Josh Shipp, known as “The Teen Whisperer” is a success story because of one foster parent who cared. After bouncing from foster home to foster hom, Josh landed in one where, even after three years of severely testing limits, he finally realized that his foster father cared. And refused to give up on him.
Thousands of Arlington youth encounter caring adults every single day. Since 2004, the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families (APCYF) has recognized 114 of those people as Connect with Kids Champions – adults who have built caring, supportive relationships with young people.
Reid Goldstein, School Board member, acknowledges that there are many caring ‘champions’ who support young people throughout Arlington. “In the schools alone we have thousands of incredible teachers and counselors who connect with kids; but there are also countless volunteers, afterschool program staff, coaches, bus drivers, custodians, food service people – all of whom connect with kids in school every day!”
This spring, another 7 Champions joined the ranks. They are:
Throughout 4 years with the Arlington Girls Softball League, Coach Paul, pictured top left, has dedicated countless volunteer hours to help develop the skills and confidence of an energetic and enthusiastic group of young softball players season after season. He was selected because of the way that he emphasizes a growth mindset and doesn’t focus on winning. Unlike many competitive coaches, Coach Paul promotes team building, increasing confidence, and personal skills development. Before the start of each season he brings the team together to get to know each other. At that time he asks each girl to identify a goal they have for the season. Throughout the season he encourages them with softball themed rewards (e.g., headbands, zipper charms, etc.), to motivate them to keep striving to meet their goals. “Over the years, we have witnessed the increasing confidence level of our daughter and other team members who have been long coached by Paul,” note Anh and William Bolles.
Coach Paul gives everyone an opportunity to play, rotating team members to allow each player to try different positions. Doing so has helped many to develop their skills in defense and offense. Players who used to pray for “walks” as 4th grade players are now swinging confidently at pitches and hitting the ball as 6th graders. His strategic coaching has made a positive impact in the ways that these girls have grown as players. Sarah Bolles, who submitted her own nomination on his behalf, put it best, “Coach Paul is everybody’s friend because he always gives you a chance”.
Francisca is so much more than “just” a Special Education teacher. As Nadine Asef-Sargent put it, “she is that rare gem of an individual that one encounters very rarely in life and if one is fortunate to have been touched by her, one finds oneself’s life forever changed for the better.”
Her daughter was one such person who’s life was changed by Francisca.
As a transfer student struggling with multiple issues, she fell under the wing of Julie Dixon-Brown who bonded with her and knew how to support and encourage her. Unfortunately after just over a year, Ms. Dixon-Brown fell ill and died, which hit Asef-Sargent’s daughter extremely hard.
Enter Francisca Jorgensen, a colleague and friend of Ms. Dixon-Brown. Herself dealing with the loss of one of her best friends, Ms. Jorgensen stepped in to scoop up this student in her caring embrace, literally and figuratively. She made sure that Ms. Asef-Sargent’s daughter stayed on track with their studies and supports, but more also helped her process her grief.
Thanks in large part to the support from Ms. Jorgensen over 2½ years, the young woman has successfully built up her confidence, sense of self and life skills, allowing her to engage and succeed and enabling her to head to college in the Fall!
This story is just one of many similar that you would hear from ‘Francisca’s kids’. Her impact is far reaching. Angel Lopez, a 2016 graduate, is studying Education at Marymount University. He wants to be a Special Education teacher because “everyone deserves someone like Francisca,” – who believes in them and their potential.
There could be no better legacy.
Buckingham Youth Brigade
The Buckingham Youth Brigade (BYB) was established in 1998 when the BU-GATA Tenants Association identified a need for teen leadership within their community. Since then it has served over 300 youth through its year-round after school program.
The program focuses on developing leadership skills, building interpersonal confidence, instilling a sense of hope for the future, and strengthening academic skills. They provide weekly workshops to help youth build Developmental Assets. Throughout the academic year, youth members attend weekly homework sessions and work with tutors to improve their academic performance.
BYB encourages youth to speak on topics that affect their lives, to strengthen their ability to deal with nonacademic challenges that they face. Over the years they’ve produced reports on their community, youth issues, and immigration concerns.
One of the most important aspects of the BYB is that youth feel connected to one another and their community. Many of them continue to participate as alumni and mentors to current youth.
