Today’s guest post is written by Ken Wenglewski, Manager of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Last month, Ken had a chance to see firsthand the challenges and rewards of running a public school. We thought his experience was a great way to show how people can create and maintain links between schools and the neighborhoods.
On April 5th, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in Tulsa Public Schools’ “Principal for a Day” at Rogers High School, under the leadership of Stacey Vernon. Stacey was awarded Principle of the Year so it was an honor to shadow her work.
Coming to Rogers was a bit surreal. My wife attended Rogers so walking the halls was very nostalgic.
My day started by working with the Assistant Principal Kendra Bremlett. We talked about her role as support for Stacey. We also spoke of the exciting things that will be happening this Fall with the implementation of College Summit; one of our department’s educational partners.
Later, Stacy took over and we met with April Dalto, a science teacher who had her class cook hotdogs with natural sunlight. The class was energetic, engaged and very creative.
Back in Stacy’s office, I was offered the opportunity to communicate through an Auto-dialer system called School Connects. I read a script out loud, on the phone, telling parents to show up at a bowling event. I had a blast sounding like a DJ for a radio station!
There was another memorable moment back at Stacey’s office. She has a pinball machine in the back office that she likes to use when she isn’t buried in instructional leadership duties. Needless to say, it isn’t used very often.
To that point, the most amazing thing that I observed with Stacey was her ability to know all of the students by name. (more…)
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Last week I wrote about attending the Tulsa premier of A Place at the Table. The film and the discussion that followed raised so many important issues I decided to write a two-part report. My previous post focused on the film. This second installment will focus on the discussion that followed.
A Place at the Table opened at the Circle Cinema on March 8th, and was followed by a panel discussion featuring three local advocates. These three local experts were:
For a little over an hour, an audience crowded the lobby of the theater as panelists talked about the local story. The conversation brought home the fact that hunger is a disturbingly local problem. Despite the continuing efforts of local organizations, the panelists were not there to report they were meeting all the needs of their clients – they were there to tell us the need is still greater than their resources. Here are just a few of the important points the panelist covered:
- Oklahoma is Among the Leaders in U.S. Hunger: The panel began with facts about hunger in our city and our state, and if you visit the Community Food Bank’s “Hunger Fact” page it presents a similar foundation of relevent facts about food insecurity. Here are two quick indicators that Oklahoma has a problem with hunger: 1) In 2011, the USDA ranked Oklahoma fourth (more…)
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A couple of weeks ago, in my previous post, I promised to write about the Tulsa premier of A Place at the Table and the discussion that followed. It’s impossible to sum up every issue brought up by the film. It is equally impossible to write a single post about the film and the discussion that followed; too many important topics to cover. So this will be a two-part report highlighting some of the issues that I found particularly relevant. For this first installment, I want to talk about the film itself, with the understanding this in no way represents the entire list of issues raised by the documentary.
A Place at the Table draws its power from the personal stories of people struggling to afford healthy food. Experts on nutrition and hunger push the message further by explaining the negative effects long-term food insecurity has on a person’s health, education and potential. After watching this documentary, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that this problem is bigger than any one charity can tackle; it is bigger than the current funding of our social safety net can address. These are just three of the reasons why:
- The rate and requirements of SNAP benefits are out of sync with the cost of living. As the film tracks the story of Barbie, a single mother in Philadelphia, this fact becomes clear. Barbie loses her SNAP benefits entirely when she begins to earn more money, but despite a slightly higher paycheck her overall financial situation has not improved. Her children are still eating canned noodles instead of a balanced diet and their mental and physical development will be impacted as a consequence.
- The school lunch program, launched under the Truman administration, was a great idea but is currently underfunded. The film points out that less than a dollar a day per child is actually spent on food for lunches, and then demonstrates how it is impossible to make a quality meal that meets dietary needs on that budget. (more…)
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For the first time in years, I skipped Black Friday. I’m usually out there with the best of them, looking for discounts and enjoying the chaos. So no disrespect to brave souls who faced the crowds this year, but I couldn’t bring myself to tackle the early morning mayhem. There were some perks to sitting it out. It not only felt good to sleep in, but it gave me time to examine what I really wanted to do with my money and time this holiday season. That isn’t to say I stayed home all day. I was out that afternoon, visiting friends and tending to the necessities of life, like getting a tire fixed. So giving up on Black Friday was not an attempt to fend off the approach of carols and decorations, so much as it was an effort to reprioritize things. I want to take part in the Season, but on different terms this time.
Then on the way to work yesterday, on the sleepy Monday morning following a four day weekend, I heard a story that renewed my interest in post-Thanksgiving traditions. NPR was reporting on the first ever Giving Tuesday. More than 1,400 groups are launching an event to kick-off the holiday giving season, and it starts today. While I am usually skeptical of “new” traditions, I hope this one catches on. Corporate marketing has given us Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and even Cyber Monday, each an attempt to boost participation and bring in revenue. However, the shopping casts a shadow on other priorities, so reinventing how we promote and practice the holiday tradition of charity is probably long overdue. (more…)
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It’s November and time to think about what we will make for that important meal. And for some families in Tulsa, we’re not just talking about the highly anticipated Thanksgiving Feast. Set the Table Tulsa is challenging local families to sit down at the dinner table four times a week, every week, all month long. In a busy and overly connected world, it seems like a radical idea: family bonding, without the television, the computer or the cell phone as the center of our attention. However, when we are able to incorporate this simple form of family time into our routines, it should be a cause of ongoing thanksgiving.
