Friday, August 9, 2019

Not 'Goodbye' but 'See You Later'

Have you ever found yourself in an unexpected place that challenged your comfort zone and gave you the opportunity to nurture, grow, teach, and even learn?

If not, I highly recommend a journey that challenges those very things. I found mine two years ago. When I joined AmeriCorps, I had the opportunity to serve the youth of ALEC and their families. Due to the staff, youth, and parents being so welcoming, it was easy to jump into other partnerships and volunteer around the neighborhood which allowed me to get to know many local residents. I was admittedly nervous to work with elementary and future middle school students, but, it isn't in my nature to let challenges intimidate me. There was laughing, loudness, frustration, hugs, glitter, art, super heroes, snacks, Spanish lessons, and more importantly, I was blessed to serve a great group of kids and welcomed into a passionate and motivated community that I care for very deeply. 

While I'm sad to be leaving ALEC, I am happy to let you know it's for a great reason! I will be continuing my work at A+ Schools with their TeenBloc program! I hope to keep a relationship with the team at ALEC and volunteer for programming when time allows me to do so.

Here is a short summary of what I contributed to ALEC:

Besides teaching art and emotional intelligence, one of my other passions is herbology. It was so much fun teaching the kids about herbs and their medicinal benefits as well as their many kitchen uses. The students had the opportunity to choose an herb to study as well as plant, grow, and take them home to harvest. 


We also had an intro course to physics involving viscosity, pressure, and the different elements of liquids and solids. What better way to introduce those concepts than making oobleck for our Thursday Science Lab days?

Our Saturday Drop-In days are always a blast, it gives everyone some time to loosen up and have fun...and it can't hurt to learn and have fun, right?? Students not only got to make some awesome crafts they also learned about natural minerals, their uses and how to use what's around us to transform it into something of their interests. Check out some these awesome crystals and wands (inspired by everyone's love of Harry Potter) the Brashear Kids made! 

This year, we had our debut neighborhood event for Project HAND (Helping Allentown Neighbors Dream). Project HAND was born last year with the teamwork of AmeriCorps staff. While we started small with creating an anti-littering campaign, this time we decided to put our $2,500 Remake Learning Grant to use. We decided to purchase large street trash cans for our Hilltop neighbors and were successfully able to provide over 50 homes with trash cans. This was my first planned event for more than a handful of people, I am really grateful for such a supportive staff and community. We couldn't have Project HAND if it weren't for our youth, families, and neighbors. 

The event included a painting party, custom printed t-shirts (designed by a certain six-foot tall lady with colorful hair and lots of tattoos *cough* no hint there *cough*). It was a great way to meet more neighbors and introduce them to our youth-lead initiative to give our Brashear Kids a chance to use their voices and how to make an impact. I'm so happy to have been able to help foster this legacy project and leave something for anyone that walks through ALEC's doorway to contribute to as well. 

I want to thank ALEC from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to professionally develop towards my goals in my own way, as well as the families that have been so welcoming to me and most importantly, the Brashear Kids. Thank you for challenging me, thank you for allowing me to serve you and bring out your talents and your voices, just as you have brought out mine.

See you later, Allentown <3 
Miss Christa 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Third and Final Rounds of Summer Camp - Art and Gardening!

Wow, we can't believe how fast this summer flew by! First Venture Outdoors, then Y-Creator Space and now Art and Gardening! Ms. Maggie was gracious to return another year to help our students learn some technical skills to further their fine art education however they'd like, and if anyone is interested in specializing in art, they made some great portfolio pieces for a visual arts education.

A R T  C A M P 

We began the first week learning about value, the importance of line weight, as well as perspective. We even ventured to Grandview Park to practice drawing "en plein air" (in open air). The students had a great start and we were so proud of how brave everyone was to learn something new and difficult. 

G A R D E N I N G  C A M P

The next week our talented campers used their finely tuned value and perspective skills to create still life drawings as well as a self portrait. Drawing from direct observation using perspective, value, texture and composition was greatly emphasized and everyone faced their challenges and anxieties and created some great work, we are super proud of our Brashear Kids! 

Our final camp was gardening camp. We had an excellent journey through soil quality, components, and learning the minerals that make soil as well the difference between healthy/unhealthy soil and how our worm friends are very important to our gardens.
students examining the contents of their soil samples

American Water was awesome to come in and teach us about the water cycle, watersheds, and how pollution can impact our water quality and why it's important to take care of the water that we have.  

The students were also able to decorate their own planters as well as plant some herbs, which is a great extension of the lesson we began at the end of the school year with herbs and their many uses.  

We also had a nice visit from Saturday Light Brigade radio's Mr. Tad come in to interview the students about there herb planters. It was a great continuation of the Spring lesson we had with herbs and their many uses, we are happy to continue educating our students and ourselves about natural and quick remedies for common ailments. 

What an exciting and fun-filled summer! We hope to see everyone (and some new faces) next year!

