Mentoring Matters

Guest post by Rev. Judie S. Martin, Executive Director, InnerCity Collaborative Community Development Corporation

This is the second post in a new blog series on “Building A Safer, Stronger DC,” featuring stories from grantees of the City Fund Safer, Stronger DC portfolio. View the full series here.


On a 95-degree day, high risk intervention strategist (mentor) Ronnie Myers ventured to Lincoln Heights to pick up five youth, ages 13-19. He gazed across the street to see what they see on a daily basis – crime, drug deals, fancy cars pulling into and out of the public housing complex, elderly women at the bus stop and young mothers with children just hanging out on the block. The youth thank Mr. Myers for coming to take them out for a meal at Chipotle and to talk about the upcoming school year. The conversation is mixed with highs and lows. The highlights are around going to school and having somewhere else to go every day. The lows are wondering whether they will make it through the year, as they begin to recount the friends that have been shot, bullied and even killed, just going to or from school. But despite all of that, they are eager and glad to hear about programs offered by the InnerCity Collaborative Community Development Corporation, including mentoring, housing assistance, counseling, and other social service referrals. 

Through the Credible Messenger Initiative of the District’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and with funding support from Safer, Stronger DC, InnerCity Collaborative CDC has been able to work with some of the toughest youth, engaging in some of the riskiest behavior. These children and adolescents are at important periods of development and are vulnerable to taking the wrong step, which is why mentors are important for them. Mentors may not be able to change how fast a child’s brain develops or force a child to make certain decisions, but mentors can share their worldviews, experiences, knowledge, support and advice, as well as provide a positive influence. By introducing youth to new experiences and sharing positive values, mentors can help young people avoid negative behaviors and achieve success.

For example, another youth in our program has turned her artistic talent into a t-shirt that is being promoted as the DYRS call to action for anti-gun violence campaign, GUNZ DOWN DC. She and several other youths from our program are helping to promote this CTA on several media outlets throughout the city. Many of these youth, who have been victims of violent crimes themselves, have also made a song to accompany their message. 

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Research studies have found that there is a benefit of program participation for youth, with at-risk youth being most likely to benefit. A study of 46 programs for delinquency (e.g., aggression, drug use and academic achievement) found mentoring for high-risk youth to have a positive effect on delinquency, academic functioning, aggression and drug use.

Above all, mentors are motivators and role models, who believe in their mentees, see their potential and help them get to where they want to go. Children and adolescents, in contrast, have more limited worldviews and experiences, are individuating themselves, and are beginning to rely less on parents and more on peers. This is even more complex for adjudicated youth with whom the work of the InnerCity Collaborative CDC has as its primary focus. We provide high risk mentoring and wrap around support for the family as well as the youth. This type of engagement highlights the greatest need of the communities we support, family nurturance and guidance. If you think back to when you were a teenager, you may remember trying to figure out who you were and how to navigate through social norms. And most of us had a responsible adult that helped us to make those life choices. Such is not the case for many of the District’s inner-city youth and their families.

Despite the importance of mentorship for youth, one in three young people report never having an adult mentor while growing up. This statistic translates to approximately 16 million youth, including 9 million at-risk youth, reaching age 19 without ever having a mentor. For children and adolescents, finding a mentor can be more difficult. But thanks to the Safer, Stronger DC opportunity and the DYRS Credible messenger initiative we are changing lives and communities.

“Inner City Blues”: The Dual Reality of Building a Safer, Stronger DC

By Manon P. Matchett, Community Investment Officer, Greater Washington Community Foundation

As a proud and happy resident of the Hillsdale community for the past 15+ years, I have dutifully crossed the Anacostia River every day to travel to work. Most of that time has been spent working in philanthropy. The landscape has changed significantly these last few years.    

The optics of my commute change as I travel downtown. As I exit the Frederick Douglass bridge and drive past the new DC United Audi and the Washington Nationals stadiums on each side of me, I am reminded of how change has come, slowly and sometimes painfully. Neighborhoods that were crime-ridden and desolate are now thriving communities with quaint restaurants, trendy boutiques and high-rise luxury apartments. Streets have awoken from their coma with a promise never to sleep again. This is a new city hustle and bustle, that is energizing, even calming. Yet, not all communities are experiencing the region’s progress and prosperity in the same way.

