Impact Stories

Impact Story: Community Unites to Serve Students and Parents at South Elementary

A local leadership group has formed to create effective change in our community related to education, food availability, resources for parents, and many other positive outcomes. What began as an initiative to address educational issues head-on has now blossomed into a community-enriching, multi-faceted project involving Hispanic leaders of Midland, Educate Midland, Midland Independent School District, Midland College, and other important and enthused organizations.

The Midland Hispanic Leadership Group was formed in the fall of 2018. This group was originally brought together by way of Educate Midland’s “I Am My Child’s First Teacher” Spanish language campaign to help brainstorm ways to better communicate with Spanish-speaking parents and families. Educate Midland realized the need for connecting with this large portion of the parent population. With 63% percent of Midland ISD’s student population being Hispanic, Educate Midland thought it important to rely on the experience, knowledge, and opinion of Hispanic community leaders. “We called the group together because we realized that just because we have converted our web site into the Spanish language or our ’I am my child’s first teacher’ campaign into the television, radio and digital Spanish mediums does not mean that we are authentically engaged with our Hispanic community.” We recognized that we need their leadership as we cannot know what we do not know without their leadership, so we had to humble ourselves and acknowledge our need for their direction. On that note we stepped back and have begun a process of listening to the group’s counsel,” says Mike Mills, Educate Midland Program Director. The group began a dialogue on how to engage the community. Participants concluded that it would be best to start small, with one elementary campus, and grow from there. South Elementary was determined as the “kick-off” campus by the Leadership Group. “If we can change one elementary school’s outcome with parents and children, what more could we achieve?” says Lynda Webb, Midland College Associate Dean of Adult Education. Surprisingly, numerous needs, many outside the realm of the children’s education, were found at the campus. These needs included groceries for families and ESL resources for parents. “These families have the potential to greatly contribute to the city if provided the proper resources and support. They make our community more culturally diverse and culturally rich,” says Webb.

The Midland Hispanic Leadership Group first approached the hunger issue at South Elementary. “Poverty is such an issue for so many students and families. How can they concentrate on passing their classes when they’re hungry?” comments Webb. The group discovered that more than 200 families, totaling around 500 children, are without food on the weekends at South Elementary. Using their resources and spreading their passion for the project, the Leadership Group reached out to the West Texas Food Bank for assistance. Together, the Leadership Group and WTFB established a food pantry on campus.

Next, the needs of the parents were addressed. It was determined that parents required Spanish resources to become more informed of what was happening at their child’s school, as well as to become informed of opportunities in the community to better their lives. To empower the parents of South Elementary students, Midland College Cogdell Learning Center began integrating job training and conversations about children’s education into their curriculum for English Language

Learners. “We want to provide a place where these adults can ask for and receive help, where they have access to Spanish resources, and where they feel empowered to consider what’s next in their life and what’s next in their child’s life,” says Lynda Webb. The Cogdell Center has an 86% success rate of adult English Language Learners who progress and stay in the program through multiple semesters. Cogdell is offering instruction to South Elementary parents and hopes to provide ELL resources on campus in the near future.

As a result of such a large portion of the population being untapped due to a language barrier, Midland is missing a great opportunity for the input, knowledge, leadership, and involvement of these adults into our community. “The Southeast part of Midland is a sleeping giant. Once we can better listen and communicate with these adults, they may serve on district committees, participate and lead in the PTA, or even run for the school board!” says Mills. The impact of change being initiated at South Elementary by the Midland Hispanic Leadership Group trickles into other areas outside of education. “For instance, if we support family food stability with the food pantry, students are more likely to succeed in learning; if we provide English Language Learning resources to parents to help find better jobs, the life of the entire family will be improved. Supporting these families empowers them to become involved, which is critical to the educational outlook in Midland,” also states Lynda Webb.

