In addition to serving as a caring environment where kids can interact playing pool, partaking in arts and crafts, and engaging in organized interactive activities; The Rescue Mission’s After School Program provides children with mentors and tutors who can help them become more efficient, confident, and capable students. Today, I would like to provide my own first hand experience volunteering in The Rescue Mission’s After School Program.
After helping Kayla trace her hand today in the Rescue Mission’s After School Program, ten-year-old Janay approached me and asked me to help her complete her assignment entitled “write the perfect paragraph.” I obliged enthusiastically (I am an English major and writing enthusiast), but after reading the directions I felt inexplicably overwhelmed. Me? Teach you how to write a perfect introductory paragraph?
I read over her assignment again and was appalled by how vaguely the instructions were worded. Suddenly the feat of writing an intro for a 5-paragraph essay seemed daunting and unattainable—I can only imagine how 10-year-old Janay felt. She clutched her pencil over her blank piece of paper, looked up at me with her huge brown eyes and asked quietly, “What do I do?”
Janay’s look of helpless confusion instantly sent me back to the 6th grade—Mr. Leigh with his amazingly large nose and unruly eyebrows, scribbling “Bing, bang, bongo” on the chalkboard and announcing that all three points must support the topic sentence and be stated within the introductory paragraph.
As senior in college, an English major, and the Youth Communications Intern for the organization in which I was presently seated, I was shocked that this memory boost was necessary. But something about being asked to teach this little girl information—something about being the source that determined whether or not she learned how to write an introductory paragraph correctly—had stunned me.
After I regained my composure (which somehow I managed to do by rereading the assignment), we dove in. To help Janay create a claim, or topic sentence, I asked her what her interests were--providing examples such as music and dancing. After a few minutes of brow-furrowed deliberation, Janay announced that she liked The Rescue Mission and wanted to write about why it was a great place to spend time after school. Somewhat surprised, I told her that that was a great idea, and explained that now she needed to support her claim by thinking of three reasons why The Rescue Mission was a great place to go.
Instinctually I assumed that Janay would say she liked The Rescue Mission After School Program because she got to play with her friends. When I suggested this idea, however, Janay quickly shook her head and stated, “It’s because I can get help with my homework.” Needless to say, I was incredibly moved. Here was first-had proof that the Mission’s tutors and mentors were viewed as valuable not just by the children’s parents and the Mission itself, but were perceived as especially indispensable to the children—and the best part of the program itself, according to Janay.
As stated in my previous blog entry, the more volunteers we have at the Mission, the more kids can receive the much-needed one-on-one attention children such as Janay need to excel in school. If you would like to spend time volunteering in the program, please click on our “Get Involved” tab above, or contact our Youth Program Director, James Leet, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In her 2010 speech at the TED conference, local-yet world-renowned 12-year-old child prodigy and published author, Adora Svitak, emphasizes the subject of being “childish.” More often, adults stigmatize childlike characteristics as immature attributes that have no place in the adult realm. She argues several controversial yet valid points for how much adults can learn from their younger counterparts. The Rescue Mission values this unconventional thinking in its staff and volunteers. We especially try to foster an environment that teaches our homeless children not to lose this divergent thinking as they become older and their responsibilities become more demanding. Comprised are a few ways adults can benefit by drawing from their youthful attributes, and why they should never under estimate the power that youthful intellect, creativity, and boundless thinking brings to the table.
- Children are a work in progress. At some point many adults value education less and focus more on what is expected to live up to the stress of bills, work, and their daily responsibilities. It’s important to never stop learning and continue working to make self-progress. As one of the RM adult clients put it, “as long as you’re living, there’s always room to improve.”
- Creative thinking . . . Think outside the box. Sometimes unconventional thinking, free from the confines of adult limitations is just what a person needs to solve complex adult problems.