If you're interested in our after school program and have youth ages 7-11 living around the hilltop, stop by and see us for an application. Our programs are free to our students and families!

See you all soon! 

The ALEC Team

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Second Round of ALEC Summer Camp Series: Tech Camp with the Y-Creator Space

Students create mini-terrariums for research
Mr. Dave planting some soil for a terrarium 
Most summers, a lot of people don't expect to learn about planetary environments, chemistry, or willfully learn about engineering and the social responsibility we have to our own planet, we are! For those of you who may be unfamiliar, the Y-Creator Space is a free program based on STEM-based curriculum that serves youth in the Pittsburgh area in after school and summer programs. The Y-Creator space facilitates lessons that develop determination, creative thinking, problem-solving skills and collaboration through projects that are based within the realm of 3D printing, robotics, graphic design, circuitry, engineering, and so much more!

Test simulation for a built moon colonies
Our Summer Brashear Kids had the unique opportunity to learn about space, the environments of different planets, as well as human exploration of unknown territories. They also learned about crystals, minerals, engineering, and robotics. We even learned a few things ourselves! 

If you would like to learn more about Y-Creator Space, check out their website!

Monday, July 1, 2019

First Round of the ALEC Summer Camp Series, Check!

Two Mondays ago, The ALEC Team could barely wait for the first round of our summer camp, starting out strong with two weeks of Venture Outdoors. It is so great that we have a lot of returning youth from our after school program, some returning youth from summer programming in years past as well as a few new faces.

The first week of Venture Outdoors camp met us with rain, but, due to it being so warm outside, we were all grateful for the rain. Plus, our students learned that a little rain can be relaxing.

We were able to see some awesome sights around the city via hiking different trails including Frick Park and the Three Rivers Heritage trial, as well as biking along Washington's Landing and other places around the North Shore! 

Some laughs were had along the way, and your youth learned some great things about nature as well as trail etiquette, bike safety, how to appreciate the subtle things in nature, patience as well as perseverance, mindfulness, and teamwork. Some of these activities pushed our students out of their comfort zones, and once the activity was underway, they ended up learning and expanding their horizons, even some of our ALEC staff! That's what Venture Outdoors is all about, venturing, learning, discovering, and sharing. While everyone had a blast, there were definitely some sleepy campers en route to our home base.

We hope all of you are having a great start to summer, and are able to get outside and do some venturing of your own. 

Until next time, 

The ALEC Team

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Hello Allentown, Mr. Zach here,

It has been a pleasure serving my AmeriCorps term here in Allentown and specifically, ALEC.  The kids have been absolutely wonderful and I hope that they had just as much fun as I did! 

It's sad to say that this is my last week as an AmeriCorps teacher.  However, I am very happy as I will continue my career with the Brashear Association at the Neighborhood Employment Center.  All have made me feel welcomed and I'm excited to meet even more of you!  Have a great day!!


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Brashear Kid's Green Playces

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Since after school program has ended, we've been gearing up for our awesome summer camps!  We decided that in order to have the best summer for the kids, our outdoor space needed a major revamp. 

We've been hard at work along with some major help from our friends at Grounded and Grow Pittsburgh.  A special thanks goes out to everyone who volunteered their time to help out as well!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Project HAND and Cans

Last year was our pilot launch of Project HAND, developed by our AmeriCorps KEYS teachers. Project HAND (Helping Allentown Neighbors Dream) is a community service project guided by teachers, and led by youth. At the beginning of each school year, the KEYS teachers meet with the youth of ALEC to discuss how they would like to contribute to their neighborhood. This initiative encourages civic engagement, community interaction, awareness, and finding your voice in the least expected places. This has been an empowering opportunity for our youth to have a 'hand' in their community and encourage their peers to do the same. 

ALEC received a grant from Remake Learning, the initial intent was to purchase two street trash cans, starting with the Allentown borough, however, another idea flourished; Why not buy trash cans for our neighborhood? 

Saturday, May 18th was Project HAND's first Neighborhood Trash Can Distribution. Not only did we serve over 50 households, we also held a painting event for those who would like to decorate or add their personalities to their new trash receptacles. 


We had a great turn out and it gave our neighbors a chance to come and see what ALEC is about. Now only are we focused on learning and enrichment, we are connected to our communities and with this pilot start, we look forward to branching out further to extend our hand and our hearts to our neighbors. 

While ALEC is located in Allentown, we are also open to other South Pittsburgh communities. Summer is just around the corner, do you have plans? If not, please join us for our Brashear Kids Summer Camp at ALEC. We are still accepting applications, the price is free and a great way to get more youth together and involved with one another. We are looking forward to a fun summer of kayaking, bike riding, art camp, tech, and learning how to garden. If you would like to know more about our Summer programming, please call us (412) 620-8282 or stop by and visit us! We are located at 827 E. Warrington Avenue, right next door to Mr. Leon's and across the street from Zone 3 Police Station.


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