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Member Spotlight: Ashley Bell

Reaping the Harvest, Interview with CCA Ms. Ashley Bell at Overbrook High School:

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What led you to apply to Promise Corps?

My year of service as an AmeriCorps Vista was ending and I was looking for employment. The places I applied to weren’t calling me back. After a conversation with my best friend whose term was ending as CCA…I decided to apply on a whim and less than a week later I was a CCA. God was not opening any other doors and opened this one to Promise Corps!

What does a typical day at Overbrook High School look like for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day…it’s truly like a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’re going to get. In the morning before I walk into the building I pray. 1st period I take time to collect my thoughts and get  ready for the day ahead. Later that same morning I do a check up with my team. Then 2nd-4th period I helps kids in the PC room, try to hunt down some of my students, have meetings, and prepare to teach fourth period.                          

What has been the most challenging thing this year?

Professionally this job has been taxing physically and emotionally… 7:30-4:30 is tiring and it can sometimes go longer. There is a constant outpouring, high energy, and you see a lot things that are very emotional. We are not teachers or counselors but we are someone who sees the students every day, and sometimes I feel like our level of power is very limited of what we can do….so that can be frustrating. Personally it’s been challenging because I’ve never seen myself in this role. I believe we all have a purpose, so I’m just trying to figure out what God has for me through this year.

What is the most rewarding thing?

Off the top of my head, one of my students got into the top colleges (Millersville University). But getting to know the students outside of paper, who they are, what their stories are, who they are and how they plan to get there is definitely another one. I’ve learned that apart from students, they are people first.

Another rewarding thing would be how our relationships in the school in regards with administration and staff have greatly improved, because what most people don’t know is that we had to work and fight really hard to get the relationships as strong as they are, and that means a lot. We are someone that they can lean on, and as the vice principal said, “ we have engrossed ourselves within the culture of our school.” (and that is the secret of having a successful program in the school).

If you could give one piece of advice to future CCAs what would it be?

Run…LOL jk! I feel like I could give so much advice, but one little gem that I’ll drop is to build a strong relationship within your team. See our team, we are like a mini family. There have been some days when I was ready to quit….and on those days we will drop everything and take the time where we all support one another or help each other out through whatever it is. We aren’t afraid to be there for one another, to be vulnerable and able to ask for help. Oh and we LAUGH, we laugh a lot!

What has your role as a CCA taught you?

GRACE. To have grace with your students, because sometimes it’s easy to forget that they are just high school students and have other things going on. If they mess up today or cuss you out, don’t hold it against them, instead be the role model and and example that teaches them to talk it out and have a have a discussion on why that was wrong.

It has also helped me to remember to have grace with my own personal relationships and myself. Because sometimes you can be your own worst critic. You think “I’m supposed to know this, know how to do that..etc.”  but grace comes into play when you make those mistakes….”give yourself enough grace to grow.”

What are your plans after this year?

Well hopefully I get accepted into Teach For America, and I am able to return to Overbrook to continue the work that I’ve started. But ultimately I’m just being obedient to God, so it’s wherever he wants to take me. “I’m the pencil, he’s the author…but I definitely know wherever I go, Overbrook is coming with me”

Do you have any last remarks?

GRIT, GRACE, GROWTH

Grit – As in it’s going to be hard and you need to put in work for this process. It’s going to take courage for you to analyze your flaws, strengths and weaknesses. Finding out your purpose is not going to be easy but it’ll be worth it.

Grace- Have enough grace to be willing to grow, get up and try again. If God gives us grace everyday, who are you not to give that grace to others and yourself? Don’t beat yourself up.

Growth- Be willing to grow. If you are stagnant, what are you doing? Always ask yourself this one thing…how is this growing me? Whatever you’re doing just bloom, baby bloom!

– Yaczin Hernandez, College & Career Ambassador at Overbrook High School

Member Spotlight: Kaitlin Dugan-Murrell

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As our School Partnership and Extra Hours Coordinator, Kaitlin is the primary contact for all communication with administration at West Philadelphia High School. She excels at maintaining strong relationships with school administration and relaying all pertinent information to her team and site supervisor. As the Extra Hours Coordinator, Kaitlin is always making sure that her teammates are up to date, consistently offering new and exciting professional development and service opportunities to engage with youth or with the Philadelphia community.

