The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves. Steven Spielberg
The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families (APCYF) is pleased to announce the Fall 2016 Connect With Kids Champions.
The newest class of Champions understands the importance of supportive relationships, especially ones that allow young people to ‘create themselves’. All of them have created the space and time – and given support so that young people can explore and create themselves.
Twice a year, APCYF invites community members to nominate individuals, groups, businesses and nonprofit organizations as Champions because of the supportive relationships they’ve built with young people.
County Board member Katie Cristol gets it. As a Reading Buddy at Randolph Elementary School, she helps children create their identities as readers. But she also recognizes the benefits for her, and them. “I enjoy and appreciate the time I spend reading with the students. And we know that the more positive adults a young person has in their life, the more likely they will be to make positive decisions about their future.”
The Fall 2016 Connect With Kids Champions are:
As the director of the Williamsburg Middle School Check In Program, Kia Martin provides much more than a safe space for students to pass the time after school. She builds community. And through that process, builds up student’s self-confidence and sense of personal responsibility. Students lead the way in her Check-In program.
Through the “Student Council” (pictured with Martin) young people plan and lead events and activities for their peers. She provides her participants opportunities to serve as well, including a new reading buddy program with Discovery Elementary School, which students were anxious to sign up for. “My son is an average reader who would much prefer to play with electronic devices than read. But his participation enabled him to feel good both about reading and about helping other kids“.
Martin’s whole-child approach demonstrates that she truly cares for the physical and emotional well-being of each student and their social growth and development. She builds strong, uplifting relationships with students by treating them with respect, engaging with them in activities they enjoy, and really listening to them.
It often happens like this – a dad starts out volunteering to support his child, and then really gets into it. Allen Beland did just that. He jumped in at Phoenix Bikes in order to help his son finish his Earn-A-Bike project, but was soon became an almost daily presence after school and through the summer. He is available in summer because he also connects with kids as an art teacher at Yorktown High School.
Whether he’s working with a youth mechanic on a project, helping with customer repairs, or just hanging out, Beland’s kind demeanor and mechanical prowess make him an invaluable member of the team. Meg Rapelye, Executive Director of Phoenix Bikes, nominated him because he connects so easily with the young mechanics. “He is often sought out for help by youth in our program because of his patience, his knack at teaching often complicated mechanical skills, and his sense of humor,” she explains.
Beland, pictured with Alec, a Phoenix Bikes youth mechanic, can always be counted on for sharing bits of wisdom, donning a funny costume, or telling a silly joke. In this way, he contributes to the friendly and welcoming culture of Phoenix Bikes. His attitude is genuine and contagious to those around him, helping remind everyone to stay positive, overcome challenges, and not give up. This is especially helpful to the Phoenix Bikes’ junior cycling team that he coaches. When competing in races, Allen demonstrates that the positive, supportive relationships among members at the end of the day are more important than any individual race result.
A lifelong career coaching gymnastics at the YMCA and W-L High School (40+ years) should be reason enough to name “Papa Joe” as a Connect With Kids Champion. However, in a sport known for harsh coaching and high burnout rate, D’Emidio is a standout for his supportive and encouraging coaching style. His goal is to nurture the whole gymnast, not just competing to win, but focusing on personal best and instilling in each athlete a positive can-do attitude, self confidence, and strong character.
D’Emidio has created a culture of family at the YMCA Woodmont Center. He regularly refers to the “YMCA Circle of Life”, where young gymnasts grow up participating in the program and then return as teens and college students to volunteer and work at summer camps. “It has been like a second family and home for my daughter,” states Wendy Simon. She adds “It’s not just a job to him. My daughter has been a member of the gymnastics team for many years; I’ve seen how he supports them from the time they are young girls into in high school and beyond.”
He brings a similar attitude to the Washington-Lee gymnastics team, shown here with D’Emidio at left. Despite being one of the school’s most winning teams, Joe welcomes any student with an interest in the sport, regardless of skill level. He builds up the gymnasts by allowing them flexibility and control over their performance, keeping the focus on the experience, the fun, personal growth. He ensures that all on the team who want to compete have that opportunity.
Since 2008 Tara Magee has made a remarkable contribution to the lives of dozens of young women as Director of the Girls’ Outreach Program. Operated by the Arlington County Court Services Unit, this afterschool program serves court-involved young women ages 13-17. The program also accepts referrals from schools, foster care workers, and parents.
Many of the program participants come from a place (home, school, courts) where they have many reasons to not trust adults. With tremendous patience, “Ms. Tara” guides, supports, and listens to them. When needed she pushes and holds them accountable. Magee’s consistency, the structure she brings, plus her warm and caring attitude allow program participants to let down their guard, be vulnerable, and build trusting relationships with her and her staff.
A recent climbing trip is just one example of the trust the young women have in Magee, shown instructing a climber. Because of the strength of the relationship – and the trust they have in Magee, every single girl was able to get up on the climbing wall, and get to the top. The next trip she’ll push them even more: to interact with police (whom they view very negatively) and even climb with the police officers holding the ropes.
And the girls will climb. Because they know that if Magee set this up, it must be safe. On a daily basis, she pushes them to take risks with new, positive behaviors. And they try because they know that “Ms. Tara” will make it safe for them.
The Fall 2016 class of Champions joins the ranks of 108 individuals or teams who have been named as Connect With Kids Champions since the program was created.
Reid Goldstein, School Board member, would like to see more adults in Arlington connecting with kids. “Whether coaching, teaching, or helping with afterschool activities, Champions value the relationships they have with young people above all else. I’d like to see more adults volunteering, or even just smiling and greeting young people. We can all do that!”
The County Board will honor Allen Beland and Tara Magee at a meeting on January 31; Joe D’Emidio and Kia Martin were recognized by the School Board at their January 5 meeting. You can view the School Board recognition here.
Anyone can be a Connect with Kids Champion – it isn’t hard at all! Here are a few tips to help you connect:
- As for their opinion and listen to their answer
- If they come to you with a problem, start my listening and understanding
- Appreciate their energy, their questions, and their creativity.
To learn more about how you can make connections with young people in Arlington, or to find out how to nominate someone as a Connect With Kids Champion, contact Michael Swisher, Assets Liaison for APCYF at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-228-1671.