In the short time since its conception, the Leadership Group has worked together successfully to make important change for one elementary school in MISD. “This is the biggest, most transformative partnership I’ve experienced in 17 years. This group of individuals has put their efforts where their mouths are in order to address a problem faced by an overlooked group of people in Midland,” comments Webb. Creating such a collective impact in such a short amount of time shows that transformation can occur when the community works together to lift its counterparts for the betterment of the whole. “If we can inform the community of issues such as this faced by MISD campuses and specific areas of our town, maybe individuals in the community will be inspired to be a part of the change. Members of the Midland Hispanic Leadership Group are leading by example saying ‘These are my neighbors and I have a responsibility to help, so what is my role?’” says Mills.

Impact Story: Mindful Classrooms

We all strive for balance throughout each stage of our life. Knowing how to relax the body and focus the mind could change one’s childhood, adolescence and adulthood for the better. These tools have the potential to aid in facing adversity, dealing with stress and change, studying, connecting with others, and treating ourselves and others with more kindness.  Midland Independent School District has recently employed a special program, Mindful Classrooms, to help students and teachers find balance throughout the school day.

The program was born out of a joint venture between Educate Midland, a community initiative with the mission to help students achieve their highest educational potential, MISD School Health Advisory Council and Midland YMCA, a local facility with programs that build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all. And now, the Lifestyle Medicine Center at Midland Memorial Hospital is on board. These three organizations see how worthwhile learning to calm and concentrate on the task at hand can be for students and teachers. Together, they are bringing something innovative and effective to MISD.

Jennifer Whitehead, the Program Director for the Mindful Classrooms program and a Stress Management Specialist for the Lifestyle Medicine Center, has recently taken charge of the curriculum. Whitehead stepped in after Aimee St. Pierre, the former Health and Wellness Director at Midland YMCA, relocated earlier this year. St. Pierre completed the initial research in finding a mindfulness program to help reduce stress and anxiety in Midland ISD classrooms. She found Mindful Classrooms, a program developed by James Butler, a Pre-K teacher in Austin ISD.  This curriculum is formatted for teachers to facilitate in the classroom for 5 to 20 minutes per day to help students with behavioral, cognitive, and learning issues through mindful listening, seeing, eating, breathing, and stretching. With these practices, teachers and students alike can learn how to deal with daily stress, personal emotion, and social demands which, if left unchecked, can develop into chronic stress. Chronic stress can lead to conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, overeating, acting out, and more. Mindfulness directly enhances self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Other benefits include increased learning capacity, heightened compassion and empathy, better immune system, greater concentration, more engagement in the classroom, a rise in self-acceptance and self-esteem, and a decrease in anger and physical illness. “We want to show kids how to help themselves and to increase the connection of their body, environment, and emotions,” comments Whitehead.

Jennifer Whitehead comes to the program with an extensive body of education and experience in relaxation techniques and mindfulness. She is excited to share her knowledge and this special curriculum with the education system in order to inspire a healthier and more aware community. “My goal is to share the curriculum with all the schools in MISD – to create healthier classrooms where teachers are less stressed and students have the capability to focus and learn more productively. I hope we can build a more self-aware generation and a healthier community … a community of people with more compassion, love, and less stress.”  She has not only seen success using similar practices with her clientele, but she has seen results in her three children, as well as with her niece, by incorporating the tools at home.  “I have children of my own and I’ve seen how stressful school can be – for them as students and myself as a parent.  Mindful Classrooms is a wonderful gift I’m proud to give to MISD and the community. It is so powerful to help children, and in turn adults, heal in a healthy, holistic way,” says Whitehead.

Travis Elementary launched Mindful Classrooms on its campus at the beginning of this school year. “I was so excited for us to be the pilot school! While I was employed in El Paso, we implemented a similar program and I saw firsthand what a difference it can make,” comments Terri Matthews, Principal of Travis Elementary. Students are not required to participate, but as the program becomes common practice, more and more students are choosing to take part. Over the course of one semester, a change in the students is evident. Each day, the students begin by sitting comfortably, closing their eyes, breathing, and stretching during a fifteen minute mindfulness session. “It changes the tone of the classroom as students take deep breaths and stretch. It kicks off the day with a calm, focused start,” Matthews observes. Matthews hopes to integrate the program through the day to inspire self-awareness, self-control, and peace for the students. “I would love to use it after lunch, PE, or when they get a little rowdy, so they can take a second and center. I hope they can use these methods before tests or throughout their life as they get overwhelmed.”

