Why scholarships are so important

I have been checking my email way too much today. Why today? It is March 31st. The day that 2 foundations are deciding whether to give scholarship funds to Girls TALK for the 2015-2016 school year. I find it a bit ironic that this article showed up on my Facebook feed. Click here to read it.

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The important take away message for me?

The good news is that improving a disadvantaged child’s environment — through after-school programs, healthier school lunches and other initiatives — may have a long-lasting positive effect on the child’s brain development and cognition.

The scholarship program that I want to implement CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Maybe in just a small way, but it can. Fingers crossed I have some funding sources soon!


Today we talked about an important issue for girls…cliques. Some good conversation came as a result. When girls are excluded from a group, and you are a part of that group, it can be very difficult to be true to yourself since oftentimes these girls are really good friends. We brainstormed ways girls could still be friends while also being true to themselves.


Our way of being active was bowling. The look on the girls’ faces as each team bowled was so much fun. Oh, and it was a review of what TALK stands for.

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Next week we will work on decorating the tote bags for the children at Take My Hand Uganda. The girls picked names from a hat today so they know who they are making bags for. Such a fun and crafty way to give back!

Lastly, I was super proud of one girl, Seno, when girls mentioned that we would not be meeting week after next. She mentioned that girls needed to bring in extra canned food items next week because the kids we are donating to will not have school food next week. Wow, she heard my message after all the snow days. Makes my heart happy.


Make up lessons

I have been working hard to figure out how to offer make up lessons for the snow days. This meant that I got to go to Glenwood twice this week! One of the girls made my day when she said that they had Saturday school tomorrow and could we do Girls TALK 3 days in a row…it would be awesome 🙂

This was her Alien Art….

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Alien name art

As I promised the girls at Willow Oak, we finished up our Alien name art activity this week. The girls were supposed to write their names and write a word that described them. A few examples: smart, different, generous, creative, awesome. Next up, trace the mirror imagine and then make the image into an alien. They were having so much fun being creative that I decided to give this activity some extra time (look at me being flexible and not adhering to my official lesson plan!).

What a great way to reinforce the fact that we are all unique and should celebrate this always!

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more ways of giving back

One of the girls in my Willow Oak program has a parent involved in a new non profit organization Take My Hand Uganda. At our lesson last week, we brainstormed how we could help give back to the organization. The director had a really good idea: create personalized tote bags for the 29 sponsored girls, complete with a handwritten note in each bag. She shared that the girls have virtually nothing that is completely “their own.” To have a tote bag with their name on it would be more than they could ever hope for. And, it is something that our group could do so easily (and have a blast making in the process!)

I love that we keep coming up with ways to give back both locally and globally. We continue to donate to TABLE weekly and get letters of thanks, but also like the fact that we can give back in a way that helps the family of a girl in our program.

Learning to think about others and give back is such an important message I want to pass along to the girls.

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Final Endeavor lesson of the quarter

Endeavor is on a quarter system with their enrichment clubs. Today was the final lesson for the third quarter. I read the book Amazing Grace by, Mary Hoffman. What a great message. Grace wants to be Peter Pan in her school play but her peers tell her that she cannot be Peter Pan because she is a) a girl and b) is black. Her mom and Nana tell her she can do anything she sets her mind to. What a great message to share with the girls at the end of our quarter!

We played a new game that ended up being more comical than fun. The game was Balloon Tag. Each girl who is not “it” has a balloon tied to her ankle. You are out when someone steps on your balloon and pops it. But something was up with the flooring and so each time a balloon touched the floor, it popped…..except for one girl’s balloon. She danced around the multipurpose room with it dancing behind her. Never popped. The other girls were dumbfounded, as was I!


After making talking pocket friends, we celebrated with cupcakes. Always a hit.


One of the girls gave me a big ol hug and said she was so happy to be able to come to our celebration. Man, the hugs I have gotten this week….one of the many perks of my job!


Finally! Back at Glenwood

We have missed 3 lessons due to weather at Glenwood Elem. I am working on make up lessons, but dang I have missed those girls! The hugs I got this afternoon at the green table (where we meet at school dismissal) made my day. What makes my heart even happier? The school has provided scholarships for 4 girls to participate in the program. The fact that these girls have been able to participate is a true reflection on what the school feels is important for social and emotional development. I am also continually grateful for the social work intern, Jennifer, who helps me with each and every aspect of the lessons. Dancing goofy like Piggie? Yes. Being a part of a relay team to make them even? Check. Braving cold temps to play The Big Egg Drop? Yes. And, I could go on.

It is strange how things happen. Last spring, a mom at Willow Oak told a friend who has children at Glenwood about Girls TALK. 3 girls from Glenwood came to the Willow Oak program and asked for a program at their school this year. The school social worker made this her personal project to make happen, and here we are…with 2 more girls joining last month. I am learning that it takes time to grow a program in a new location, which makes supportive school staff all the more special.

And, my last awesome comment about Glenwood (for now at least :-)) We use the French classroom for the first part of our lessons. And if it is cold/rainy, we stay inside for the entire lesson. The French teacher not only lets us use her space (and is even good with me writing on her board, moving things around…a teacher’s worst fear!) but she laughs at my jokes, the book readings, and seems to really enjoy what we are doing in her room.

All to say, I do heart Glenwood in so many ways. Check out my Glenwood girls, as I call them on this sunny and warm Thursday afternoon!
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Willow Oak lesson – being true to yourself

The topic of this week’s lesson was being true to yourself. I asked the girls to share a time they stood up for themselves and it was hard. I was so proud of so many of the girls and what they shared. This prompted a well needed discussion about how all of our bodies, especially at their age, are changing. None of the girls in our group have bodies that look exactly the same. We should always celebrate healthy choices and our uniqueness.

The book reading was Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun. A girl with big, curly hair stands up for her tastes in food 🙂 How did we do?

We started an art activity but were not able to finish. The girls made art out of their names and a word that represented something unique about them. We will finish up next week. I did not want to stop our good discussions to finish this activity.

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more winter weather and how it relates to what we do…

So with more winter weather heading our way starting at 3pm today, I had to cancel the lesson at Glenwood Elementary. Super bummed about this since we have missed the previous 2 weeks as well. But after I made the call, the school district canceled all after school activities which made me feel better about the decision I made. I am already brainstorming ways to do make up lessons, but after the nice weather yesterday I was really ready for spring 😦

I spent the first part of my lessons at Endeavor and Willow Oak talking about the weather, how we were all a bit stir crazy, but we were different from some families in our community….we also had enough food to eat. Children that receive the canned food items we donate often rely on the school meal as their only meal of the day. What happens if those children do not go to school for 8 out of 10 school days? I cannot imagine the stress of missing work/being trapped at home and off our regular schedule without food. I could see the girls processing this information as we talked. And it is not their fault….like most of us, they take for granted that food will be available to them.

I hope this talk, as well as more in the future, will help the girls understand the importance of our goal of giving back to the community.

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Fore more about this issue and inclement weather, click here to read a good article. And, my favorite quote:

“People would be surprised,” she said. “That can of beans that is in their pantry that they don’t want to eat could make a world of difference for a family. For us, a bag of beans and some smoked meat, that goes a long way.

“With that, I can make a meal that’ll warm the bones.”