- Being too serious can sometimes be seriously frustrating. Adults sometimes put too much pressure on themselves to live up to “expectations.” If we promote a positive work atmosphere that encourages people to do their best, then their best is likely what they will give you. Positive communication that brings interesting and playful new ideas leads to a greater shared passion for accomplishing complicated goals, and a greater interest in helping others to succeed as well.
There is an array of reasons adults and children can benefit by learning from each other. The Recue Mission Youth Program works to ensure that the adult/child relationship is give and take, and that each homeless child that enters our program is given an opportunity to contribute his or her ideas. Allowing children to involve their adolescent ideas to adult problems will better prepare them for adult situations and will promote an atmosphere that teaches them to be innovative thinkers.
If you're interested in becoming a part of this exciting educational experience, consider making a small donation or fill out an application to volunteer with our youth program today!
Promoting the health and wellness of disadvantaged children seems like an easy sell, but it’s much more complicated to others in the community that may not understand the essentials that come along with such an awesome responsibility.
Comprised in today’s education system is a priority to educate children and to promote critical thinking so that they have the vital components necessary to become independent adults. Each public education entity includes a sports program, an art class, and sex education. When children attend yearly field trips, they visit science centers, zoos, and wildlife reserves to expand their knowledge in different fields of science. While all these tools are vital resources to promote cognitive development and a greater appreciation for how the world works, little is being done to encourage the importance of philanthropy in the community.
Rarely do you see a push for children to reach out and learn more in areas where their community needs them most. By implementing a greater awareness of community activism while they’re young, children will grow up to be more educated and compassionate about the circumstances behind non-profit leadership. Instead of seeing homelessness as a disease, they will be hardwired with the compassion to promote positive changes, and to break the stereotypes that stigmatize poverty.
One can argue that activism is not a vital necessity of the public education system and that it’s parents’ responsibility to teach children how to become involved in the community. While this is a good point, a person can also rhetorically question with equal support why stressing the importance of sex education in schools is so important, but not philanthropy?
Children are impressionable while they’re young and are in a great position to change the future of leadership in America. By teaching them to care, they will likely have deeper core values toward all socioeconomic backgrounds in their community, and will have a better appreciation for preserving vital non-profit programs like the Rescue Mission.
The reality of homelessness is often distorted in the mass media, which causes most people to lack empathy for those who end up in similar and unfortunate situations. Most Americans are bombarded by representations of drunken bums in movies, who lose everything to appease their next drug fix, and are now living on the edge of reality. Television programs often represent homeless teens as insubordinate drug addicts, who refuse to live by the conventional rules under mom and dad’s roof, so they escape conformity by leaving home and living life on their ‘own terms’. Homeless children are often misrepresented as ‘thugs’ in training, who are slowly adapting to the conventions of their parents or peers’ toxic lifestyles, so they retaliate in school and in the community to get attention. These misrepresentations are inaccurate and detrimental to solving the homeless problems that face America today. It’s easy to shelf-life an important issue and expect it to go away, but unless we critically examine and expose the causes that lead to homelessness, no estimable change will ever be achieved.
According to the McKinney-Vento Act, homelessness is described by several key factors, including a person who:
- Lacks a regular, fixed and adequate nighttime residence (sub standard housing).
- Is sharing housing due to economic struggles (double-up).
- Is living in a shelter, hotel or motel.
- Is living in a public place not designed for sleeping (cars, parks).
- Is an unaccompanied youth.
- Is a child or youth awaiting foster care placement.
- Is a child or youth abandoned in a hospital.
- Is a migrant child who qualifies under any of the above.
Unless we work diligently to break the stereotypes and reveal that homelessness has many faces, then getting people to truly care about the issue will continue to be a complex task. Homelessness is a circumstance—not a character flaw and not a lifestyle choice.
It’s important to articulate to potential volunteers and donors that the face of homelessness is the construction worker who lost his job in these trying times and his family has no where to turn, the single mother who ends up getting cancer while she is pregnant and loses her home, and the shy teenager that was abused as a child and now lives with self-guilt and low self-esteem for thinking she’s not ‘good enough'. Instead of seeing homelessness as a disease, it’s important that the community begins to realize that with its support, many of these circumstances can be changed.