The reality of the work that I do at The Community Foundation and how our focus on improving our communities personally affects me and my family has hit home in recent weeks. Within the last month, yellow crime tape has decorated my street. Shots were fired. On the street where my family lives. The most frightening experience was watching Metropolitan Police officers canvassing my block for bullet casings. I walked away after the twelfth marker was placed on the street. Last Sunday, a young man, with a bright future was gunned down on his way home from the corner store. I purposely drive in the opposite direction, so I do not have to see his deathbed – a small plot of bloodstained grass.

As a community leader, funder, convener and advocate, The Community Foundation has a long history of responding to urgent and emerging community challenges by addressing both short-term needs and creating long-term solutions. Most recently as the number of violent crimes committed in the District has surged, particularly in communities like mine which are located East of the River, I have participated in conversations with the philanthropic community, community-based organizations, and the District Government to identify ways we can contribute to and accelerate various violence prevention strategies. As a result of these conversations, The Community Foundation has mobilized the generosity of local funders to support the implementation of a pilot program that targets a small set of District neighborhoods using the Cure Violence methodology. While this program is just beginning to launch, I am heartened by the ongoing work of local community groups who are already offering a range of solutions to address violence prevention in our homes, in our schools, and in our communities.

In 2016, the Greater Washington Community Foundation assumed grantmaking for Mayor Bowser’s Safer, Stronger DC initiative. This was a targeted, place-based approach to meet the unique and varying needs of high crime neighborhoods. Since then, we have successfully conducted three grant rounds totaling $4 million to 95 organizations serving 13 Police Service Areas in Wards 1, 5, 7, and 8. I am immensely proud of what this portfolio of organizations is achieving.

Over the next few weeks, grantees from the City Fund Safer, Stronger DC portfolio will share their stories of how their respective organizations provide necessary safety-net, violence prevention and violence intervention services to some of the most vulnerable populations and under-resourced communities in the District. None of them will tell how grueling and sometimes discouraging their work can be. Many mask the pain of being unable to help everyone. Quite a few are still grieving the loss of life and potential of those they have served. Yet, all of them wake anew each day ready to start all over again filled with hope and courage.

My own commuting mentality is evolving. On good days, I am not just crossing the river, I am crossing a bridge. I am coming home to new residences, redeveloping commercial corridors and more options for shopping and dining. Despite all this, I make the journey home filled with anxiety and trepidation because I do not know what to expect. To ease my spirit, I hum the lyrics to “Inner City Blues” from the iconic and native Washingtonian Marvin Gaye. Some days “it makes me wanna holler and throw up both my hands.” My heart calms as I turn onto my street and see an MPD cruiser parked nearby. It is temporary solace knowing that my community has one more night of peace.


 

Building A Safer, Stronger DC Blog Series

 

Building A Safer, Stronger DC is a new blog series featuring stories from grantees of the City Fund Safer, Stronger DC portfolio.

Fund Combats Domestic Violence in Prince George's County

Photo provided by Community Advocates for Family & Youth

Photo provided by Community Advocates for Family & Youth

“We have seen a dramatic reduction in crime in Prince George’s County over the last decade, but some of the most horrific violent crimes that have occurred in recent years stem from domestic violence,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III.

That is why in March 2017 the County Executive established the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Grant Fund to assist nonprofit organizations who are working on the front line to protect women and men from domestic violence.

“The effects of domestic violence are deep and long lasting,” said Jackie Rhone, Division Manager of the Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Division of the County’s Department of Family Services. “When we know better we do better; through education, prevention and partnership we can end the cycle of abuse.”

Since its creation, the division has been working to address domestic violence in multiple ways – from education and prevention to direct services for survivors. For instance, says Rhone, her office implemented an evidence-based curriculum called “Safe Dates” that has been used in County middle schools, sponsored a series of men’s conferences on domestic violence and developed a partnership with House of Ruth Maryland and other nonprofits in the County.

The County’s Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund was established at the Greater Washington Community Foundation with an initial contribution of $250,000 to provide annual grants and capacity building support to nonprofits to support enhanced services for individuals and families directly affected by domestic violence. The goal is to help families achieve a greater level of independence, strengthen families’ ability to cope with healing, and rebuild the family unit by helping to remove challenges to gaining self-sufficiency – such as providing legal services, counseling services, support groups, employment, training and housing.

“We are passionate about our work, but we quickly realized government can’t do this work alone,” said Elana Belon-Butler, Director of the Department of Family Services. “That’s why we collaborate with others such as the Greater Washington Community Foundation. The Community Foundation is a great partner because of their knowledge of both domestic violence and of our community needs. They also share our sense of urgency, accountability, follow through and reporting. These are things that can’t be minimalized.”