Cherie explains the value of the program,“BYB is an open safe place to help kids in the community to be free and creative but also help to stay productive. Meeting new people and being able to be outspoken is an important trait to have in life and is exactly what BYB is all about. This program is a great opportunity for our youth to get out there and show our community how we can help!”
Melissa Merson, Dave Philips, Lindsey Appel, Coaches of the Arlington Triathlon Club
The Arlington Triathlon Club was created 13 years ago to Arlington youth opportunities to develop healthy lifestyles. Every spring, young triathletes train 3 times per week for about 10 weeks and then participate in a youth triathlon.
The club is led by Melissa, the founder, and Dave and Lindsey. All three are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and committed to the kids in the program. The coaches lead the way by smiling, laughing and cheering with the kids as they train. The kids say it is fun, but the impact of this club goes well beyond fun because of the way that the coaches thoughtfully and genuinely connect with each child.
They meet every child were they are and build relationships that honor each child’s abilities and potential. Examples of this abound for all three.
Coach Melissa encouraged a boy with Autism to train, and also interact with his team mates. He now has confidence as an athlete, but also the ability to interact with other children. In fact, he now helps to recruit new athletes.
One parent noted, “Coach Dave recognizes the small victories of every kid, not just the ones who are finishing first. A few weeks ago my daughter improved her mile time by a few seconds. She is a middle of the pack runner, but Coach Dave knew this was a significant gain for her. He recognized her time in front of the team and she beamed. More than that though, when he pushed her to run faster this week she nodded her head and did it. My daughter trusts him and wants to do her best for him.”
Finally, Coach Lindsey worked slowly with a child who was reluctant to ride her bike on anything other than a paved trail during off-hours. Working with her slowly, building small skills to improve handling, the child now rides her bike to school each day.
The children have learned from their coaches more than just the athletic skills. They also understand that being a team requires supporting each other so everyone can grow and improve. Coaches Melissa, Dave and Lindsey have shown the kids that this is what the triathlon – and by extension, life – is all about.
Dr. Horne is the volunteer every teacher dreams of. From the moment Drew Model School staff met Dr. Horne, they knew that he would make an incredible impact on the lives of the children for years to come. Students helped to nominate him because “even though he’s retired and doesn’t get paid to come in, he comes in every day to help us with Science”.
Dr. Horne started in the Montessori classrooms, but quickly became indispensable to many others. Since starting, he has helped to develop science curricula, coached teachers on how to create meaningful experiments, and even developed SOL practice questions for the children. The kids love that he brings in or creates cool science materials.
But most important is the relationship he has developed with the children. His patience, calm demeanor, and willingness to help all make it easier for kids to approach him as they learn about a subject that many find intimidating. He meets weekly with 4th and 5th grade tutoring groups, giving hands-on small group instruction. For the Science Fair – often a stressful exercise for students – he came in every morning from 7:45-8:30 to help students choose a topic, identify the key components, and carry out their experiment. Thanks to his help and guidance, many successfully completed a full science experiment for the first time. One example stands out. A pair of boys regularly struggled in school, and in particular in Science. Dr. Horne encouraged them to join him in the mornings, then worked with them, coaching them through every step of their experiment. At the fair, the boys were excited, confident, and willing to tell anyone who would listen about their project.
One student summed it up perfectly, saying, “Dr. Horne is a really kind person and he is more than just a Science teacher”.
As a long-time Reading Buddy at Randolph Elementary School, County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol knows how fulfilling it can be to ‘Connect with Kids’ in our community. “I’m grateful for the time I get to spend reading with students, and more importantly, for the chance to learn about their interests, their passions, and their aspirations for the future. I’m glad to be one of many Arlingtonians seeking to make a positive impact on the lives of our young people.”
- Melissa Merson, Dave Philips and Lindsey Appel were recognized at the Arlington Triathlon on June 11.
- Francisca Jorgensen will be recognized by HB Woodlawn students in her TA on Monday, June 12.
- The Buckingham Youth Brigade and Paul Bolejack will be recognized by the County Board on June 20.
- McDonald will be honored in the evening of June 20 at the 5th Grade Promotion Ceremony for Drew Model School.
Anyone can be a Connect with Kids Champion – it takes a caring attitude, a little time, and most importantly, a willingness to listen and connect. Here are a few tips to help you:
- Ask for their opinion and listen to their answer
- If they come to you with a problem, start by listening, then seek to understand
- 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.