Spring 2013 Connect with Kids Champions Honored!
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 one who made a difference for you. This spring, four adults were honored 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. The Partnership selects CWK Champions twice annually to celebrate adults who make a difference in the lives of Arlington youth.
Arlington Public School employees Monica Lozano and Juan Peredo were recognized at the June 18 Arlington County School Board meeting. Francesca Fierro O’Reilly and Lori McFail were recognized in a special ceremony at the May 21 Arlington County Board meeting.
Tia Alfred represented the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families at the School Board meeting, pointing out that everyone can connect with kids. “They’ve shown us how” she said, “now it is our turn to go and be Connect With Kids Champions across Arlington. It starts with taking a minute to listen to them, but can last an entire lifetime!”
And the Spring 2013 Champions are:
Monica Lozano, seen by many students as a ‘second mom’ at Swanson Middle School, is a High Intensity Language Training Resource Counselor and Minority Achievement Coordinator. She runs afterschool clubs and provides recreational activities for the students. Her tiny office is a hub of activity as kids pop in on their way to the cafeteria or their next class. She always takes a moment to greet them by name and check in with them. Her warm and caring nature is matched by the high expectations she holds for each student. Equally friendly with parents, Lozano bridges language barriers and helps keep parents informed of their children’s performance. One student echoes what many have said about her: “She always believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself.”
Juan Peredo is the Family Liaison at Yorktown High School and is the first friendly face many students see at their new school. Officially, he is responsible for communicating with families on behalf of teachers and administrators. Beyond the job description though, much of Peredo’s 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. One such teacher, Christina Smith-Gajadhar, describes what he does: “He holds hands, listens to complaints, fills out forms, advocates, placates and sometimes reads kids the riot act,” but she says he is always looking for opportunities for all youth to succeed, nudging wayward ones toward the straight and narrow and applauding the successes — personal, academic, athletic, and artistic — of all.
Francesca Fierro O’Reilly, shown here with Board Chair Walter Tejada, is a den leader, soccer coach, and is active in her PTA. What makes O’Reilly exceptional is the way she creates 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 each player feel like a valued member of the team, regardless of skill level. The atmosphere was so positive that many of the boys continued to see one another 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 designed to help participants practice how to respect and appreciate one another. Amanique Richardson expressed the sentiments of her peers when she said: “We love Ms. Lori!”
Adults are building strong, positive, and nurturing relationships with youth every day. You can be one of them – it isn’t hard at all!
- 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. Ask questions about it.
- Love them just the way they are.
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 now being accepted for the Fall 2013 cycle. For more information please contact Michael Swisher, Assets Liaison, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 703-228-1671.