Blog

Children Rising Program and Tutor Update

By Jim Wambach
March 31, 2020

Dear Friends,

Children Rising "check-in" program will let the children know we are still here for them.

Children Rising “check-in” program will let the children know we are still here for them.

We send warm greetings to you. We pray that everyone is sheltering in place and staying healthy during this unprecedented and challenging time.

Throughout this health crisis, Children Rising is steadfastly focused on nurturing and equipping the vulnerable children in our community – students whose academic growth is being so disrupted this year. Unfortunately, the challenges so many of these children face will only continue to grow. All of us care desperately for the children in our community who are falling further and further behind, each and every day. Accordingly, we are working hard to strengthen our programs in several ways so we can be prepared to support the children in a more expansive fashion when they do return.

As you know, developments are occurring rapidly. We want to use this forum to keep you apprised of updates and changes relevant to our programming.

  • Oakland Unified School District Update: School closures, originally scheduled until Monday, April 6, have been extended until Monday, May 4, 2020. District leaders are working hard to ensure that students have access to meals and learning materials during this closure. There is also an effort to identify families in need of technology support. For more updates on the OUSD’s COVID-19 response, please visit https://www.ousd.org/coronavirus.
  • Children Rising “check-in” program: We are developing a “check-in” program so we can let the children in our Path2Math and Succeeding by Reading programs know we are still here for them and miss them. More information on this program will follow shortly.
  • NEW Tutor recruitment and training: Even before this crisis struck, there were many more schools in need of one-on-one tutoring in math and reading. We will use this time to introduce tutoring to larger numbers of the community and develop a pipeline of interested, caring adults so we can recruit and train many more tutors. When the children come back to school, there will be a caring adult waiting to help them!
  • Recommended Reading: Our dedicated Succeeding by Reading staff team is utilizing this unexpected time for study, reflection, and discussion on a wide range of topics that inform our literacy work with students. In particular, we recommend “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” by Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician who now serves as surgeon general for the state of California. “A pioneering physician reveals how childhood stress leads to lifelong health problems and what we can do to break the cycle.”

We will continue to reach out to you with updates and other developments as they come into focus.

For the children,

Jim

YES, I CAN help a vulnerable child when they return to the classroom.

 I want to learn more about reading or math clinics to see if tutoring is right for me!

 I want help fund Children Rising to empower many more children when they return to the classroom!

“Roses In Concrete” – Our Response to COVID-19

By Jim Wambach
March 20, 2020

Caring for the children in our community

Dear Friends,

As we all navigate the challenges and stress of this uncertain time, our hearts go out to the vulnerable members of our community most affected by the global health crisis. We pray for those who have fallen ill. We humbly thank the brave front-line caregivers who are doing their utmost to contain the threat and keep us safe.

Over the past several days, the entire Children Rising team has embraced a poem that speaks to the work we are doing in our urban public schools.

All our children are precious "Roses in Concrete"

“The Rose That Grew from Concrete”

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

— Tupac Shakur —

Each one of the precious children we serve is a “rose that grew from concrete.” But there’s an important difference – we care for each and every one of those children. Our tutors, our clinic coordinators, our program directors, all of us at Children Rising care desperately for the children in our community who are falling further and further behind, each and every day.

I’ve always tried to look at challenges as wonderful opportunities to innovate for growth and ways to become better and stronger. We certainly face that challenge now, and I am certain we will come through all of this better, stronger, and most importantly, capable of watering many more “roses in concrete”.

Path2Math student and tutor celebrate with a fist bump.

Your support now, even as we practice social distancing, will help us enhance our ability to empower many more children when they return to the classroom.

Many of you have been looking forward to our Annual Hope For Children Now Gala, an important gathering of our community for the children. We have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s gala, which was to be held once again at the Oakland Rotunda. Instead, we are planning a very special online event on May 16th, 2020. So please continue to save the date, and stay tuned for details.

Just last month, as the coronavirus crisis began to intensify, we were celebrating the growth and milestones we achieved together for the kids. We opened our 30th tutoring clinic at Grass Valley Elementary School. Our new name, Children Rising, was taking hold, better articulating who we are and whom we serve. And we looked forward to helping many more vulnerable children reach grade level in reading and math this year.

Now, while school is disrupted and our tutors are sidelined, the education crisis we are facing will only intensify. We are focusing all of our energy on enhancing our ability to empower many more children when they return to the classroom.

  • COVID-19 Crisis Funding – Unfortunately, our income was already below budget. We have implemented a short-term campaign to overcome the additional financial hurdles the COVID-19 crisis will present to our programs to help us through this difficult period.

  • Program Development – Our program directors and clinic coordinators are using this time to further develop our curriculum and materials. We are also developing online training for staff and volunteer tutors. We will come out of this period better able to empower the children to reach their God-given potential.

