled into my new role at a domestic violence and sexual assault program. I spent the next 12 months recruiting and training volunteers for a battered women’s task force, establishing a safe house network, and setting up a court watch program to monitor how the system responded to victims of abuse. Being able to make a difference in people’s lives was an awakening for me, and I bounded out of bed each morning with excitement and vigor as I headed off to the first job I ever loved. My cultural intelligence also grew as I learned to recruit in church basements, came to understand the difference between a combine and a tractor, and developed a deep appreciation for the richness of Midwestern hospitality.

Fast forward 25 years and here I sit at my keyboard, pinching myself that my circuitous path has led me to be Acting Director of AmeriCorps VISTA. Having benefited from so many interventions in my own life, from Head Start to scholarships and Pell grants, this feels akin to winning the purpose lottery. I get to support the 8,000 VISTAs who are walking the talk and fighting poverty every day in America.

The secret sauce of this 52-year-strong anti-poverty program is its multiplying force. Have a dollar? A VISTA member can turn it into two. Running a program with five mentors to help keep kids in school? A VISTA can recruit and train ten more. VISTA members leveraged $178 million in cash and in-kind resources and mobilized 900,000 local volunteers in 2016 alone. From Anchorage to Orlando and 3,000 sites in between, these anti-poverty warriors are finding the good, multiplying it, and mobilizing the non-federal resources needed to ensure the positive ripples reverberate in communities long after the VISTA member leaves.  

The mission of VISTA hasn’t changed in its 52 years, but the scope of projects has adapted with the times. In addition to bolstering services for homeless veterans and helping low-income youth access college, VISTAs today are combating opioid abuse and expanding robotics programs in low-income communities. An example of the latter is the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) AmeriCorps VISTA project, which I’m thrilled to visit today as I serve alongside VISTA member Christina Lee during AmeriCorps Week. Through the FIRST project, VISTAs help inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, and engage underserved communities and school districts to make science and technology accessible to all children. Since 2013, 114 AmeriCorps VISTA members have expanded FIRST programming into 51 cities and 32 states, engaging more than 7,600 children from under-resourced communities in STEM activities. While robotics and Lego competitions may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of anti-poverty work, the FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA project provides children with access to education and technology resources in order to “engineer paths out of poverty.”

 I can’t wait to see how Christina’s work is empowering local kids. To all of the VISTAs and National Service members serving today – keep fighting the good fight, thank you for your service, and happy AmeriCorps Week!

Guest Blog Post: DACA Students And Resources For Superintendents & Schools

(National Awareness, Equity, Student Support Services) Permanent link

This guest blog post comes from Jonah Edelman, co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children.

Today 750,000 of our nation’s most promising young adults are living under the threat of deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, currently protects these law-abiding young people, brought to the country as children. But the future of DACA is now in doubt, and, without it, DREAMers could be subject to immediate deportation. These DREAMers are students, graduates, and unknown numbers—at least hundreds and more likely thousands—are teachers.

AASA and more than 2,000 education leaders from across the country have signed on to a letter calling on Congress to take immediate action to extend legal protections to these young adults. Students need these protections to realize their potential and educators need them to continue teaching in our classrooms.

District leaders are speaking out now because they can’t afford to lose teachers like Alexis Torres, who teaches history in the Spring Branch, Texas school district. Torres is exactly the kind of teacher schools work desperately to recruit—bilingual and culturally aware in a school where nearly half of students lack fluency in English. At 23, he’s lived in the United States since he was 5. But absent a protection from deportation, he could be removed at any time.

 Fellow Texan Mayte Lara Ibarra managed to rise to become her high school’s valedictorian with a 4.5 GPA. She’s now enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, but the fear of deportation remains a constant. “My whole life I’ve lived with the conversation of, ‘OK what’s going to happen if like your dad or I get deported,’” she told a local TV station.

 Young people like Ms. Ibarra and Mr. Torres have played by the rules, working hard to better themselves, support their families, and make their communities stronger.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s district in Denver was one of the first to hire teachers under DACA. “We hired them because they are excellent teachers who make our kids and our schools better,” Boasberg said. “To deport talented teachers and students in whom we have invested so much, who have so much to give back to our community, and who are so much a part of our community would be a catastrophic loss."

 The stories and success of DREAMers define what it means to live the American dream and removing them would hurt, not benefit, our schools and our nation.

