Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Down the Rabbit Hole With Miss Christa - Why the Loud and Rude Kids Are Our Future

Hello Hello and Happy Tuesday!

With Halloween (my absolute FAVORITE) holiday coming just around the corner. I was thinking about who I might want to be. Does anyone remember Rufio, from the movie Pan?

I was so influenced by Rufio's character and it hasn't been until recently where I've actually reflected on the reason behind that; Rufio was a natural leader. He was strong and took on the responsibility of his brothers to make sure they were safe and happy in the absence of their original leader. Rufio went through a magnificent metamorphosis throughout the movie. Initially, he was headstrong, arrogant and frankly a little rude. When he realized that these traits weren't productive for him, he changed his tune and became the leader that he truly was.

My experiences with varying youths have shown me those very qualities. Youth that are seen as stubborn, rude, bossy, or simply marching to the beat of their own drum are sometimes seen as disruptive. My question is, how are we helping those youth grow into the leaders that they have the potential to be? Are we providing a structured environment that encourages thinking outside of the box, but also being mindful of how their actions effect others? Are we saying "Stop yelling, stop being so rude?" or, are we maybe actually hearing what the youth is saying and finding a way to redirect that energy?

While difficult at times, I believe it is possible to recognize "negative" behaviors, and find ways to redirect those behaviors into qualities that will benefit the youth displaying them and teaching them how to use those qualities for something constructive for themselves and their community. Our leaders

I was raised to embrace being myself and learned from an early age that it's okay to be different and there will be people different from me. That is one of many lessons that I am eternally grateful for learning. Just like everything else, every one has a role to play and there is a niche for our personalities. It's all about finding what fits you.

Because I had some amazing influences in my life I was able to value my unique personality and use those abilities to help those around me.

So, the next time you come across a Rufio, or maybe you're raising or teaching one right now, not all hope is lost. It takes a village to raise a child <3

Take care, Everyone

Miss Christa

Saturday, October 6, 2018

All About the Dudes

Some of our dudes... just being dudes!
Hi there! Ms. Arielle here. I wanted to jump in and share with you all one of my favorite moments of this week: Dude Time!

This week, we had our first round of Dude Time. Dude Time is an hour of the week dedicated to
providing our boys an opportunity come together and unwind.

As someone who is trained as a teacher and used to working in classrooms, I have been getting a bit of the teaching bug while watching all of our amazing outside partners and AmeriCorps teachers facilitate lessons with our kids. While I am so fortunate for all of the work that our teachers put in (shout out to Mr. Ryan, Ms. Kelly, and Ms. Emily from Venture Outdoors, Ms. Julia from the YMCA, our mentors at Strong Women Strong Girls, and of course Ms. Alex and Ms. Christa,) I sure have been itching to teach a lesson or two! I took the opportunity to lead Dude Time this week, and it ended up being even more rewarding than I expected.

This unit, Dude Time will focus on super heroes. It turns out that behind those cool suits and neat
powers, super heroes have a lot of life lessons to share with us. This week, we honed in on the fact that even super heroes have weaknesses. Yes, you read that right, super heroes have weaknesses too! As part of the lesson, our boys defined weakness and discussed different weaknesses that super heroes have. We then transitioned into discussing that if super heroes can have weaknesses, it’s probably okay for humans, adults, and young boys to have weaknesses too! Our next step in the discussion was to identify our own weaknesses. My question to the boys was, “What are some weaknesses that you, or just general people in society have?”

One of the things I love about our Brashear Kids is how silly and playful they are. With that being said, I was fully prepared for some goofy answers to this question. I was not at all prepared for what would happen next. Right away, the boys dived below surface level and revealed some of the biggest
weaknesses that they currently battle with. From struggling with asthma, ADHD, and anxiety, to being fearful of getting hurt or falling behind in school, our boys put on their brave faces to discuss their weaknesses with each other.

I’ve always known that all kids are pretty special, but it was right at that moment that I felt truly inspired by our dudes. I have no doubt that they’re going to turn into spectacular young men, and I cannot wait to watch them unfold throughout the year.

And with that, I am done raving about how proud I am of our kids……….. for now. I’m going to pass the mic back to Ms. Alex and Ms. Christa!

Until next time,
Ms. Arielle

Friday, September 28, 2018

Whew, What a (First) Week

Well, here we are! It's a Friday, and that means we finished our first week of after school programming. We made a lot of new friends, and our returning students met some new faces as well! 

We wasted no time jumping right in to homework time to make sure our students completed all of their work, and we also had some fun! 

Miss Arielle getting involved with some students. 

On Monday, we spent some time learning names and making sure everyone felt welcome here at ALEC. 

On Tuesday, we did some activities to brighten things up around the center! We made cards for Miss Maggie and her baby, wrote biographies about the students, and took pictures of everyone to hang up on our walls, so that everyone feels like a part of the team here.

All of these students let their personalities show in these pictures.

We learned that worms can be cool!
On Wednesday, students were able to pick between making art with Ms. Christa and gardening outside with Ms. Alex. This was a way to practice picking an activity to stay with for a 5-week period, like we will when programming with Venture Outdoors and the YMCA starts, and an opportunity for students to have choice in their day. 

On Thursday, we learned about Oobleck with Ms. Christa, and she discussed viscosity and physics (some really cool stuff). We then made sure everyone finished all of their homework for the week, and then went into free time! This allows the students have some time to decompress and choose their activity for an hour.

We had a great first week, and we can't wait to see what next week has in store for us! We're very excited to start working with all of our outside partners.

See y'all on Monday!


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

One Down, Many More to Go and We are Excited!

Yesterday was our ALEC After School Program kick off for the 2018-2019 school year. We have a ton of new faces and also a good amount of familiar faces. We are very happy to have so many new members added to our Brashear Kids Family!

ALEC B.C. (Before Children)
We eagerly prepped and anticipated for our introductory day. Our windows are painted, signs are hung, tables and chairs ready, we just need our Brashear Kids! The traditional walk up the hill to Grandview Elementary seemed to be short as we walked so briskly to meet our new and familiar students.

Not only did we have some returning familiar faces, we also had a lot of familiar tutors from Duquesne which was a lovely surprise. Last year, along with the AmeriCorps teachers and Brashear staff, we were able to achieve a great increase in homework completion, social kills, and of course, grades! We have full faith that we can achieve a similar goal, if not better. 

Miss Arielle is doing a more than awesome job as our new Youth Services Coordinator. She's off to a great start familiarizing herself with the youth as well as the neighborhood and what Allentown, as well as the rest of South Pittsburgh, has to offer. She has some great ideas for the center and with the creativity of our entire ALEC team things are looking pretty exciting.

Miss Alex, our new AmeriCorps teacher, wasn't shy about jumping in and getting our students off on the right foot to completing their homework assignments. We are so lucky to have her on our team. Special Shout Out to Miss Dianna (even though she may not have seen me take her picture) for her continued dedication to ALEC and being a great resource to our team as well as other staff members and the students. 

This After School year is full of changes, new faces, ideas and many other things. ALEC is still ALEC, its purpose is still the same: To serve youth in families in all of the South Pittsburgh area by providing a safe, nurturing, healthy, educational, and fun space where our students feel welcomed, accepted, and experience the opportunity to grow. We are lucky to be in the position to help foster opportunities for our youth and we thank each and every family for trusting us to do so. We couldn't do it with out you. 

Cheers to a new year and new pathways! 

The ALEC Team

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,


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