  • Building Future Capacity – Even before this crisis struck, there were many more schools in need of one-on-one tutoring in math and reading. We will use this time to introduce tutoring to larger numbers of the community and develop a pipeline of interested, caring adults so we can recruit and train many more tutors. When the children come back to school, there will be a caring adult waiting to help them!

We want you to know how important your support of Children Rising is during this period. When the children return to school after missing many weeks of vital instruction, they will be further behind than ever. Children Rising stands poised to step in and help them when that time comes.

Please make a one-time contribution to our COVID-19 Crisis Funding Campaign. You may also consider pledging a monthly online contribution. This is the single best way to help us financially prepare for difficult periods like the one we currently face.

Please CLICK HERE to make a contribution to our COVID-19 Crisis Funding Campaign

Your gifts, whether online or through traditional mail, are accepted in a safe and secure process. However, our ability to respond quickly in acknowledging your contribution will very likely be impacted. We are committed to following state guidelines to shelter at home. So, at this time, we would encourage you to use our online donation form when making a gift. We will continue to process gifts sent by mail, but we ask for your patience in receiving a gift acknowledgement as we work through this period.

Finally, I want to share that over the course of the week, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of care and concern for the vulnerable children we come alongside. We miss those kids, and can’t wait to get back. Until that time comes, we will do our best to be more prepared than ever.

Be well, and please continue to look for communications from us throughout this period.

For the Children,

Jim

YES, I CAN help a vulnerable child when they return to the classroom.

 I want to learn more about reading or math clinics to see if tutoring is right for me!

 I want help fund Children Rising to empower many more children when they return to the classroom!

Advocacy: Speaking on behalf of or in support of vulnerable children

By Jim Wambach
March 11, 2020

Perspectives Article by Jim Wambach, Executive Director

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” — Fred Rogers

Our dedicated community volunteers – who tutor reading and math, mentor high school youth, provide library services, feed the hungry, and support our staff – are indeed heroes. They are all responding to an urgent need to address the substantial educational disparity that exists for children growing up in our lowest-income neighborhoods and attending local schools.

Every week throughout the school year, our volunteer tutors make it possible for a struggling boy or girl to receive one-on-one attention that tells that child they matter, despite where they live or the immense challenges they must overcome. The tutoring session is dedicated to teaching reading skills or building a basic math foundation, but our heroes’ true superpowers involve listening, encouraging, and being truly present for their child. Volunteer tutors are fueled by a deep commitment to nurturing a vulnerable child and making a difference in our community. This is advocacy.

Young girl peeking over her book.

Caring tutors establish relationships with students that stimulate learning and build self-worth.

By simultaneously building learning and self-worth, our tutors empower these children with hope, the courage to dream, and an opportunity to thrive.

“I know you can’t live on hope alone; but without hope, life is not worth living. So you, and you and you: you got to give them hope; you got to give them hope.” ― Harvey Milk

The need is great. The solution is simple, but not easy. Please consider volunteering or making a financial gift. Everyone can be an advocate as we all work to give these wonderful children a more just and fair opportunity to rise to their potential.

YES, I CAN help a vulnerable child SOAR to their God-given potential.

 I want to visit a reading or math clinic to see if tutoring is right for me!

 I want help fund Children Rising tutoring and mentoring programs to empower more children this year.

Healthy Food On the Weekend Helps Students In School

By Eric Steckel
March 11, 2020

Health4Kids provides nourishing food for families on the weekend.

Health4Kids ensures that students have healthy food over the weekend…Since mid-September alone, we have assembled 7,550 bags of nourishing groceries!

Learning can’t happen on an empty stomach. Sadly, poverty in our community causes many children to go hungry, especially on the weekends when nutritious school lunches are not available.

Our amazing and faithful group of 30 Health4Kids volunteers gathers together twice a month at the Alameda County Community Food Bank, where they sort and pack food for children to take home from school and supplement their cupboards.

Volunteers pack thousands of bags of groceries.

Since mid-September alone, we have assembled 7,550 bags of nourishing groceries!

Since mid-September alone, we have assembled 7,550 bags of nourishing groceries! The Food Bank makes sure that the food is nutritious, including items like 1% milk, canned goods (vegetables, chicken, tuna, and fruit) that are low in sodium and sugar, and other pantry staples such as oatmeal, beans, and rice. We greatly appreciate our volunteers for their dedication and compassion, the Food Bank for providing the food through their Children’s Backpack program, and the Food Bank truck drivers and FedEx drivers for delivering assembled bags to pick-up locations.

If you’d like to join our Health4Kids team, we’d love to have you. Just contact Charlotte Martinez at charlotte@children-rising.org.