Because our team of four is short a member, Kaitlin has also taken a leading role in event planning throughout the year. She handled the logistics of college tours of La Salle University, Delaware State University, and Swarthmore College, and six trips to the Apple store for trainings. Kaitlin also spearheaded our initial National Service workshops, which informed students of opportunities and her own experiences within AmeriCorps, as a viable alternative to serving their country through military service. Always a wonderful team member to Promise Corps and administration, Kaitlin is above all devoted to the positive influence she has on her students.

On top of consistently, or at least—trying— to interact with administration, and keeping her team in the loop, Kaitlin also spends a good part of her day mentoring students who come in with problems. All of her students endearingly call her “Auntie,” and confide in her whenever they need advice. Whether the problem is related to drama between friends, or boy troubles, or future plans, or just life in general, she is always there to listen, empathize, and offer advice when it’s needed. At times, high school drama can be frustrating for adults to watch, let alone deal with, yet Kaitlin never talks down to her students or minimizes their problems. As a mother of a 2-year-old, she recognizes and integrates the knowledge that just because a young person’s problems may seem small to us, it doesn’t make them any less important to them.

In addition to volunteering at Promise Corps, Kaitlin also immerses herself in the Philadelphia community.  During the first few months of working at West Philadelphia High School, Kaitlin also worked part-time at the Eastern State Penitentiary.  The Eastern State Penitentiary is a landmark in Philadelphia, located in Fairmount.  It opened in 1829 and operated until 1971, at times home to infamous criminals like Al Capone.  It now operates as a museum.  Catch Kaitlin there around Halloween time, and maybe you can even see if you’re brave enough to go through the haunted house tour!

Kaitlin also just finished up volunteering at the Philadelphia flower show. The flower show has been a Philadelphia tradition since 1829.  It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and definitely deserves the attention.  Kaitlin also brought us back owl rocks from the flower show and it was adorable.

Kaitlin is a wonderful member to have on the West team. Her passion for Philadelphia, and being involved in its history and culture just shows her commitment to service and the AmeriCorps values.

– Patrick Ambrosio, College & Career Ambassador at West Philadelphia High School

February Fun at Sayre

The Sayre Promise Corps Team hosted two major events during this fantastic month. This month was not only full of Little Known Black History Facts, but we also had a FAFSA/PHEAA presentation and college trip to Delaware State University (DSU). As a team, we made sure our events intertwined two key elements. One being entertainment and the second being education. We definitely nailed these events and our students benefited greatly from these experiences.

Ron Felder, the witty and charismatic PHEAA representative, came to talk to our students about financial responsibility, risks, and most importantly competency. The students were engaged with the presentation and receptive to the material being given. Felder’s playful banter and accurate responses was just the approach we needed when delivering this information to our students. This event was not only crucial to the education of our students, but it became a metaphorical caution sign. The caution being spend your money wisely and not becoming victim to irresponsibility when using student loans. With the vast majority of our students receiving this knowledge, we believe our students will use these pearls of wisdom to their best advantage.

A potential place our students can use these pearls of wisdom would have to be Delaware State University, an HBCU, which welcomed our students with open arms. The DSU trip was an overall eye opening experience for the students. They were granted the opportunity to see the campus, especially the famous dormitories. Delaware State University was our first ever HBCU college visit this year. We are glad our students had the opportunity to see a university where majority of the student population is African American, and had the same mindset to acquire higher education like our students. To conclude our experience at DSU, the students participated in an engaging scavenger hunt. This caused many students to have a greater appreciation for the university.

February was full of fun at Sayre High School, and our students’ spirits were enhanced and uplifted. We are glad to service our students and encourage them to be the change.

– Tyshae Hightower, College & Career Ambassador at Sayre High School

Black History Month at Future

This blog is dedicated to School of the Future. To celebrate Black History Month, the school has scheduled a Black History Month program. The program will take place February 28th, 2018. There will performances from students, and educators. Some performances taking place are spoken word, singing, dancing, and stepping. The learners and educators here at Future have been working extremely hard for this upcoming program, and everyone is excited to see the performances.

