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

Monday, July 2, 2018


Hello! My name is Jazmine! I work at Brashear Association for the summer in the Learn & Earn program. I have been working here for two years. I am looking forward to working with the kids at Brashear through Tech and Outdoor camp. I am also looking forward to see what new things the kids will learn through the summer!
I go to Propel Andrew Street High school. I love cooking, art, writing, singing, theater, sewing, music, graphic design, learning about different cultures, learning foreign language, making costumes, helping others, playing games, watching anime, horror movies, mixed martial arts, shopping, travelling, parties, going to conventions,  and spending time with friends and family.
My favorite holidays are Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July!
My favorite seasons are Spring and Fall.
My favorite months are April, June, July, October, November, and December.
My favorite quote is "Dreams can become reality."
A few of my many favorite songs are Let Me Out, Andromeda, Clint Eastwood, She's My Collar, On Melancholy Hill, Feel Good Inc, and Saturnz Barz  by Gorillaz.
My favorite book is IT by Stephen King.
My favorite movie is Split.

This is me!

And another picture of me at Tekko! (The one in the yellow jacket is me!)

CAPA Boot Camp Part II

Wow, the second week of Art Boot Camp went by as quickly as the first week! The Brashear kids did an absolutely amazing job keeping with the fast and tedious pace of camp. Despite occasionally feeling frustrated, or discouraged, this group rose to the top and didn't let a few down moments stop them from learning.

This week, we focused on 2D and 3D sculpture as well as outdoor observational drawing and still life art. Our main sculpture piece was an exploration of Sgraffito. Sgraffito in Italian means "scratched", it's a technique used primarily in ceramics to create a design or illustration on a surface layer of paint, plaster, or in this case, ink.


Each student was given a dampened clay plate to coat with ink. The plates were set aside to dry so that the students could use a sculpting tool to begin etching their design on the dried layer. 

A plate completed by Legasea (6th grade)
A plate completed by Ellie (5th grade)

Still Life drawing was also a big focus this week. The second major adventure the students embarked upon was really putting their newly developed observational skills to use, as well as their budding knowledge of value and perspective. 

To wrap up our action-packed camp we were able to tour the Frick Art and Historical Center and see the impressionist exhibit featuring the works of Degas, Van Gogh, Monet and a special appearance of the cubism revolutionary, Pablo Picasso. Entrance to the museum was provided by Tickets for Kids with additional transportation support provided by the Frick.

The exhibition fit rather well with the recent lesson on still life drawings. Still Life (as well as portraiture) was a very common theme during the Impressionist Era. We had the lovely opportunity to have a guided tour of the collection. 

We even got to experience the traditional drawing style of En Plein Air (meaning 'In Open Air" in French), which was a common method of landscape and portrait placement. 

This has been a great experience and we hope our cadets had as much fun as we did. For many of us, art plays a major role in our lives. It provides a space that we can create,contribute, explore, learn, express, observe, and heal. We are grateful that we have the ability to expose our youth to such a great outlet, and we hope they carry these tools with them the rest of their lives. 


Friday, June 29, 2018

Mr. Neal's Final Day!

Goodbye Mr. Neal!

Wow, it sure has been a quick year. I can't believe that the summer is here already, and that my KEYS AmeriCorps year has come to an end. I have had a blast with our Brashear Kids and staff, and will miss every moment at ALEC dearly.
While I am sad to leave, I will always remember the memories I made at Brashear:

- Starting Project Hand

A team installs the first sign to reduce litter in Allentown!
When Miss Maggie tasked me with creating an activity to create a service project, I was pretty nervous. But when I introduced Project HAND to the youth, they ate it up. They came up with ideas to improve Allentown and eventually came up with the plan to install trash cans and signs to reduce litter. In the mean time, we applied for and received a Remake Learning microgrant for Project HAND! Stay tuned to see what become of this Brashear Kid-led project!

- Dude Time 

Whether playing capture the flag, holding sprinting races at A Giving Heart, or playing my dreaded team-building games, I always had a blast hanging out with the Brashear Dudes. We had so many laughs and learned a lot about each other, that was a lot of fun!
Cayden runs through an obstacle course at A Giving Heart

CJ and Mr. Neal being silly at the park

Ethan and Mr. Neal making faces 
at each other, like always :P

- Super Smash Bros. 

When I introduced this Wii game to the Brashear Kids, I didn't realize it would take off as much as it did. Soon after, every Tech Time consisted of battling with Nintendo characters to promote friendly competition and fun. Everyone got really good at this game and looked forward to playing it!

- Everything else

Unfortunately, I don't have the time or space to cover all of my favorite memories at Brashear, but that doesn't mean they aren't close to my heart! Every person and activity was very special to me, whether day-to-day tasks or special events.

To my Brashear Kids: y'all are incredible. Even when I nagged you to follow rules and finish your homework, I was constantly impressed with who you are and what you will become. I enjoyed the little moments of Brashear, such as chatting at dinner, playing games, spelling word races, and being plain silly, because you are simply fun to be around. I know that you will kill it these next few years at Brashear and at middle school: I'm so excited to come back and see what you have been working on!

To my Brashear team: thank you so much for everything. Each of you is a powerhouse of love and care for our students; something that goes so far in their lives. I loved working with each of you and have learned so many things, in times and places I never expected! I can't wait to see what you and the rest of the Brashear Kids achieve in the coming years.

If there is any picture to remember Mr. Neal and Miss Christa by, it's this one :)
Expect visits for Super Smash Bros. and games from Mr. Neal soon ;)
Until then, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Mr. Neal


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