Friday, October 28, 2016

Ms. Amber's "See ya soon!"

These kids are too much sometimes. This is from a recent photoshoot of our Green Playces space with GTECH.
I want to precede this with a disclaimer, I'm not much a writer, I like to speak in pictures and stories but I will try to sum up my time with the Brashear Association in this blog post. It will never nearly cover all my love and gratitude for the kids, families, staff, partners and experiences but I will try to share. An additional warning: Long post ahead. haha

My time has come to a close with the Brashear Association and it is with a heavy heart that I must say "See you Soon!"  I started here 4.5 years ago as the Site Coordinator assisting Renee Greenlee with the Education program and when Renee moved on to pursue photography further I stepped up as Education Coordinator for the Brashear Association.

LEFT: making vegan truffles with the kids afterschool. TOP CENTER: Forever quieting kids down for lessons.  BOTTOM CENTER: Adult computer hours means babies sometimes came in with moms who needed to get work done. This little guy fell asleep on me while I was working.  RIGHT: Lamar and I had a lot of conversationds about race. We talked a lot about similarities and differences and embracing all of it with love and understanding. This kid gets it. 

I'm not a crazy awesome artist but I do like to explore creativity with different mediums and to see where art takes us and the forms it takes.  Kids are some of the best creative explorers. When I get stuck I often think of her and her optimistic and curious spirit. 
I have worked with various non-profits consistently over the last 14 years, almost all working with youth in under served areas.  Following this path and career has been so extremely rewarding.  There have been so many laughs and giggle fits, amazing and hard conversations, and lots of understanding. My time with Brashear has been extra special because it has been with such a community centered organization who genuinely cares about its neighbors and works with the whole family very holistically. I have appreciated that when I have a conversation with a student about lack of food at home, a parent lost their job or is unable to take care of the winter utility bill, or catch someone sneaking toilet paper home, we have been able to intercede on their behalf or I can direct the family to our amazing and caring case managers. I feel that this model and level of care that the agency has for South Pittsburgh residents is impressive and rare. The staff at the Brashear is small comparatively to many other organizations but the amount of work and hustle that comes from this 9 person team is insane! If I could describe my coworkers and bosses I would say: Fiercely loyal, dedicated and compassionate. I am so blessed to have been a part of this team. 

So many deep conversations with someone so young, wise beyond her years with a little bit of sweet and sour. haha.
When walking somewhere, no one grabs my hand as much as this one and she is genuinely concerned about others well being and caring for them. She is small but mighty,  sweet and bossy rolled up into one tiny human.
A bap is a non feathered friend according to Edwin. We have been best baps for a while now and no one makes me laugh harder or makes me as crazy as this kid does. I will miss little bread surprises, love songs about ducks and other random cartoon network tv trivia. Most of all I will miss his intensity and fierceness of his love and loyalty for his friends and family.
Some of the highlights of my time here have been from the garden and watching our students trying new foods.  Renee, my predecessor, was excellent at introducing new healthy foods to the students and engaging them in new recipes. To grow this mission of healthy kids, I implemented a garden in our outdoor space at ALEC. Working with kids in the garden has got to be up there in my top 5 happy places. The conversations that are had around dirt and seeds are deep and illuminating and sometimes silly.  I have seen anxieties disappear when you tell a student to grab a trowel and plant some seeds or pull weeds. I have heard heart breaking stories while digging in the dirt, funny little songs while making seed bombs and amazing questions and discussions about veggies and our bodies.
My personal accomplishment has been getting our students to not only try but LIKE brussel sprouts.

LEFT: Fresh From the Farm Juices field trip.  TOP CENTER: Lights on Afterschool 2015. BOTTOM CENTER: our awesome team a couple years ago.  RIGHT: Drop in program a Lighthouse Cathedral.
LEFT: Outdoor free time. CENTER: a great day of kayaking at Kayak Pittsburgh with Venture Outdoors. RIGHT: Teaching a pesto pizza recipe at Grandview Elementary.
The donors and partnerships have enriched our program so much over these last several years. Pittsburgh is truly better for all these amazing folks who are tirelessly give their, time, energy and funds to our kids. Without their support, our programs would not exist. Partners and donors have offered our students amazing field trips and opportunities they would not normally receive, as we well as drop in programs that are engaging and fun. I truly felt that many of our partner contacts became good friends and though I am not moving I am will miss our regular interactions and I am now hoping our paths will meet more in the future. 