Along with the program, teachers have tailored their lesson plans to incorporate Black History which has been gaining the interest of majority of the students. One English class watched the documentary on the radical group MOVE, which is based in West Philadelphia. In another class a teacher has incorporated “Who am I” as a warm up activity. The “Who am I” is pertaining to historical black figures that have contributed to Black history.

City Year and Promise Corps also teamed up and came up with ideas and activities for the month. There have been math riddles from famous historical and current Black figures. Movies have been shown, the first being Selma, and we will round out the month with Hidden Figures.

Two CCAs that I would like to shout out are Marylissa and Sophie. They have been working closely with Mrs. Macgilberry, an educator who was in charge with the planning of the program. During the learners’ lunch periods, Marylissa and Sophie would gather those who are performing for meetings and check-ins. Marylissa has sat in on the auditions, she has critiqued their performances, and supported Mrs. Macgilberry with this entire process, and the show was planned in a little under two weeks!

We are all positive that this show will be a success and everyone will enjoy it!

– Shaquana Gantt, College & Career Ambassador at School of the Future

An Eventful 2 Weeks at West Philadelphia High

Module week at West Philadelphia High School. With the benchmark closing in and Kaitlin, Camila, Drew, and I so close to meeting it, we put on our workshop hats and hit the classrooms. We are very grateful for the teachers at West for having such a warm and welcoming attitude with us, and for them allowing us to use their class time to do our presentations. Our team broke in half and we covered all the workshops, except military. My favorite module this week was our interview workshop in Ms. O’s class. The students were very excited to practice their interview skills, and really got into the workshop, making it a positive and productive experience.

I want to shout out our team for working so well together, and rolling with whatever obstacles came our way. On a few occasions, Camila had to call an audible. Despite this, our team always responded well, and made sure the students didn’t know about the craziness that went into us presenting in their class. As the new member on the team, this was my first time presenting a workshop.  My team was great, and very supportive of me.  Their module plans and outlines were very clear, well put together, and made it easy for me to just jump right in.

I also want to shout out our team for volunteering as judges at the TSA (Technology Student Association) competition. It was a great experience for our students, and it was nice to be involved. The TSA is a city wide technology competition, where the students compete in a wide variety of events. Drew, Kaitlin, and I judged the design build competition, which was a lot of fun. Students were given materials and had to construct a tower, trying to make it as tall as possible, while remaining structurally stable. We also had a Tesla engineer on our judging team who took the competition very seriously, but was a lot of fun to talk to.

As an added bonus, two students for West Philadelphia High School won their competition! Shout out to Lauren Scott-Joyner and Taylor Crane for getting first place in their competition!

IMG_20180209_134912Our team had has a busy, but successful last couple of weeks.  We’re working well together and accomplishing a lot. Our program at Paul Robeson High School has begun, and is going great. The students there are excited to have us there, and we’re getting quality work done. With more trips and events planned in the near future, I am excited to see what our team will accomplish.

– Patrick Ambrosio, College & Career Ambassador at West Philadelphia High School

Student Spotlight: Overbrook

Lansana Kromah is an 11th grade student at Overbrook High School. He is a dedicated student and member of the track and field team. His work ethic and determination show in everything he does. Lance is one of the students that takes his studies seriously, even setting up a meeting with a teacher to discuss why he got a 97% instead of 100% when he got all the questions right. The grade was an “A” either way, but he refused to settle and wanted to get the grade he deserved.

Lance dreams and hopes to go to Villanova University and study engineering. With this clear goal set in the future, he continues to make strides every day to achieve that goal. In the Promise Corps room you can see him getting extra help with assignments and projects, and preparing for the college process (researching schools, internships for the summer, FAFSA, and SAT and ACT requirements).

In December Lance was admitted to the VESTED program, an engineering program held at Villanova University where students can get hands on experience into the field. Recently he applied and was also accepted to the NovaEdge Diversity in Engineering program for the summer! This program is a one-week, on campus program to introduce a diverse population of students from different ethnic and social backgrounds to the traditional fields of engineering.

His determination and commitment to do better in everything he does, is what made Lance stand out from the beginning. I believe it is what will continue to set him apart in the future. I’m confident that Lance will continue to achieve anything he sets his mind to. CCA’s at Overbrook and I are so excited to see what his future holds.

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– Yaczin Hernandez, College & Career Ambassador at Overbrook High School