Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Introducing Mindfulness

As we kick off our Winter/Spring semester at ALEC, we are starting a theme of Mindfulness and introducing our students to the benefits of such a practice. Because we work with elementary age youth (grades 2-5), they are usually swimming the waters of processing their emotions, learning to cope and be aware of their actions. It is a common goal at ALEC to not just tutor our youth with their school work, but to introduce them to lessons that might not always fit the curriculum of our schools. A few activities we will be focusing on are meditation, mantras, creating handheld reminders (such as stress balls, thought jars and other crafts) to remind our youth of their progress and journey.

Here are a few exmaples of the personal mantras our students created:

We believe that if our students are introduced to the concept of mindfulness at a young age, they will have a greater emotional landscape and set of tools to help them as they mature. While most of these courses will be taught during the regular M-TH semester days, we will also be extending some of these to the youth around the neighborhood who may want to visit us during our drop in hours on Saturdays. Our drop is schedule is every Saturday from 12-3 pm at our Allentown Learning Engagement Center.

We hope to see you sometime!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Updates on Project HAND

Over the past few months, Project HAND has gone through a lot of exciting changes. Every week we have attacked another step of the project planning process. Check out all of the details below!

Finishing up interviews

As planned, we chose several community members, businesses, and organizations to interview for our project. They included Dollar Bank, Miss Debbie from the CDC, Miss Katie from Hilltop United Methodist, and Miss Siena and Mr. Aaron from Hilltop Alliance.

Our questions revolved around Allentown:
How can we help Allentown? 
What was Allentown like when you were a kid?
What is Allentown missing?
What is the best thing about Allentown?
What does it mean to be a community?
Could you tell us a story about when you were proud to live in Allentown?
What are your favorite things about Allentown?

Miss Siena (above) and Mr. Aaron (left)
share their thoughts about how we
can change Allentown

Kiyannah takes a turn at asking Miss Katie a question

Miss Katie told us how much she likes events
in the community to get people involved

Each community member shared their thoughts about Allentown that made us think about our own project: How can we help improve the issues our neighbors mentioned? What else can we improve? To better imagine these changes, we drew pictures!

Community Mapping

A very common theme in our maps of Allentown
was litter and trash control
Because we already heard from our community members, it was time to think of our own ideas. We took some blank paper and some markers to create our own maps of Allentown. 
We drew and colored parts of Allentown that we like and even parts that we dislike. We then made them even better by imagining and drawing the changes. This helped us better picture how we want our community to look after we are done with our service project.
Zechariah had the idea to make a prison look nice
so that people inside will act better and people
outside won't think negatively about it

After we thought of improvements ourselves, it was time to combine our goals with our community's. We needed to brainstorm!


At this point, we needed to organize our ideas and pick a focus for our topic. Should we focus on food availability in Allentown, litter control, or something else? We decided to pool all of our ideas together to make our decision.

Using a method called "story-boarding," each member of Project HAND received 2-4 sticky notes. We took a few minutes to write an idea on each sticky note. The ideas varied from person to person, but they all were ideas for our Project HAND service project.
After we wrote our ideas on sticky notes, we mixed them up. We read each sticky note for the group to hear and then posted them on the white board according to similar categories. Whenever there were three sticky notes in one category, we named that category. The result was a large collection of ideas that could help Allentown.

Our ideas ranged across a lot of really cool projects!
Thankfully we were able to narrow our choice down to one idea

The team talks about all of the sticky notes
and chooses an issue to focus our service project on
The last step in story-boarding was expressing our preferences. Each of us also received two star stickers to place on the ideas that we thought would best help Allentown. Afterwards, we discussed our results.

Our discussion was very productive! We found out that all of us wanted to do a project that focused on trash, recycling, and composting in Allentown. While we each had different ideas about how to fix these waste issues, we all agreed that installing several trash cans, recycling bins, and compost containers would have the most impact.

A lot of us got excited about adding something to our community that will also serve our neighbors. We'll even get the chance to decorate the bins! Needless to say, we were excited and couldn't wait to get started with the planning!

Trash pick up and survey

With our project picked, we decided to walk the walk! Instead of just promoting throwing away trash and reducing litter, we went out in the community to act as examples and clean Allentown ourselves. Many community members saw us working, encouraged us and even thanked us!

