Tuesday, September 4, 2018

First hello!

Hi everyone!

My name is Ms. Alex, and I'll be joining the team at ALEC this year! Like some others you may have met, I'm serving as an Americorps member, and I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone I possibly can in the next 10 months.

While I am from Western Pennsylvania, I grew up about 45 minutes away from Allentown in Rochester, Pennsylvania, where I went to a tiny school. After I graduated from high school, I ended up at Carlow University, which is also a tiny school, but with nuns.

I studied communication and media, but I wanted to change that about five times. I loved science and history and reading and working with kids, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with that. So during the summers I worked as a camp counselor, and during the school year I mentored with Strong Women Strong Girls, because I wanted to somehow combine all the things I liked. And after I graduated from Carlow, that's how I ended up here at ALEC!

This year, I hope I'm able to interact with as many youth as possible, and learn as much from them as I can. Kids are pretty great teachers, I've learned. I also want to have as much fun as I can, so I'm looking forward to that!

Whenever I have free time (what a concept, right?), I love being outside and in the sun: hiking, kayaking, camping, or just laying in the grass listening to music. I also really love concerts and reading--loud and quiet events.

All in all, I'm really excited for this year and I can't wait to meet everyone!
See you soon!

Hey, Hi, Hola Otra Vez

H e l l o  A g a i n !

I am SO SO SO SO SO happy to begin another year with ALEC.

For those of you whom I haven't met, my name is Ms. Christa, I am a returning AmeriCorps member originally from Pittsburgh by way of San Francisco. My return to Pennsylvania was met with many bumps in the road, and left with many questions. Specifically "What am I doing back here?". I received my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography and Illustration from the San Francisco Art Institute and for a while, was working as a lifestyle and portrait photographer. As much as I love art, I wasn't feeling as though I was contributing and my talents were seeking a calling to do more. Joining AmeriCorps was probably one of the most fulfilling decisions I've made.

Thanks to Allentown being such a welcoming community, I've had the chance to foster and grow so many valued relationships among the youth, other educators and neighborhood organizations that are just as dedicated to seeing the youth succeed and become empowered and the motivation has been contagious.

Beyond mentoring and tutoring the youth that attend ALEC, I also facilitate lessons based on art, mindfulness, empathy, and community awareness. I've had a very blessed opportunity to nurture my educational experience with a new age group which has come with many challenges complete with many milestones achieved. Last year I contributed my background in the arts to developing a Personal Projects course (the students study an independent subject, research, create and present their work), A Mindfulness and Meditation unit as well as a Documentary/Street Photography course. 

When I'm not hanging out with the awesome youth from ALEC, I'm extending my serving to other communities. Art has a way of connecting everyone, if you can make marks on paper, you can find a common connection with just about anyone over anything. 

I am so ready to meet our new youth as well as continue mentoring our returning Brashear Kids. Earning the trust of these kids has been one of the more impacting experiences I've had during my time with AmeriCorps. I am always learning something new from them, and them from me. 

M s.  C h r i s t a 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Welcoming Ms. Arielle!

Hi there! My name is Ms. Arielle. I am excited to be joining the ALEC family as the Youth Development Coordinator, and am coming to you all the way from Philadelphia!

After meeting Ms. Maggie and reading about all of the amazing Education Coordinators of the past, I have noticed I certainly have some big shoes to fill! I am looking forward to meeting all of the Brashear Kids and their families, and to learning more about your community. I’m new to not only Brashear and ALEC, but also to Pittsburgh! Any help along the way as I navigate these new adventures will be greatly appreciated.

A little bit about me, I am a Midwestern Girl who was born and raised in the great, corn-filled state of Indiana! For college, I ventured to Temple University in the heart of Philadelphia where I learned about the city, the community, and most importantly – the kids! There I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, earning me a spot as a certified Pre-K – 4 teacher. When I was studying to become a teacher, I worked in the Philadelphia Public Schools, and learned a whole lot from the teachers, principals, and students. When I got closer to finishing my degree, I decided that I wanted to learn more about how public schools work and operate, and how to help improve them. Because of this, I chose to continue on with schooling right away to work on my Masters. I hopped on over to the West Side of Philly, where I earned my Masters in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Me in Downtown Philly.....
... and me in a world completely
 different from Philly... Indiana!!
While in college, I spent a lot of time being active in and around the community through volunteering and leadership roles. For example, I worked at a non-profit who provides free writing summer camps and after school programs to kids in Philly, I volunteered as a teaching assistant in a math class to prepare military veterans to begin college, and I served as the vice president of my sorority. Needless to say, I love keeping busy! 