And let’s face it, if finding time for a sit down dinner was easy, it wouldn’t be such a rare event. It comes down to time, a precious commodity in our busy world, and if we want to spend time wisely we need to budget it just like we do our money. Set the Table Tulsa has provided a space for participants to blog about their experiences as they change the way they view mealtime. Vanesa Mares is one of the writers documenting how this experience is impacting her life. She is already keeping up with a busy schedule, between caring for her children, one of whom is enrolled in CAP’s early childhood program, and developing her own skills through CAP’s CareerAdvance® program. Yet she and her family are making the time to eat together. In her posts she discusses her family’s process of setting a meal plan and trying to disconnect from the cell phone, which is something to which we can all relate. Turning the phone to silent and setting it aside during dinner is one suggestion I am challenging myself to adopt after reading her posts, and I suspect I’ll be thankful for thirty minutes of peace and quiet. (more…)
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Valerie is our new CareerAdvance® Research Coordinator with the Innovation Lab at CAP.
I have recently joined the Innovation Lab as the new CareerAdvance® Research Coordinator. It has been a slight career change for me as I spent the previous two and a half years as a teacher in an Early Head Start classroom. However my time in the classroom provided me with invaluable experiences and knowledge of the children and families we serve at CAP. What first attracted me to CAP, and continues to excite me, is how as an agency we try to bridge the gap, primarily with education, that children from low-income families sometimes face. As an agency we also recognize that education is not the only barrier that low-income families may face and have developed many innovative wrap-around programs to support our families. (more…)
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As part of a new project at CAP, each month we will be featuring a guest blogger from across the agency. Diane Eason-Contreras, Senior Client Research Associate, is our fifth blogger.
CAP has a long history of providing early childhood services to low-income families in the Tulsa area. In an effort to continuously improve services to children and their families, CAP analyzes and reviews research and data from many sources to improve services. In 2009, CAP designed an informal multi-year longitudinal survey to better understand the experiences of children and families after they leave our Early Childhood Program.
In 2010, over 240 families signed up and agreed to complete one survey a year until their child completes the third grade. In 2011, 80% of the original families participated in the second year of surveys. Results from the first two years have been compiled in a lengthy report to consider how families’ lives and needs change year-to-year. Survey questions were chosen based on their alignment with the agency’s Results Map, which outlines the major outcomes that research has shown are critical for children, families and communities for children to reach their full potential. Questions were pulled from other longitudinal studies when possible. Families were also asked to provide feedback on CAP’s programs including ways CAP can improve services for children and families.
Information gathered from the project will be used by CAP staff for decision-making and program improvement, to inform the design of new pilot projects, generate funding and community support, and provide a platform for client centered advocacy within and outside the organization. Short summaries for both the first and second year results are available on CAP’s Website at: http://www.captc.org/iLab/AlumniProject.php
For the full report, contact the Innovation Lab at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This post was written by Diane Eason-Contreras, Senior Client Research Associate.
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Posted in Stories on February 8, 2012 |
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Over the past few weeks, I have been reading about social networks and how our social networks impact our lives. Specifically I have been looking into how social networks can be used to create social and economic change in individual families. The research has made me think differently about how I am connected to people, both those I know and those I do not know.
As I was just eating my lunch and catching up on the news of the day, I came across a post by Robert Krulwich on his NPR Blog, Krulwich Wonders…. I have to say it was a really interesting look at how individuals are connected to famous historical events and people through only one or two other people. It is like six degrees of separation on steroids. The article also has a great headline!
Click here to read, “‘Rasputin Was My Neighbor’ And Other True Tales of Time Travel”
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Global Gardens teacher Symon (left); helps Ryan and Andrea (right) shape an earthen oven during a summer program at Rosa Parks Elementary School on Tuesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Today’s Tulsa World included a great article about the Global Gardens summer program at Rosa Parks Elementary School. For those who don’t know Global Gardens uses gardening and hands-on science to empower low-income kids and communities. Here in Tulsa it has done just that! The program at Rosa Parks faced the challenge of providing meals to participants after the schools Summer Food Program closes at the end of June. In previous years, program staff made meals on a single hot plate. From my own college experience, I know it can be difficult to make a meal for one or two people on a hot plate, let alone 20 kids plus program staff. While brainstorming what to do to solve this problem one of the kids in the program suggested an earthen oven like those his family in Mexico uses to cook enchiladas, tamales, and even bread. The staff looked into the idea and put the plan into action. Soon, they will have a fully functioning earthen oven in their communal garden.
The one thing that really struck me about this story was how program staff included participants in the problem-solving process and also in the follow through. This really highlights how programs like Global Gardens empower kids. It teaches them how to face challenges head on and implement solutions, which is a valuable lesson for every person to learn, not just low-income children. It also seems that the program is fostering a desire to improve their communities, which is demonstrated in two quotes from participants.
First, from Erendira a fifth grader: (more…)
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Posted in Innovation, Stories on November 20, 2009 |
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This past week I attended the Southwest Regional Leadership Forum hosted by the Sarkey’s Foundation in Norman, OK. I honestly didn’t expect to come back completely re-energized and inspired to take on the world… but I did. One thing I’ve learned recently from the book Made to Stick by the Dan Heath and Chip Heath is that there is elegance in brevity and simplicity. So rather than give you my entire 2-day rambling brain dump, I am going to share some links and insights with you concerning the key speakers. I need to save some other stuff for other posts! (more…)
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