We all know that adults can have a huge impact on the life of a young person. In fact, it probably doesn’t take you long to think of an adult (other than a parent or caregiver) who made a difference for you. This spring, the Partnership has selected four wonderful adults as the Spring 2013 Connect With Kids Champions.
Connect with Kids (CWK) Champions are Arlingtonians who go out of their way to develop positive relationships with young people. APCYF selects CWK Champions twice a year as a way to acknowledge those who are making a difference in the lives of Arlington youth.
Francesca Fierro O’Reilly is a den leader, soccer coach, and is active in her PTA. What makes Fran exceptional is her ability to create inclusive teams. She is known for pulling in kids who were unable to join a team or group within their school or neighborhood and making them feel welcome. Her positive, personable approach gives all of her Cub Scouts or soccer players the confidence to participate and do well. She doesn’t just connect with kids personally. She also helps them connect with one another. This winter she formed an indoor soccer team with kids from across the county. Before long she knew every kid’s name, and then made all players feel like a valued member of the team, regardless of their skill level. The atmosphere was so positive that many of the boys continue to play see each other, after the season ended.
Lori McFail has been connecting with the children at Carver Community Center for 12 years. As the Director of Kids in Action, the Department of Parks and Recreation’s elementary after school program, she makes it a point to get to know each child. She always looks for the best in each child and, when they’re not at their best, will readily meet with parents so they can work together to support the child. Her well-structured program is filled with fun and creative activities, many of which are designed to help participants practice getting along with one another. She demonstrates the same positive, friendly demeanor with students at Wakefield High School, where she works during the day.
Monica Lozano-Caldera is seen by many students as a ‘second mom’ at Swanson Middle School where she works as HILT Resource Counselor & Minority Achievement Coordinator. She runs several afterschool clubs and regularly provides recreational activities for the students. Kids regularly pop into her office on the way to the cafeteria or the next class. She always takes a moment to greet them by name and check in with them. She holds them to high expectations, but is understanding, warm and caring. She is equally as friendly with parents as well, bridging language barriers and helping to keep them informed of their children’s performance.
Juan Peredo serves as the Family Liaison at Yorktown High School Juan is responsible for communicating with families on behalf of teachers and administrators. Beyond the job description, Juan (aka Tio/Abuelo/Don Peredo/Mr. Peredo) is a treasure. In addition to interpreting for parents and staff, much of his day is spent talking to the teens that populate the school and his life. There are always kids in his office, sharing their hopes, dreams and fears. “Can I go see Mr. Peredo?” is a regular request to teachers throughout Yorktown. He seeks opportunities for all to succeed, nudging wayward ones toward the straight and narrow and applauding the successes – personal, academic, athletic, and artistic – of all.
These four represent a very small portion of the hundreds of adults who are building strong, positive, and nurturing relationships with youth every day. You can be one of them – it isn’t hard at all! Here are a few ideas on how:
- Include youth in everyday decisions
- Apologize when you do something wrong
- Seek their help with a project, or even a crossword puzzle
- Listen to their music and ask questions about it
- Love them just the way they are.
The County Board recognized Fierro O’Reilly and McFail in a special ceremony at the May 21, 2013 meeting. Lozano and Peredo will be recognized by the Arlington County School Board at their June 18, 2013 meeting.
Do you know a Champion? You can nominate a person, business or organization that goes above and beyond in building relationships with young people. Nominations are accepted anytime, but the deadline for the Spring nominees has passed. Any nominations will be considered in the Fall 2013 cycle. For more information please contact Michael Swisher, Assets Liaison, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 703-228-1671.