Blog Archives

Celebrating Family and Community Engagement

Family Learning Project

Family Learning Project

Recently Maximizing Character teamed up with the local public school system and local businesses and programs for the Annual Title I Family Learning Project. The event was held at the Air & Space Center. The objective of the event was to expose families to various educational opportunities within the school system as well as in the community. Goals of the event included emphasizing the importance of parent and community engagement and its impact on student success as well as provide a meaningful educational experience to the families, showcasing community resources and fun learning activities.

Families were also afforded the chance to tour the entire museum at no cost that evening. According to Ms. Epps, Title I Coordinator – Family Engagement, many of the families had never visited the museum or other community attractions possibly due to a lack of funds or knowledge of such places. Hosting the educational event at this popular area attraction was deemed a success according to the post-surveys that were completed by the participants.

Maximizing Character leaders and Character (Youth) Ambassadors attended the event, providing information about character education, life skills and community service opportunities with the program. The leaders and Youth Ambassadors greeted the children and their families, shared information, answered questions about Maximizing Character services and engaged the youth in an activity called “Know Your Character, Show Your Character”. Youth participants also had a chance to engage in coloring their own “All About Character” poster or take it with them. The children and families were encouraged to “Do the Right Thing, All Day… Every Day!”

The event proved to be a success and Maximizing Character was proud to be a part of the school system’s efforts to promote parent and community engagement! In a statement made during the event summary, Coordinator Ms. Epps said,

“Thank you all for another successful Title I Family Learning Project Event (this was our 8th year!) as we took over the Air & Space Center! The families were engaged with wonderful activities and resources and were VERY excited about exploring the exhibits. We had 739 participants! We also had 26 community vendors! Thank you again for all that you did to make this event a success.”

G.I.R.L.S. (Giving Individuals Real Life Solutions)

This past school year Maximizing Character had the opportunity to help establish a Girls Group with a group of energetic middle school girls. It was a pleasure to work with them as they were transitioning from childhood into adolescence. These young ladies were selected for the group based upon academic and behavioral challenges they had experienced. The objective of the girls group was to empower these future leaders, helping to keep them from “falling through the cracks” academically and socially. I had the opportunity to share my passion for character building while also teaching the girls to love themselves, enjoy their youth and invest in their education and future success.

Each Monday afternoon I would travel to the school, greet the girls who were usually finishing up their tutoring with college students from the local university, and begin our group session together. During G.I.R.L.S. Group, we engaged in activities and discussions about character development, boys, effective communication, self-esteem and other topics critical to this age group. I was truly “in my element” during those sessions. The girls asked questions about relationships with peers, boys, how to communicate with fussy parents and how to envision a successful and fulfilling life. Maximizing Character G.I.R.L.S. Group projects and activities included developing a “vision board”, role playing scenarios about bullying, communicating with peers and adults, drama-free living and open discussions about self-worth and how to interact appropriately with boys.

The program started off slowly, canceling a few of the first meetings due to low attendance and attempting to build new relationships with the diverse group of girls. However, after the Christmas break, the program seemed to take off, allowing me to interact more often with the girls and build camaraderie with school staff and the girls. By the end of the ten weeks, the girls appeared to be more comfortable with initiating discussions and activities with me, had improved their grades and behaviors and were eager to exchange social media information in order to keep in touch with me and the Maximizing Character Ambassadors.

On April 30, 2014, Maximizing Character graduated its first G.I.R.L.S. Group! The group had a small ceremony in one of the classrooms at the school where Mrs. Manning, the Student Advancement Coach, who implemented this program, the boys’ group, parents and volunteers joined together for a light dinner and awards ceremony. The Maximizing Character G.I.R.L.S. Group graduates were presented with a certificate of participation, a “Character Couture” bracelet and a bag of goodies. It was a great school year and I wished the girls well as most of them would advance to high school. As a result of the success of the M.C. G.I.R.L.S. Group, we were asked to facilitate the program again during the 2014-2015 school year! I am so excited about the opportunity to mentor a new group of girls!
Girls