After the success at Travis Elementary, Alamo Junior High decided to bring the curriculum to their campus. “Kids live at such a fast pace that they don’t have time to deal with stress. The mindfulness program allows them to take a minute for themselves, as it helps them focus and breathe. This is an opportunity for them to reconnect, away from devices,” said Leann Dumas, Principal at Alamo Junior High. By bringing mindfulness into the daily routine at her campus, Dumas has received great feedback from the students and from the teachers. “This is also a great tool for teachers. New teachers that are trying to master their classroom management plan now have these tools to help them. It is calming and very helpful.”

This is just the beginning of Mindful Classrooms within MISD. As the school year progresses, additional campuses will be integrating the mindfulness curriculum into their daily classroom routines. Also, trainings on how to facilitate specific practices from the curriculum will be offered for administrators and teachers. Mindful Classrooms is an opportunity to change students’ lives for the better and may be the key to enjoyed experiences at school, higher test scores, and heightened social and emotional awareness.

Impact Story: 1 To 1 Focused Learning

Daniel could have become a statistic. Because he could not pass the standardized test required for graduation, he was on the verge of dropping out of school. He was a senior in high school, but could not get over that final hurdle.

For students like Daniel, tutoring was not an affordable option, and he had failed to meet the testing requirements for graduation on his own. Statistics show that 90% of all jobs nationwide demand a high school education.

One day, while sitting in a PTA meeting, Laurie Boldrick came to the realization that the parents present in that meeting did not have kids who needed extra support. What could be done to help those students whose parents were not involved and who were “falling through the cracks” so to speak?

Thus, 1 TO 1 Focused Learning was born. In the spring of 2014, the free tutoring program was launched to connect a group of volunteer tutors with students on a school campus.

She first approached her own church, First Presbyterian Church, which is across the street from Midland High School and has had an ongoing relationship with students and teachers at MHS. They jumped on board.

Mike Mills, program director of Educate Midland, points out that 1 TO 1 “puts our community in our school campuses. What begins as academic tutoring may well lead to a mentorship program.”

1 TO 1 Focused Learning is a volunteer-led initiative which currently serves students at Midland High School, Lee High School, Abell Junior High School, San Jacinto Middle School, and Greenwood Middle School. Each of these campuses is sponsored by a neighboring church.

Reed Townsend, a volunteer tutor from Stonegate Fellowship, put it best saying that “some kids come simply because they need a place where someone is interested in them. This may be the push they need to be successful in school.”

Because of an idea hatched in a meeting, Daniel did not become a drop out statistic. He came to 1 TO 1 and received free tutoring. Not only did his tutor work with him at the designated time, she met him other times to prepare him for the test. “When test results came in, we all anxiously awaited the news. Daniel returned to the tutoring center to share the news with his tutor before telling anyone else. That was amazing. Of all the people he could have shared the news with, he came back to tell his tutor, ‘I passed, I passed’,” Boldrick reported. “It was evident to me at that moment the new program could absolutely change this community.”

As 1 TO 1 continues to expand, the program is asking businesses and churches to consider adopting a campus.

“Imagine if every school was adopted by a church or corporate partnership,” Mike Mills pointed out. “Every student in need could be seen, and be heard. This is about the community being involved in education. It’s what collective impact is all about.”

Laurie is passionate about 1 TO 1. “It goes back to loving your neighbor. Most schools have a church nearby, and there are kids at every school who need love and support that is given freely.” Laurie’s vision is to see each local campus partnered with faith-based and/or corporate sponsors.

Daniel is only one of the many success stories that have come from 1 TO 1 Focused Learning. If your church or group would like to partner with a school through 1 TO 1 Focused Learning, please contact Laurie Boldrick at laurieboldrick@att.net.

Impact Story: Generous Donation Aims to Prevent “Summer Slide” for Midland Kids

    

It only takes one summer without classes and homework for kids to fall behind in their coursework. Now with the help of a donation from a local oil and gas company, Educate Midland and Midland ISD are hoping to prevent the so-called “Summer Slide” for more than 900 Midland students.