My sorority at a retreat in Lancaster, PA. Can you find me? :) 
When I’m not working, I like to adventure for fun! I love going for a walk, run, or bike ride in a place that is new to me, and moseying around to discover new things. I LOVE games, ice breakers, playing, and all things fun! With that being said, I also am a firm believer in structure, enrichment, and development for learners of all ages. I am constantly bouncing around, and am looking forward to meeting some kiddos to match my energy. 

I absolutely loved my time in Philadelphia and the kids I met along the way. I have no doubt that I will fall in love with Pittsburgh just as much as the City of Brotherly Love (or maybe even a little more ;) ) While I will certainly miss Miss Maggie, I am looking forward to having the help of Miss Dianna, Miss Christa, and the rest of the amazing staff!

I cannot wait to get started, to meet everyone, and to get to know the community!

Signing off for now,

Friday, August 17, 2018

CIao! Adios! Nos Vemos!

When I was in middle school, I started writing a song with the chorus "I don't know the words to say goodbye..." Many years later, it's still hard.

In 2016, I started at Brashear excited to run the Allentown Learning Engagement Center and to be able to work with students embedded in my community. Two years later, I'm about to start my own family, and while I'll remain a part of the Allentown community as a resident, being at home with my baby and focusing on my artistic practice is the new challenge I await. It was not an easy decision that ultimately came down to time and money (like all things, right?). My consolation is that I will still see many of my students and families as their neighbor, able to fight for the quality of life in our neighborhood in new ways.

Let's take a minute to look back on some of my favorite moments together:

My first act as Education Coordinator was to create a mural with the help of the student in our side lot. This was a fun way to meet the families and get the students involved in what I love to do- draw and create custom lettering!
Speaking of art... Personally, I am a zinester (maker of zines), designer and illustrator. It's been a pleasure to share my passions with the students and get them out of their comfort zones. Above, we are binding our coloring book zines and trying out some blind contour drawing. 

These are two of my proudest moments from Art Camps gone by. We ended our 2017 Art Camp with a gallery show at the Black Unicorn Project and our 2018 Art Camp with a visit to the Frick Art & Historical Center to see the Impressionist exhibit and practice en plein aire drawing on the beautiful grounds.

Besides artmaking, I really loved getting outside with our students. Our outings with Venture Outdoors during summer camps were my first time kayaking! I was pretty bummed when the doctor told me that I shouldn't bike or kayak this summer at 8 months pregnant. I love to be on the water!

I also loved exploring our park here in Allentown with my students. Grandview is so close to my house and is really a gem with it's beautiful views and trails. This past winter, I was happy to work with the Parks Conservancy to bring some pizazz to our winter outings. 

Not only do I love getting outside to adventure, I love to garden! Exposing the students to our garden and the food that we grew was such a pleasure. Pictured above is a winter squash and kohlrabi, which the kids asked for more of this year. I even got my mom involved in last year's summer camp as she is a master gardener and taught me everything I know. 

My students will tell you, I hate litter. So, I was very proud when they identified litter in Allentown as the problem they wanted to tackle with the help of our Americorps Service Project. Project HAND received a grant through Remake Learning to purchase two new trash cans for the neighborhood and placed several signs along Warrington reminding people to throw their trash where it belongs!

 Here's just a few images I love from my time with Brashear:
Principal Fisher has an amazing voice! I will definitely be back to Grandview to see some of the student performances.

I love celebrating Remake Learning Days with a gallery show and using fancy vocabulary to make the kids feel more like professional artists.
I learned so much from the YCreator Space about circuits, programming and robots.