Raymair was a part of one of the groups
that had collected the most trash!
Zechariah was on Allen Street and thought
that a basketball hoop over a trash can
would make kids more likely to throw their trash away

At the same time, we used this clean-up as an opportunity to gather information for our project. Each group had one note taker while they picked up trash. We surveyed our assigned trash pick up area to locate the current trash cans as well as think of good locations for new trash cans.

These questions helped us realize the importance
of adding more trash cans to parts of Allentown
When we all came back together, we reviewed what we found. We determined which areas needed the most trash cans and talked about cool slogans and features to make people want to throw their trash in our new bins. We think that Allen Street and Arlington are the best places for new trash cans!

Next steps

As you can see, we have done A LOT of work so far. In fact, we have done so much that we're taking a break from Project HAND. In the meantime, Miss Christa and Mr. Neal will be working behind the scenes to help make Project HAND a reality. In March, they will invite the rest of ALEC to rejoin them to male the project happen.
Until then, they will work on a couple of key points so that Allentown will see new cans come next year:

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Programming Close-Up: Strong Women Strong Girls

As the program year is well under way, we want to give you better insight into how our after-school program operates and what we will be doing together this year. The post "What's New for After-School" briefly explains the basic structure for our programming; check it out for more info! To sum up that post, our students get to choose between several activities offered throughout the week. The goal of this Close-Up series is to thoroughly introduce you to each activity and the partner leading it. Hopefully after reading these, you will have a better idea what awesome things our Brashear Kids get to do!

Strong Women Strong Girls

Activity Leaders: Miss Jenna, Miss Kim, and Miss Shanice

What is Strong Women Strong Girls? 

Strong Women Strong Girls is a national organization devoted to empowering and strengthening girls in under-resourced communities. They primarily achieve this goal through mentoring girls and women of all ages. Specifically, college-aged women mentors work with school-aged girls through high school. Additionally, professional women mentor the college-aged mentors. Time together paired with lessons allow the women and girls to grow together and get to know each other better. 
In terms of curriculum, SWSG focuses on female role models from history and current events to highlight positive attributes in women in society. Stories that aren't typically covered in schools empower girls to imagine a broader future for themselves and others. The values SWSG teaches prepare girls to learn about themselves and society while challenging themselves.

Mentoring at ALEC

When we work with Miss Jenna, Miss Kim, and Miss Shanice, we have a lot of different options. Very often, each day will have an activity that ties in a specific attribute. We discussed the story of American gymnast Laurie Hernandez and talked about road blocks and goals in our lives. After determining goals, we talked about how to get there through resources we have around us, such as family, teachers, friends, and fellow women mentors.
After we talk about certain attributes, girls have the chance to journal about the topic for the day or their own lives. Our mentors then collect the journals (if the girls are comfortable with doing so) and comment on what the girls wrote. This kind of attention creates a stronger relationship between mentors and our girls.

Whether we are journaling or simply hanging out, playing games and talking, we are always supporting each other. Fun is one of the best connectors! All conversation is helpful, because we simply want to enjoy each other's company while discussing important attributes for women in society.
Whenever the day with Strong Women Strong Girls ends, the mentors and girls stand up and recite

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Student of the Week - Superstar Tameara!

Meet our new Student of the Week, Tameara!

Tameara is an amazing student and young woman who is always thinking of others before herself, the first person to volunteer to help, fun loving and pretty darn good at card games and coloring! We at the Brashear Association are so very lucky to have her. 

Here is a screen friendly version of Tameara's interview (shown above):

How old are you? 


When is your birthday?

August 5 

What is your favorite subject?


If you could live on another planet, where would you live and why? 

I would live on Jupiter, because it is our largest planet 

What is your favorite movie?


What is your favorite game?


What is your favorite hobby?/ What do you like to do?

I like to sing most of the time 

Ketchup or Mustard?

I do not like either of them

Awesome job, Tameara! Keep up the good work and thanks for being one of our many great Brashear Kids!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Programming Close-Up: Art- Crocheting

The students learn the basics
of "warps" and "wefts"
As the program year is well under way, we want to give you better insight into how our after-school program operates and what we will be doing together this year. The post "What's New for After-School" briefly explains the basic structure for our programming; check it out for more info! To sum up that post, our students get to choose between several activities offered throughout the week. The goal of this Close-Up series is to thoroughly introduce you to each activity and the partner leading it. Hopefully after reading these, you will have a better idea what awesome things our Brashear Kids get to do!