YES, I CAN help a vulnerable child SOAR to their God-given potential.

 I want to find out if volunteering with Health4Kids is right for me!

 I want help fund Children Rising tutoring and mentoring programs to empower more children this year.

Celebrating Norman Brooks – A Real Champion for Children

By Children Rising
March 10, 2020

by Randy Roth, Founder and former Executive Director of Children Rising

Norman Brooks shares his creepin’ crawlin’ bug collection.

Norman Brooks will go down in history for his creepin’ crawlin’ bug collection, and his legacy for sharing his passion for science with children.

This past weekend, Children Rising, and the entire Oakland community, lost a true champion for children.

Before Faith Network of the East Bay was even founded in July 2001, Norman Brooks had heard about our vision of church congregations and communities of faith “adopting a neighborhood school.” Quick on the draw, he said he would set up a get-acquainted meeting with Burbank Elementary School where he previously served as a science teacher. Principal Roberta Teller was eager to meet with then-Board Chair Jon Blankmeyer, Norman, and me to learn what the school’s needs were and how the nascent organization could help.

“Norman was the quintessential gardener, planting seeds that would bear lasting fruit.”

That day, a small seed was planted that would blossom into a partnership providing reading tutors, playground supervisors, and teacher appreciation luncheons, as well as helping to start a PTA and reopening the school library.

Norman was the quintessential gardener, planting seeds that would bear lasting fruit. Several years later, he would be instrumental in planting another seed.

I had paid a visit to Mission Springs Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains and learned about their 3-day Mission Springs Outdoor Science Education (MSOE) Camp. The next day I called Norman to tell him about MSOE and popped the question: “Would you be interested in helping to build a program for getting Oakland students out of the city for a rich environmental education camping experience?” Without skipping a beat he exclaimed, “Oh Randy, yes! It’s what I’ve always wanted for our Oakland children!”

With that, Science Horizons had it’s champion.

Norman Brooks was a champion for Science Horizons.

In Norman Brooks (2nd from Left), Science Horizons had it’s champion, and hundreds of children enjoyed learning science at Mission Springs Outdoor Science Education Camp.

Norman Brooks joined the Faith Network staff as Director of Outdoor Environmental Education Programs, which later became Science Horizons. Neither of us would ever forget the 5th grade student from an impoverished neighborhood in East Oakland getting off the bus at Mission Springs, then falling to her knees gazing upon the surrounding Redwoods and exclaiming “I want to stay here for the rest of my life!”

Norman retired from Children Rising in 2013, but was never far from us. He and his wife Barbara paid a visit to Mission Springs this past February. MSOE director Stacie Daoust thought they would love to be there while 5th graders from three Oakland schools were attending outdoor science camp. Needless to say it was a homecoming experience that brought back a flood of memories.

Norman’s been an inspiring mentor to thousands of East Bay students, including their teachers and principals, ever since. And he will go down in history for his creepin’ crawlin’ bug collection.

We join with the wide circle of family, friends, students and colleagues in honoring Norman’s fruitful life and lasting legacy.

Tutors Provide a Safe Place For Learning & Healing

By Eric Steckel
March 9, 2020

“Children are like snowflakes. Each is different and fragile, but beautiful in their own way.”

Children Rising reading and math clinic coordinators know from experience that no two children are the same. Each precious child comes into our lives not only with their own unique personality, but also with the weight of their experience on their young shoulders. Often times those experiences have a profound impact on their outlook on life, their ability to learn, and their behavior. Far too frequently, we encounter students who deal with the uncertainties caused by poverty and lack of stability at home. At the tender age of seven or eight, they are already grappling with depression, anxiety, and traumatic stress.

Gwen Stephens with a student at Hoover Elementary

Gwen Stephens was a teacher for 42 years. She knows that sometimes, children need to get back to a safe space for learning and healing to commence.

“I was a teacher for 42 years,” explained Gwen Stephens, Succeeding by Reading clinic coordinator. “We are not privy to all of the details, or what has happened in their past, but we can be there for the children. We can be their safe space.”

Our clinic coordinators and tutors are caring adults who frequently intervene in a child’s bad day and advocate for them when they are voiceless. They are an invaluable source of solace, encouragement, and support that a child may need to get back into a good place, both emotionally and academically. “I’m not saying I do anything better,” Gwen clarified. “I am just a different face, someone who cares, who can provide a change of scenery for the child.”

We spoke with several of our clinic coordinators, and they shared a few heart-warming stories of children who entered into that safe place at a critical time.

“Traumatic experiences have a profound impact on a child’s outlook on life, their ability to learn, and their behavior.”

Laticia
Laticia with Tutor

Laticia was not prepared to go back to class that day. Thanks to a caring adult in the right place, she formed a strong bond and is thriving in her reading clinic.