Hope for Mental Health

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Advocating for individuals affected by homelessness and mental illness in Phoenix, Arizona at a National Healthcare for the Homeless Conference, 2008

Mental illness is real. If the recent events in the media haven’t caught your attention over the past 5 to 10 years, please recognize that there are an estimated 54 million Americans who are affected by mental illness. We must address its effects on our families, communities and nation. Those affected are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, neighbors and friends. It is imperative that society engages in the conversation about mental illness and how it affects those who experience disturbances in their thoughts or behaviors.  It is important that families talk about the reality of mental illness, no longer sweeping it under the rug for fear of the stigma, leaving our loved ones to suffer in silence or pretend that the mood swings and the voices in their head aren’t real.

For those who are experiencing mental illness, there is help. There are mental health professionals and agencies in just about every community across the country. There are family members, clergy and support groups to help individuals cope with mental illness. There is hope that more resources will become available as society becomes more knowledgeable and accepting of mental illness. There is also hope that our nations’ leaders will implement a plan to provide support and care to those in need. We need every member of our nation to recognize the warning signs of mental illness, know how to access the appropriate resources and how to cope. Let’s do our part to support and care for those affected by mental illness.

Helpful Resources:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/

www.nami.org

http://www.nimh.nih.gov

www.thenationalcouncil.org

Put Down the Phone!

I Forgot My Phone

Yesterday my co-worker shared a video (see the link above) with me that caused me to truly re-assess the way I spend my time and life energy. At first glance, it just looks like a typical day with people doing typical things, and in fact, it is typical…for this day and age. In each scene of the video there are cell phones actively being used. The video captures the essence of what has happened in our technological world. We are so busy using our phones that we neglect to truly engage in life’s moments.

I’ve heard many people use the term “live in the NOW” and I began to embrace this philosophy when I realized that television, computers and social media were beginning to take over my life. However, I have to consistently remind myself of this mantra because it is so easy to pick up the gadgets or turn on the T.V. to “engage” in the events of the day. The video demonstrates the sad reality that many of us have become disengaged with humanity. Not only have we allowed our phones and cameras to dictate our way of life, but we are missing out on the beauty and joy of engaging in memorable life events.

Remember that couple that got engaged on the beach in the video? At the very moment that his bride-to-be said yes, embraced and attempted to kiss him, the young man was engaged in taking the, oh, so popular “Selfie” pic. The scene with the children at the playground…one little girl was engrossed in some type of activity on her phone while she swung back and forth on the swings. And those two groups of people who were celebrating a birthday and having dinner…most of those folks had their heads down, interacting with their phones or were busy snapping pics and probably uploading them to some social media page. It was appalling to see, but it was so true.

After watching the short video I was ashamed at how many times I had been guilty of some of the same things. In my response to my coworker, I said that it should be everyone’s New Year resolution to put the phone down sometimes, especially during life’s most precious and memorable moments. We must exercise balance when it comes to technology otherwise it will deprive us of a wonderful, full life. Remember to live in the Now and Engage in Life with Humanity. During this New Year, accept the gift of the Present and Live!

Character Kids 2014

It’s a new year and a new opportunity to dream again! This year I’m excited about adding a youth council to my character education program. I look forward to seeing what great things will become of this merging of young and mature minds. I think that it is so important to allow youth to have a voice. I’ve learned so many things from my own children, like how to keep things simple when I want to make a “mountain out of a molehill,” or that I really don’t understand “everything” that they are experiencing these days in school, even though I’ve “been there, done that”. Sure, I agree, for the most part, that there is nothing new under the sun, but surely 21st century youth are experiencing some issues that those of us over 35 never imagined we’d have to deal with during our youth.