In 2017, some of the critical services that the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund supported included: public awareness campaigns that targeted certain areas heavily impacted by domestic violence; services to individuals and families directly affected by domestic violence; legal issues (protective orders), counseling and family services; emergency and basic needs to survivors as well as other kinds of wraparound supports. In 2018, the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund will include support for survivors of human trafficking. 

“Domestic violence can affect anyone – regardless of income, background or location,” says CAFY CEO Arleen Joell, who received a grant in the amount of $75,000 from the fund.

Community Advocates for Family & Youth (CAFY) supports victims of crimes in Prince George’s County – from those affected by breaking and entering crimes to family members who have lost a loved one to homicide. But the largest percentage of their clients – 52 percent – are victims of domestic violence. Those clients face multiple challenges. Thanks to the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund, nonprofits like CAFY are increasingly able to address those challenges with wraparound services such as legal and mental health services, security deposits, first month’s rent and transportation assistance.

For instance, CAFY recently helped a client who had a protective order and was in the process of moving to another city by putting her up in a hotel for several nights, paying to store her worldly possessions until she found a new job and place to live, and covering the cost of a U-Haul when she was ready to relocate. When another woman with a protective order needed her locks changed, CAFY took care of that critical need for her. They also provided legal counsel, so she could file for child custody and begin divorce proceedings. The client would not have been able to afford these costs on her own.

Desiree Griffin-Moore, Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Prince George’s County, points out that this is not the first time the Community Foundation has partnered with the County. The Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative Fund was established at The Community Foundation in 2014 by The Office of the Prince George's County Executive and Prince George’s County Public Schools to support community-based organizations providing quality free and/or affordable out-of-school time programming for youth and families. “We have a longstanding relationship with the County which has always valued our transparent, equitable process and our knowledge of the community,” she said.

Adds Jackie Rhone: “The work is easier when we don’t have to educate someone about the County and its demographics.”

“This is hands down one of the best partnerships Prince George’s County government has entered into,” adds Belon-Butler. 

Join us for a screening and discussion of America to Me on September 27 at 6 pm

The Greater Washington Community Foundation has partnered with Education Forward DC and the DC Public Education Fund to host a citywide screening and panel discussion of America to Me, a ten-part docu-series about race and equity in America’s public schools commissioned by Participant Media. Directed by Academy-Award nominee Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself, The Interrupters), the series follows a year in the life of students, teachers, and administrators at Oak Park and River Forest High School, a racially integrated high school near Chicago. 

Please join us on September 27 for the screening followed by a discussion with former U.S. Secretary of Education and CEO of Ed Trust, John King; Interim Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, Amanda Alexander; former Washington, DC Deputy Mayor for Education, Abigail Smith; and series-featured student, Jada Buford.
 
You can find more information in the invitation below. Please RSVP by clicking here.

Remembering 9/11

On the 17th anniversary of September 11, 2001, we honor and remember the innocent people who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist attacks carried out on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We mark this tragedy by finding hope in the response of our community which came together to help victims and their families during a time of immense devastation and loss. Following the attack on the Pentagon—which claimed the lives of 184 innocent people and directly affected thousands of other individuals and families—the Survivors’ Fund was established at The Community Foundation to direct the charitable response and caring spirit of some 12,000 donors, including families who sponsored lemonade stands and bake sales to major corporations and foundations contributing millions of dollars. Their generosity and care amounted to a $25 million fund, the largest dedicated solely to the Pentagon attack, which aided 1,051 victims and their families by providing access to both financial support and case management services needed to achieve long-term financial and emotional stability. Donors’ contributions, compassion and hope helped to sustain the Fund and, in turn, survivors of that terrible day, for nearly seven years (from 2001-2008). As our country reflects on these tragic events, we find inspiration from the stories of the individuals and families helped by the Fund and the generous contributions of our community. You can read more about the Fund and the people it served in a final report to the community released in 2008.

Celebrate Giving in Montgomery County

 
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SAVE THE DATE

Thursday, November 1, 2018
6:30 - 9:30 pm
Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Join us on Thursday, November 1, as we celebrate the growing spirit of giving throughout our community and salute the 2018 Montgomery County Philanthropist of the Year, Linda Youngentob.

When

Thursday, November 1, 2018 6:30pm – 9:30pm

Where

Hyatt Regency Bethesda
One Bethesda Metro Center
Bethesda, Maryland, 20814

Sponsorships

Click here for more information about sponsorship opportunities.