Laticia* started with the Succeeding by Reading clinic at the beginning of the school year. One day, Gwen Stephens saw Laticia in the hallway, “just out of control.” Several teacher aides were attempting to calm Laticia, but she continued to be loudly confrontational, and even tried to run away. Although it wasn’t her day to be tutored, Gwen came up to Laticia and said, “Hey honey, do you want to go with me to Reading Clinic?”

“Yeah,” Laticia replied, and the two made their way to tutoring. Gwen and Laticia began reading “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” Not only did it take Laticia’s mind off of her troubles, but the two had fun. Serious fun. Laticia was delighted that Gwen wanted to spend time with her. By the end of the session, she raved, “That’s the best book ever!”

The incident cemented a bond between the two. Prior to that day, Laticia could be difficult with her tutors, sometimes refusing to participate, even lying down on the ground instead of reading. Now, whenever she sees Gwen, Laticia runs up and excitedly asks, “Is it reading day?” She is engaged with her tutor, and her rate of learning has increased dramatically. And when Laticia is having an off day, Gwen’s smiling demeanor gets her to focus.

Tamika

Carolyn Piraino, who has served as a reading clinic coordinator for over ten years, recalls a student she worked with five years ago who managed to get on track academically in the 2nd grade. However, it wasn’t easy.

Tutors can be an advocate for struggling students, empowering them to rise to their potential.

Sometimes children need a champion who will stand up and be their advocate, empowering them to rise to their potential in elementary school, middle school, and beyond.

“I knew Tamika* well,” says Carolyn. “Although she was physically more mature than her classmates, to be honest, her behavior issues made her difficult to work with. It could be so discouraging.”

Undeterred, Carolyn worked hard with Tamika. Despite her behavior and attitude, Tamika made progress with her reading. By the end of the year, Carolyn was confident that Tamika was ready for 3rd grade. When Carolyn heard that despite Tamika’s dramatic progress, the young girl was going to be held back, she stepped in to advocate for her student.

“I just believed in my heart that things would go from bad to worse for Tamika,” Carolyn explained. “So I showed her test scores to her teacher and the principal. I told them that Tamika was academically ready for 3rd grade, and I urged them to move her on.”

Carolyn is not sure what impact her intervention may have had in determining Tamika’s future, but Tamika was not held back. “I saw her again the next year and asked her how she was doing,” Carolyn recalls. “She gave a big smile and hug, and said, ‘Good.’ ”

“Fortunately, our Succeeding by Reading and Path2Math tutors are caring adults who can empower a struggling child to get back to a good place where learning – and healing – may commence.”

Mateo

Brenda Paulin observed Mateo*, one of her Succeeding by Reading students, standing outside in the hallway before tutoring. “He is normally a shy, sensitive young boy, who rarely smiles, but was always receptive to tutoring,” Brenda said. “However, on this day, Mateo was visibly distraught with tears rolling down his cheeks. He had shut down.”

Student and Tutor at SbR Reading Clinic

Many children who suffer from trauma act out in school. One-on-one attention from tutors can provide the solace a child may need to get back to a good place.

It turns out he had been in a fight with a fellow student. Although he did not want to go into the tutoring session, Brenda sensed that he was not ready to go back into the general classroom where he would have to confront that student. So Brenda asked the restorative justice teacher to help her. Together, they were able to gently encourage Mateo to attend tutoring.

Instead of jumping into the normal tutoring routine, Mateo and his tutor played a round of “Hidden Pictures,” a fun game that they normally end sessions with. This helped to change his demeanor. Mateo relaxed, so that by the end of the tutoring session, he was in a “good place.”

“If he had to go immediately into the frenzy of the classroom, he would not have been able to get out of the negative head space he was in. But the tutoring session provided him with a ‘safe place’ where he could be cared for and attended to one on one.”

Caring adults, empowering struggling students through a one on one relationship
Thanks to you, each $100 gift allows us to train and place another caring tutor.

Thanks to you, each $100 gift allows us to train and place another caring tutor.

As adults, we know the feeling of a bad day. We’ve experienced struggle. We’ve also had time to develop coping skills that help us through the difficult times. Children don’t have those skills. They only know they hurt, and they don’t always know why. Those raw emotions have a profound effect on their ability to learn. Fortunately, our Succeeding by Reading and Path2Math tutors are caring adults who can empower and advocate for a struggling child to get back to a good place where learning – and healing – may commence.

Thanks to you, each $100 gift allows us to train and place another caring tutor.

YES, I CAN help a vulnerable child SOAR to their God-given potential.

 I want to visit a reading or math clinic to see if tutoring is right for me!

 I want help fund Children Rising tutoring and mentoring programs to empower more children this year.

 

* Names changed to maintain confidentiality