That’s why a growing number education leaders are joining our call for a lasting solution, including the superintendents of some of the largest school districts; the president of a national teachers union; leaders of top public charter school networks and crucial nonprofits; and principals and teacher leaders.

AASA is leading the way as part of this extraordinary alliance of the nation’s leading educators coming together to protect these DREAMers.  

Today, we are asking you to join us by signing the petition at sign.protectdreamers.org.

By taking action together, we can create conditions in which our students and teachers thrive, rather than relegate them to living in fear.

 For more information about the petition for DREAMer protections and the full list of signatories, please visit protectdreamers.org.

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  1. Clearly communicate that our schools are welcoming to everyone. Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families. Some districts have even declared that they are ICE-free zones/sanctuary schools and have taken the public position that they will not permit entry to law enforcement absent a judicial order.
  2.  Identify a point person who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in the district and keep good documentation of any encounters. Encourage the same for each campus.
  3.  Determine a process for approving documents to ensure all materials distributed to teachers, support staff, students, families and the community are up-to-date and authored by reputable sources.
  4.  Inform students and their families of their rights by distributing “know your rights” materials (or other approved materials) in appropriate languages to stakeholders so they are informed about what to do if a raid occurs or an individual is detained.
  5.  Maintain a list of approved resources, such as the names of social workers, pro bono attorneys and local immigration advocates and organizations, that can be shared with your students and their families.
  6.  Partner with a pro bono attorney, legal aid organization or immigrant rights organization to schedule a “know your rights” workshop on campuses to inform students and families about their rights.
  7.  Identify or create a local immigration raid rapid response team. These teams usually consist of attorneys, media personnel and community leaders who may be able to provide support. If there is a local response team, assign a point person for communication on the district staff.
  8.  Create a process for what to do if a parent, sibling or student has been detained. This should include providing a safe place for students to wait if their parent/guardian is unable to take them home. Double-check emergency contact info and ensure that you have multiple phone numbers on hand for relatives/guardians in case a student's emergency contact is detained, be prepared to issue a statement condemning raids and calling for the immediate release of students, and consider alternate pickup and drop-off arrangements in case an ICE checkpoint is established near your school.
  9.  Coordinate with other agencies in the community as needed, particularly child protective services if the chance of foster care is increased during this time.
  10.  Provide counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.
  11.  Train and educate guidance counselors and key staff to help mentor or guide students who are impacted by immigration, including undocumented students applying to college.
 

 The following links provide additional national resources from immigration experts:  


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Join AASA Children's Programs Department at the 2017 AASA National Conference on Education

(Alternative School Breakfast , Children’s Health Insurance , Innovative Professional Development, National Awareness, Equity, Student Support Services, Community Schools , ESSA) Permanent link

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  Join AASA Children's Programs Department  in New Orleans at the 2017 National Conference on Education (NCE), this March!  

  Below is a schedule of concurrent sessions, Thought Leader sessions and  the Dr. Effie H. Jones Memorial Luncheon. 

 Click on the links below to see flyers with details on each of our sessions.

Register today at nce.aasa.org .

During the conference follow us on social media at @AASATotalChild and  using #NCE17 and read recaps of our sessions  in Conference Daily Online.

Schedule of Events

 Thursday March 2, 2017

9:00 am-10:00 am: Thought Leader: Redesigning Professional Development Systems Leadership, Feedback and Impact (Room 207)
9:00 am -10:00 am: Igniting and Insuring a STEAM K-16 Pipeline  (Room 211) 
12:15pm -1:00 pm: Knowledge Exchange Theater: Online Support for In-School Impact: #InsureAllChildren-- a demonstration of the AASA/ Children's Defense Fund school-based, child health insurance outreach and enrollment toolkit.(Exhibit Hall)

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1:00 pm-2:00 pm: Dealing with Loss and Grief in School   (Room 211)
2:45 pm -3:45 pm: Feeding Hungry Minds: Funding Your School Breakfast Program (Room 211)
4:00 pm-5:00 pm: Thought Leader: Community Schools: Cultivating Opportunity, Equity and Agency (Room 207)

 Friday March 3, 2017
10:45 am -11:45 am:  Leveraging the Every Student Succeeds Act to Provide Integrated Student Supports (Room 211)
11:45 am -1:45 pm: The Dr. Effie H. Jones Memorial Luncheon with featured speaker, Monique W. Morris, author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (Room 208)
2:45 pm-3:45 pm: Build a Culture of Equity in Your District (Room 211)

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We look forward to seeing you in New Orleans!