Contact Bridget Hanagan at 301-496-3036 x 169 or bhanagan@thecommunityfoundation.org to learn more about the event, sponsorship packages, and opportunities to give a personal message of congratulations in the program booklet. 

 

Helping local students pursue their higher education dreams

Donors across the region are helping to create pathways to success for more talented young people by opening scholarship funds at The Community Foundation. A scholarship fund is an opportunity to support local youth to further their education in nearly every area of study and at any level of education, from preschool to postgraduate work. Learn about some of our existing scholarship funds, funded by generous donors who believe in the value of education, and find out if this is the right approach for you.

Spivack Scholarship Fund

 
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Each year, donor Jack Spivack, a long-time DC area resident, makes it possible for area students to achieve their academic dreams and career aspirations. Recognizing the higher education affordability challenge many DC area students face, Mr. Spivack partnered with The Community Foundation to provide assistance. Through his generosity and partnership with The Community Foundation, Mr. Spivack has a built a powerful legacy that will provide perpetual awards to graduating high school seniors interested in continuing their education. Now in its fourth year, The Spivack Scholarship Fund has awarded a total of 53 scholarships of $1,000 each to every District of Columbia Public High School (DCPS) valedictorian attending a post-secondary institution. The 2017 Spivack Scholars represent some of the District’s brightest students. These 15 young women and men will attend colleges and universities across the country and embark on studies and later careers in areas as diverse as psychology, political science education, and engineering. Read more

The Bernie Scholarship Awards Program

 
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When Bernie Tetreault retired after 24 years of service as Executive Director of the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC), he and some of his friends wanted to come up with a special way to celebrate and continue to give back to the community that he had served for so long. In 1995, they established the Bernie Education Fund, precursor to The Bernie Scholarship Awards Program, which is now a component fund of the Community Foundation for Montgomery County. Scholarships are given to high school students as they head toward college and to adults as they pursue career training and education to prepare for employment or better employment. All are low-income residents of subsidized rental housing in Montgomery County, MD. The program continues to grow and has provided 461 scholarships with $536,200, as of May 2017, to help 406 low-income scholars pursue their higher education goals. Read more

LEARN Scholarship

The Landover Educational Athletic Recreational Nonprofit (LEARN) was established in 1996 to support education programs for Prince George's County youth residing in the vicinity of FedEx Field stadium. Since its inception, the LEARN Foundation has awarded close to $1 million in scholarships and grants to Prince George’s County students and community organizations. Embedded in the foundation’s mission is the belief that the future is now, and that through partnerships and collaboration young people residing in the targeted areas can benefit through post-secondary education opportunities. In 2002, the LEARN Foundation became a component fund of the Greater Washington Community Foundation. Since that time, hundreds of students have benefited from scholarship awards toward college and other career preparation opportunities.

Footprints Scholarship Fund

 
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After losing her mother to cancer and later her father to a heart attack, Renee Morgan of Hyattsville, MD faced staggering challenges. During this time, Renée was fortunate to receive overwhelming support from her family, friends and the community to maintain high academic achievement throughout high school and beyond. Later in life, aware that higher education is increasingly difficult for families to afford, Renee wanted to help youth who have endured similar challenges. In 2011, she connected with The Community Foundation in Prince George’s County to create the Footprints Scholarship Fund which supports access to post-secondary education for students who have lost a biological parent. Renee, along with close friends Omar Boulware, Courtney DeRamus, and a following of corporate givers, has raised more than $100,000 through the Footprints Scholarship Fund. In 2015, the fund awarded a total of $40,000 to support three young women to attend the college of their dreams. Learn more


Starting a scholarship fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation is easy and rewarding and the best part, is that students, their families and communities will benefit from your generosity for years to come. For more information about creating a scholarship fund at The Community Foundation, please contact us at 202-955-5890 or donorservices@thecommunityfoundation.org.

Leveraging Community Collaboration for Back-to-School Success

 
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As students around the DMV prepare to start another school year, Raise DC is facilitating two collaborations that strengthen the back-to-school experience and ensure students begin the year on the right foot.

Raise DC, an independent education partnership incubated at the Greater Washington Community Foundation, convenes partners throughout the District of Columbia to improve outcomes for children from birth through age 24 in five goal areas:

  • kindergarten readiness

  • high school graduation

  • reconnection to school and/or work for those who have dropped out

  • postsecondary enrollment and completion

  • preparedness for a sustainable career

Using data to guide its citywide work, Raise DC brings together schools, government agencies, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, and the business community to collectively position students for success through their entire academic journeys and into the workforce. Among Raise DC’s current efforts is a focus on two key academic transition points – high school and postsecondary education.