Take for example the terms, cyberbullying, road rage, knock-out, Internet, cell phones, website, tweets, Twitter, Facebook and any other 21st century term you can think of. They were unheard of when I was growing up over 35 years ago. We may have seen a form of road rage, and yes, cell phones and computers have been around for much longer than someone younger than 20 may realize, but most of these terms, issues and products did not exist, at least in their present form, 30 years ago. Youth are dealing with the age of technology, knowledge and major life issues that require consistent adult guidance, advocacy and wisdom as well as their own voice to express how these issues affect them. After all, they will be leading our world in a few years, so it is imperative for adults to listen to what they have to say and gain some insight into their perspective of life.

My hope is that the youth council will not only represent the Maximizing Character program by exhibiting good character in their respective homes and communities, but I hope that they will become global leaders. One way that I believe that adults can give youth an opportunity to express themselves and develop into productive citizens is through role play, service learning, mentoring opportunities, designing and implementing projects and through cultural arts. Through these modes of expression, youth can develop their communication skills, increase their capacity to lead others and develop social responsibility. 21st century youth also have an opportunity to make sense of their current environments, the world and establish a worldview.

I’m rooting for our youth and expecting great things from my group of character leaders as well as those children and young adults that we hope to impact as we promote excellence in character. I look forward to shining our light as we travel from school to school, community event to community event and even as we connect to children and families around the world in order to support an important cause or create positive change in areas affected by poverty, disease or injustices. Keep checking in with us this year to see what the Maximizing Character youth group is up to. Here’s to 2014! Elevation, Manifestation and Multiplication!

Restoring Hope for the Living

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This weekend I had the honor of representing Maximizing Character at the Mothers Against Violence Walk for Life. We were one of the vendors sharing and educating the community about the importance of character-building in an effort to reduce the violent culture that exists in the surrounding neighborhoods. The event appeared to be a success although we were delayed in setting up and had to fight the windy conditions.

During the event an enthusiastic group of participants, young and old, met at the starting point, one of the city’s main department buildings and proceeded to embark upon MAVs 2nd annual Walk for Life. With a police escort and water depots situated along the path, manned by high school cheerleaders and other volunteers, the participants walked along some of the toughest streets in the city. Their purpose was to draw attention to the increased violence in the area such as homicide, gun violence and beatings among other crimes and the need to create positive, effective change in the community.

The walkers and volunteers, along with their police escort crossed the finish line donned with an arch of pink and black balloons as the vendors, including Maximizing Character and other community supporters applauded them. The walkers and community members held a brief rally nearby, featuring the founder of Mothers Against Violence and other community leaders who encouraged peace, change and shared stories of the lives lost to violence in this particular community. Pictures and displays of the victims and their stories lined the stage area. It was heartbreaking to see so many young people included in this memorial.

As the rally ended, community leaders and members proceeded to the “block” where the vendors awaited to share vital communication information such as victim and legal services, health and wellness, bullying prevention and educational, insurance and business information. Maximizing Character was among the educational services. We stressed the importance of establishing core values, starting with parents and caregivers teaching these in the homes. Teaching healthy respect and citizenship so that these behaviors spill over into the communities and schools was also encouraged. Our program emphasized that it is imperative that community members “take back their community” by setting expectations and standards in and outside of their homes. The hope is that eventually the incidents of violence in the community will be reduced. Maximizing Character founders and Junior Assistant conversed with community members, listening to stories of those affected by violence and offering a word of encouragement or directing them to helpful resources. We handed out character-building literature to the parents, encouraged good citizenship amongst the children sharing treats and giveaways with them, although most of the adults frequented our table for the treats too.

As the Walk for Life participants, event volunteers and community members circled the block to gather information, the final portion of the event had already begun the block party. People danced in the streets as the DJ entertained them with a mix of top forty, R&B and hip hop music. The food that was being prepared on the grill by MAV volunteers had a savory aroma that drew the crowd to form a line along the block. The people smiled and interacted with one another in a pleasant and neighborly manner. While it was a moving event, remembering the lives that were lost to senseless violence, Maximizing Character came to bring hope to the living. As we prepared to leave the event, I had the opportunity to meet the founder and say goodbye to some new friends. I thought about the vision at my church and smiled. Maximizing Character was fulfilling the mission of “building community, restoring hope and transforming lives”.