The Rescue Mission Youth Program takes careful consideration to meet the individual needs of each child, so that when they leave our program they will have the vital tools necessary to overcome these stereotypes and to live full successful lives. We hope that you consider contributing not just to the Youth Program, but in any way you can help educate others about homelessness so they understand the variations involved that lead to it. It’s important to build our homeless residents up to accomplish the goals and success they may not realize they are capable of. We cannot end homelessness by being passive; we can only help resolve the issue with love, support, and a mission to change lives.
Part 1 of our “Preventing Homelessness” blog focuses on the first 5 vital components the community needs to focus on to prevent homelessness from continuing as children mature. The final 5 elements are equally important and continue to emphasize the infrastructure necessary for a child to grow up in a safe wholesome environment. These elements are not only important for homeless children to emphasize, but for all children to grow up valuing success, love, support, and self-sufficiency. While there are many other things the community can do to help foster an environment that prevents circumstances that cause homelessness, these are a few to start. If you can think of important details to add to our list, please feel free to attribute any suggestions:
6. Education—A good grasp of cognitive skills are pivotal for children to grow up with the consistency and logical reasoning needed to approach complex adult problems in ways that yield positive results. With a good grasp of technology, English and math, they will have diverse skills to fall back on if their chosen employment becomes unreliable when they become older. Possessing these skills not only helps them integrate useful information more carefully, it also means that the skills are transferable to many different sectors of the public domain. How do we instill this ethic in them at a young age? We reward them for their hard work and make education fun and worthwhile. It’s important for parents and teachers to be affirmative about how they educate children so they begin to value learning instead of seeing it as a chore. It’s also important not to be too strict about academic thinking and to promote them to use divergent thinking skills for discovering effective and creative new strategies for problem solving. Some of the greatest ideas come from “out of the box” thinkers and it’s important not to lose sight of that.
7. Positive Role Models—The old “monkey see, Monkey do philosophy” sounds silly, but children observe the way their role models conduct themselves, which has a significant impact on the behaviors they socialize as normal. By fostering a positive atmosphere that promotes learning, a good work ethic, and a positive attitude through the adults and other children they surround themselves with, children will develop good life skills and a natural desire to do well in their endeavors.
8. A Safe Stable Environment—Safety is paramount. No child deserves to live in fear. Whatever issues parents are dealing with need to be minimized around their young, so they do not blame themselves for whatever is causing the stressful home environment. Abusive homes also lead to low self-esteem in children, which severely limits them from believing in their abilities to do well in life and in relationships.
9. Hobbies—Children need something to be passionate about. Something for themselves that rewards them for the time they do invest in their families and their education. Whether it’s participating in flag football through an after school program, or engaging in art projects with friends, children need an emotional outlet to promote positive self-esteem and to appreciate the reward that come along with it as they approach more complex goals in life.
10. Discipline—While it’s important for children to remain in a safe loving environment, it’s also important not to let them feel entitled. Children that are rewarded or allowed to get away with negative behavior will continue to retaliate, because they begin to learn that the control is in their hands. Children look to their role models for guidance, so it’s important that the proper discipline is used to teach them to value what they have and to respect their environments and peers.
Children are precious gifts from God. They enrich our lives with love of the purest kind. While many of us become consumed by the complexities of “adult responsibility,” children remind us of the importance the innocence, playfulness, and imagination we displace from our own childhoods, contributes to our personal growth. Children’s imaginations span far beyond what most adults are capable of. Most of us lose the ability to construct the unique and creative scenarios children can, like inventing games, pretending to be superheroes, or saving mythical princesses from burning buildings with magical flying powers.
There are many reasons to be thankful for children. They are impressionable, passionate about what they do, and are not jaded by the world with anxiety or selfish expectations. When adults perish from old age, our children are here to carry on our family legacies and traditions. They succeed us genetically, through government relations, and through education. Our goal is that our children exceed our own expectations and go on to live healthy productive lives.