Bridge to High School Data Exchange and Kid Talk

Data Exchange

DC’s school choice model allows middle school students the opportunity to choose among dozens of high school options throughout the District. However, there was previously no guarantee that important information about the student – including course grades, standardized test scores, and attendance data – would reliably accompany him or her to the chosen high school.

 
Why focus on the transition to 9th grade? According to a 2014 comprehensive study of DC high school students, 26% of the variation of a student’s chances of graduating high school could be explained by factors in 8th grade (which the Bridge to High School Data Exchange now tracks). The study also found that roughly half of first-time 9th graders were already off track to graduate by the end of their freshman year.
 

Raise DC’s 9th Grade Counts Network – comprised of school leaders, government partners, and community-based organizations – partnered with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to create the Bridge to High School Data Exchange, a coordinated way for DC public middle and high schools to consistently share data on students during the 8th-to-9th grade transition. Through the Data Exchange, participating middle schools pass along key data most predictive of high school successes on exiting 8th graders:

 
Data Exchanged in Bridge to High School
  • Attendance
  • Demographic information
  • Special Education (primary disability and level) and English Language Learner (ELL) status
  • “At-risk” status (one or more of: homeless, in foster care, qualifies for TANF/SNAP, or student who is one year older or more than expected age for grade in which he/she is enrolled)
  • Free and Reduced Lunch status
  • Standardized test scores (such as PARCC)
  • 8th grade math and English grades and course names
  • Optional anecdotal information about students’ strengths
 

During the next school year, high schools share back freshman data with the “sending” middle schools, allowing middle schools to better understand how their alumni are faring and using these insights to improve the 8th grade experience.

Now in its third year, 95% of eligible DC Public Schools and public charter schools are participating in the Bridge to High School Data Exchange, representing more than 4,000 first-time 9th graders.

Kid Talk

In addition to the Data Exchange, Raise DC and OSSE host an annual Kid Talk as an opportunity for middle and high school staff to partner in person and use this data for action. The gathering offers counselors, assistant principals, and data managers the chance to discuss strategies to best support students transitioning from 8th grade through their freshman year.

This year’s Kid Talk saw participation from 26 DC Public School and public charter school campuses, which doubled 2017’s participation.

Feedback from Kid Talk attendees highlighted the importance of making person-to-person contact with counterparts in other schools, gaining insight not explained by quantitative data to support programmatic planning, and providing high school staff an advantage in building meaningful connections with incoming freshman in the early weeks of school. 

Combating Summer Melt through Texting

Local data revealed that approximately 25% of DC public high school graduates who are admitted to college do not ultimately enroll or attend – a challenge commonly called “summer melt.” Raise DC is supporting two partners – DC College Access Program (DC-CAP) and American University’s Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success – in reducing this rate through a tool in nearly every student’s pocket: their cell phone.

The partners launched a texting platform in May to reach incoming college freshmen and sophomores with text messages that provide reminders about a number of topics.

 
Themes for Text Reminders
  • Enrollment deadlines
  • Financial aid
  • Housing
  • Payments
  • Orientation
  • Class registration and scheduling
  • Housing
  • Connecting with an advisor
  • Choosing a major
 

American University hired graduate student employees to provide timely responses to recipients’ follow-up questions. The weekly text messages will be sent through mid-September and have reached more than 3,000 DC youth. More than 75,000 individual text messages have already been sent. After its completion, Raise DC will use an analysis of the summer melt campaign’s effectiveness to inform its postsecondary strategies in 2019.

Get Involved

While back-to-school time is an important annual milestone, Raise DC works year-round with its more than 250 local and national partners to ensure the District’s children and youth have opportunities to succeed. To learn more about the organization and to join the community-wide movement to achieve better outcomes for our students, visit raisedc.org.

You can also join The Community Foundation and Raise DC for a breakfast series on local education data. On September 5, we'll review 9th grade and high school graduation data and discuss work underway to support youth transitioning from middle to high school, as well as those who are off track to graduate. Find out more and RSVP here.


Raise DC was formed in 2012 in DC’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education after stakeholders throughout the District – convened by The Community Foundation – called for a collective impact strategy to foster coordination among DC’s sectors. In later 2013, Raise DC was spun out of government and incubated by The Community Foundation, which now provides shared office space, back office support and additional resources. We are proud to partner and support Raise DC in its efforts to collectively improve educational outcomes for DC’s young people.