CLP recieved funding to take our kids on a Molly's Trolleys tour around the city. We ended with Dream Cream at the end of the day.

Ty and I went to our first hockey game together! Favorite quote of the night from him while looking around the arena, "Wow! White people really like their hockey!" 
I feel like the kids have taught me a lot, they have taught me about love, they have taught me about life, about silly jokes, about humanity, about family, friendship, but, most of all I think they have taught me about myself. I have learned to be more patient, to be more understanding, to breath more, to be still, to be silly, to love more when it is hard and to laugh harder when times are crazy and so much more.

This post Confessions of an Afterschool teacher. still rings so very true. I plan to take these lessons I have learned into the future.

I also feel truly honored to work with some really great parents who love and invest so much in their children and work hard to make things happen for them. The friendships I have built with these families is so important to me and I have grown by knowing them and their stories. A BIG Thank you to all the parents out there that have allowed me the privilege of hanging out out with your children these past few years. You should all be proud of them, truly amazing kids!

LEFT: We always loved taking pictures in front of the Allentown mural. TOP CENTER: Making Smoothie popsicles is always the right choice when it gets hot outside. BOTTOM CENTER: I love taking the boys hiking on the trails at Grandview park. Getting kids out in  nature is one of my favorite activities. RIGHT: Going to Harrisburg with our 5th graders was one of my favorite trips. The wonder the kids expressed about the capital and even just seeing cows in fields on the drive out there was so worth all the hard work to make trips happen for them.
I started this blog just over 4 years ago to share life in out of school time (OST) because there are not many blogs out there sharing life in OST. It has turned into a diary of our program and I am thankful to all of our staff who have contributed to the public account of what life is like for the Brashear's education programs. I especially love the stories. I am always so thankful to the Staff, Americorps KEYS, Work studies, volunteers, and kind folks who invest so much of their love and time into our students. Our programs would not be the same without all their hard work and dedication to seeing our students succeed and working so hard to close the racial achievement gap. From teh bottom of my heart: Thank you friends.

LEFT: Lo from Venture Outdoors, NiShai, Chris and I were in a featured segment at WTAE. CENTER: Coming up with silly crafts with the kids is always fun. RIGHT: So many selfies with the kids, they love them. I love them. 
One person in particular that I will miss is Dianna, our amazing Site Coordinator and one of my closest friends. Dianna and I have been through a lot together over the last 4.5 years of our friendship. We grew a lot closer the last two years through building an off site center and growing the program together and just constantly brainstorming how we can best serve our kids and improve the program overall. What I have valued and appreciated most about Dianna is her wisdom and sass. She is one of the sassiest people I know, she is always funny and throwing me into giggle fits, while balancing all the fun out with sage knowledge of people and kids. She is good at that, pick up on or just knowing what a kid or family is going through when I do not. I will miss our regular conversations about the kids, the neighborhood, race and hilarious stories about life. She has been my rock, my organized brain and my sanity these last two years and I honestly don't think I could have done this without her. She has helped grow our program in so many ways, she has improved our parent interactions and engagement in a way I could never have done. She is just the glue of this program.

I am so pleased Dianna is here to support Maggie in her new role as Education Coordinator and show her the ropes. I have known Maggie for a couple years now and she is such a great person for this position! She has volunteered with us in the past and she lives just blocks away from our center, this has made her transition in so smooth, as well as her kind and engaging personality. She is smart and creative and a great advocate for our youth both as an educator and a neighbor. I have had the pleasure of working with her these past few weeks and I am more than confident she will be taking this program to great places with the help of Dianna and our amazing team. The kids are in great hands with Ms. Maggie.


I will be forever grateful for my time here with the Brashear Association and the lessons I have learned and the experiences I have had. These kids and their families have a chunk of my heart and I can't wait to return to visit and volunteer in the near future! This is not goodbye, this is just "See ya soon!" 

Ms. Amber

Ps. For those of you who are curious as to where I am going: I started an interior Design business (Rooke Creative) earlier this year and it is coming to a time that I need to commit more time to this new endeavor. I am excited that this will offer me some flexibility to still come visit/volunteer from time to time.

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