How we influence children sets the tone for how they evolve into adulthood. To a child, the sky is the limit. To a homeless child though, they feel limited by the circumstances that confine them. It’s important to instill a sense of positive self-esteem in our homeless children, so that they do not lose the imagination, innocence, or playfulness that is vital for their growth process when they become adults. It’s important to give thanks for the little gifts that God gives us, and to provide them the safety, security, and love that any child deserves to grow up with in a supportive environment.
While you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving feasts this Holiday season, please keep the homeless and hungry children of Pierce County in your thoughts. After all, how can we forget about something we have so many reasons to be thankful for? Please join us in spreading the word through help, hope, and healing . . . .
Everyone knows how important nutrition is for improving overall health and physical wellness. But many people may not consider how much diet affects a person’s cognitive function. After reading an interesting article about child nutrition and performance in school in the National Agricultural Library, it dawned on me that if diet has a significant impact on intellectual development, then it most certainly affects child behavior.
Do you ever notice that when a child comes off a sugar-high he or she might become moody, cantankerous, or difficult to deal with? Several controlled studies prove that by giving children a healthy diet rich in organic sugars and nutrients like fruits and vegetables, they are not only improving their intellectual development, but also tend to be more balanced emotionally. A healthy child is more proactive about accomplishing personal obstacles and educational goals without being overwhelmed by aggressive energy or the crash-and-burn effect that sugar and caffeine are indicative for.
If parents improve their own diets, then their children will more than likely emulate the behavior, which leads to a healthier and happier family atmosphere and better success in school. Candy and sugary snacks are a fun occasional break from the usual healthy diet we all should be eating, but it’s not necessarily good in large quantities. Next time you find yourself or your children reaching for that candy bar a little too often, keep in mind that it is doing a lot more than just satisfying a sweet tooth. By considering healthier alternatives and taking good supplements, you are likely to notice a big improvement in the way you and your children feel and how you think.
Observing Wednesday’s Super Club activity during the youth program at the Adams Family Campus provoked me to evaluate the vitality teamwork plays in establishing quality human relationships and trust. The success of the “airplane” game the children played was highly contingent on how the children worked cohesively in an unfamiliar environment. During the game, several group members stood around the room posing as trees, while a single child navigated the area as an airplane with his eyes closed, but he relied on the direction of another child to ensure that he did not come in contact with the other children.
This seemingly frivolous activity resonates on a macro scale, because it represents the importance teamwork plays in good communication and trust—even at the adult level. By promoting team-oriented play, the children are not only establishing a greater appreciation for each other on a mutual level, they are also learning to communicate in interesting new ways that yield greater success. Children learn to trust themselves to test their own intellectual capacities, as well as trust their team members to achieve success as part of a collaborative effort. Building quality relationships based on good communication and trust not only leads to success in child’s play; it’s also a good foundation for adults to flourish professionally and in their personal interactions.
Children’s levels of confidence set the tone for how they approach educational goals. While it’s easy to overlook small details like rewarding a child for doing well on a homework assignment or learning to tie a shoe, these seemingly insignificant intricacies lay the ground work that teaches them to be motivational thinkers and to initiate any task with a positive mind set. By teaching our young to be optimistic learners, they are less likely to focus on the negative side of a situation and will explore new and innovative ways to overcome obstacles. The Rescue Mission Youth Program encourages our parents and volunteers to emphasize activities that redirect children’s energy in positive ways that help build the self-confidence that is pivotal for success in life. As part of our program we offer intellectually stimulating activities like our Young Chefs Cooking Program, hands on tutoring, and outdoor kinesthetic learning. Our activities are equally engaging for the children as they are to volunteers. Children with good self-esteem and positive role models have pride in themselves and their environment, and are more likely to be optimistic about taking on new challenges as they continue to grow. Engaging in fun educational activities like board games, reading, and art are a great way for children to learn, build healthy relationships, and promote self-confidence.