Here's some of the art I got to make for Brashear:

Thank you to Dianna, our Americorps members Anna, Alyce, Christa, Neal, Malik, and Abby, all of our tutors and interns from Duquesne University and of course our Learn & Earn student over the summers, Jazmine. Without you, the center would have been in complete chaos.

Thank you to our partners, Venture Outdoors, the Y Creator Space, Strong Women Strong Girls, A Giving Heart and the Carnegie Library for your support and enriching activities during afterschool.

Thank you to all the community based organizations, volunteers and neighbors who support our work everyday.

Thank you to the Grandview preK-5 staff, especially Ms. Cindy, Dr. D, Principal Fisher and Vice Principal George for their hard work with the students during the day.

Thank you to Arlington K-8 staff, especially Ms. Tyler and the staff at the Neighborhood Learning Alliance who welcomed us into your building and programs to provide cooking lessons.

Finally, thank you to the Brashear staff and their tireless work to serve the people of South Pittsburgh. It's been a pleasure to be your colleague.

Peace out, yinz! See you on Warrington with baby on the OUTSIDE of me!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

See Ya !

Hello Hello, Everyone 

Sadly, my AmeriCorps term is coming to an end, and this will be my last week at ALEC.

....until S e p t e m b e r 

I've really felt like I have grown on a personal level during my service term at ALEC and have been pleased with the relationships I have built with the youth that I serve, as well as the community. It has been so warming to have the opportunity to earn the trust of these amazing youth and seeing them grow and blossom is what made me decide to serve another term. This year, I really want to encourage the behavior and achievements of the students to keep growing and proceed further than they imagined. I have the unique opportunity to continue the progress I've made at ALEC and plan to continue it. I've met some amazing people and Allentown has welcomed me and has been so very supportive of my endeavors to enrich the youth and how they can carry these experiences to grow inwards and become empowered to also serve their community. 

My personal motivation has been to utilize my background in Fine Arts (Illustration and Photography) to encourage and empower the youth I serve. Last year we did a unit called "Personal Projects" which was an advanced class that included thorough research, documentation, presentation, and of course the crafting of the creative exploration of choice from the student. Admittedly, it was a rough start, but with encouragement everyone succeeded with their projects and realized how much is possible with hard work, thinking a little outside of the box, and a little support. We also completed a documentary photography course were the students had their own gallery show. Seeing the pride that everyone had once they saw their work printed and framed made me so very happy. 

As a vegan of 11 years, I'm also passionate about educating youth on healthy, fun, simple and economically efficient ways to consume food. Between facilitating cooking lessons at Arlington K-8 and assisting Ms. Maggie at Grandview Cooking Club, it has definitely ignited a passion to continue this path among the students. A lot of people learned that tofu isn't that bad, and if there's a will and a vegetable/fruit, there is a way. Everyone is slowly learning that healthy can be fun and also filling. 

I'm looking forward to continuing my service at ALEC this year with a few new things in store. I can't wait to get started! 

S e e  y o u  i n   a   f e w   w e e k s ! 

Ms. Christa

Monday, July 30, 2018

Venture Outdoors Camp

Last week was the start of Venture Outdoors camp. We are thankful that we have so many amazing partners that are as passionate about our youth exploring new things as we are. Venture Outdoors, a local non profit that offers public and custom outdoor trips around Pittsburgh (for more information, visit: Venture Outdoors to become a member or even train to volunteer) has been getting us out of the learning center and into the woods, water, and onto bikes, hikes, and other adventures.  

Stay tuned for updates and our adventures with Kayaking!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

ALEC Summer Camp Series Continue: TECH CAMP!

Things were quiet at ALEC last week as we had our intercession before Tech Camp this week. Our friends from Y Creator Space are returning to teach our Brashear Kids about STEAM by integrating coding, robotics, and design elements. So far the camp is off to a great start.

The students are currently learning about Humming Bird control boards, LED lighting systems and command coding

Some of these ready made prototypes needed some mechanical and coding repairs "Technological Surgery" as we've been putting it. Our campers, thanks to the instructors from Y Creator Space, were able to diagnose the problem and repair movements and design appendages to repair and modify their prototypes. 

We cannot wait to what else Tech Camp has in store. Stay Tuned!

The ALEC Team


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