Art- Crocheting

This semester's art focus is fiber arts, specifically crocheting. Our hope has been to introduce fiber arts slowly by making friendship bracelets and learning the basics of weaving. Although it was difficult at the beginning, we kept on practicing, and we also added different colors until we got it! Once everyone had a firm grasp on "warps" and wefts," we began more difficult designs and projects. That's where Miss Laura came in! 

We used these cardboard looms to practice weaving
and basic crocheting skills. Once we finished the loom,
we detached the string and tied it off

Miss Laura introduces the next step
of our crocheting project

Activity Leaders: Miss Laura

Miss Laura is a local artist and teacher that started crocheting about two years ago. Personally, she thinks that crocheting is rather difficult, but she also finds it incredibly rewarding. Specifically, Miss Laura believes that the feeling of creating is very powerful. For that reason, she loves to teach children difficult skills like crocheting so that they can make their very own pieces. Even if they don't succeed in creating the exact project, they learn how to create something of their own and can also learn how to correct their mistakes. 

Thank goodness Miss Laura stays around
to help us when we have trouble!

Lessons of Crocheting

Another reason Miss Laura thinks crocheting is important for kids is the length of time it takes. According to Miss Laura, fiber arts does not bring instant gratification. This makes fiber arts even more rewarding. Because there are a lot of factors to consider and control while crocheting, we learn the best through repetition and practice. Through crocheting, our students are learning to stick with a task or goal until they create something of their own. 

Now that we have learned a little bit about crocheting, we're ready to work on a new project. This semester, we will be making little crochet pouches! Stay tuned this year while we work on them! We'll post pictures as our projects develop. Until then, we'll continue to learn from our mistakes and stick with it!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

We hope everyone had an excellent start to the Holiday season! The remainder of the semester is going to be quite exciting starting in December. We will be hosting our annual Open House and Toy Collection Drive on Wednesday, December 13th from 6pm-8pm. Every year the Brashear Association participates in a holiday toy drive for families in need; We are always welcoming donations of gently used, or new toys that you can drop off at any of our Brashear locations (listed below) anytime between 10am-5pm:

The Allentown Learning Engagement Center - 827 East Warrington Avenue, 15210

The Neighborhood Employment Center - 730 East Warrington Avenue, 15210

The Brashear Association (Main Office) - 2005 Sarah Street, 15203

The Pet Shop - 212 Brownsville Road, 15210

We encourage you all to stop by and say hello to us at the Allentown Learning Engagement Center and welcome you to visit us with any questions or to just stop by and say hello. We look forward to this event every year. It gives us a great chance to meet our community neighbors and engage with possibilities of advancing our youth, who are a fresh reflection of our proud and blossoming community.

See you Then!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Student of the Week!

It's finally here folks: we're starting up with Student of the Week again! Once every week, we will randomly choose a student at after school to be Student of the Week. We will feature them on a poster in the center and in a blog post like this one. We'll get to know them a bit more by asking some questions, sometimes serious sometimes silly.
Through the Student of the Week, we hope to highlight the awesome kids we get to work with every day. Each student has interesting hobbies, ideas, and quirks that we always want to hear about and share. We hope that by reading about each Student of the Week you will get a better idea about our students as community members and little scholars and dreamers.

Without further ado, let's start with this week's Student of the Week!


Do you have a nickname?

What grade are you in?

What is your favorite subject at school? 

         What is you favorite activity at ALEC?
Project Hand

Who is your favorite cartoon character? 

What is your favorite sport?

What is your favorite movie?
Captain Underpants

If you could have any animal as a pet and as any color, what would you have?
A sloth

Mr. Neal tried his best to get
a nice picture from Hezekiah;
that didn't work...

Teachers' notes:

Hezekiah is a cool dude. He is always really excited for each day's activity no matter what it is. Mr. Neal loves to joke with Hezekiah and stump him with his Bell Ringers :)
Last week, when we played Capture the Flag at Grandview Park, Hezekiah grabbed Mr. Neal's (expertly hidden) flag from under the slide. He took off towards his home base and juked out Mr. Neal, Mr. Rett, and the rest of our team! He won the game for his team; it was pretty awesome.


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