“Summer slide is real,” said Educate Midland Program Director Mike Mills. “If our kids take a break completely it may take them up to half a semester just to get back on track to where they were when summer ended.”

Why does it matter? Mills said without summer learning, your child will fall behind.

“If we can have more students coming back to school on track, it gives teachers the opportunity to take them down the education highway faster,” Mills said. “They will be able to continue what they did in the classroom while tracking their progress online.

A generous donation from XTO Energy will help. The oil and gas company is donating 49 laptops for students to use in summer programs. Many of these students do not have access to learning technology at home.

“The message is that we are interested in children’s success,” said XTO Energy Public and Government Affairs Manager Jerrod Jones. “Coming alongside educators and students is a priority for XTO’s community investment.”

The laptops will be equipped with the same reading and general curriculum software that allows teachers and students to track their progress in school. It means kids will be able to prevent “Summer Slide” in a meaningful way.

“The scholastic success of these kids can be improved by just giving them the tools during the summertime to not let their academics slide behind,” Jones said. “It feels good to be able to give back in the community of Midland.”

Six summer programs will receive laptops for students through the initiative–including the Midland YMCA, Midland Fair Havens, Casa de Amigos, Greater Ideal Church and Kaleidoscope Ministries.

The partnership between Midland ISD, Educate Midland and a local oil company continues to show what can be done when community partners share a common goal.

“Preventing Summer Slide doesn’t require hours, just 40-45 minutes of learning can make all the difference in the world,” Mills said. “Everyone is working together which is unprecedented, never been done before. We have an oil and gas company that understands the importance of providing this bridge of technology for kids.”

Impact Story: Fun Clubs

When Ben and Trisha Wall of Unlock Ministries became aware of and involved with the work of Educate Midland, they got to thinking; What more could they do to impact the students at MISD, specifically in the area of early literacy, an area in which they have both found a passion? With years of experience in child and young adult mentorship through Unlock Ministry’s Opp Camps, Ben and Trisha wanted to take their passion for mentorship and student development into the schools, and saw an opportunity to create a unique and purposeful program. They approached the school district with the idea for a pilot program.

With the support of MISD and community volunteers, they sought to develop a mentorship program within Midland’s elementary schools to aid in students’ continued growth outside of the classroom. This idea developed into Fun Clubs, a weekly lunch time program aimed at increasing literary fluency by reading to students as they eat. The results were almost instantly recognizable. Not only did students increase their fluency in reading, but they began to look forward to time spent eating, learning, and building relationships with their mentors.

From 17 volunteers serving 111 kids on 2 campuses, the program has grown to 50 volunteers serving 283 kids on 8 campuses every week of the school year! However, there is still work to be done and children to be served. With a program limited only by its number of volunteers, there is always an opportunity to get involved.

Please consider becoming a mentor with Fun Clubs. There are no prerequisites, only a desire to pour into our students and see them grow. Half an hour a week is all it takes to make a real and lasting investment!

To learn more about becoming a Fun Club Mentor for the coming school year, visit opcamp.com or contact:

Trisha Wall
Program Director
432-770-0321
trisha@opcamp.com

Impact Story: Early Literacy

The ability to read and write is a foundational component to a child’s educational development and success over time. Educate Midland believes in highlighting and broadening the community efforts toward early literacy. This is why Educate Midland joined its community sponsors in encouraging greater participation in summer reading programs to prevent “summer slide” among school-aged children. Educate Midland joined forces with the United Way of Midland for a summer book drive that resulted in over 5,000 books collected for reading program partners and for distribution at Little Free Libraries around town.

The Midland County Library, Midland ISD, and the Texas Center for the Book also partnered up with Educate Midland to engage the community’s participation in the Letters About Literature contest, a state and national reading and writing contest by the Library of Congress for 4th-12th grade students.

Additionally, Midland Health and Educate Midland brought together a collective of medical and literacy education experts for the development of a local reading initiative for newborns and their families.

Aiding projects like these is a quick and impactful way to get you and the community around you invested in the betterment of our educational system. We are all stakeholders in our community’s future and it’s the children in our schools right now who will carry the torch of Midland’s growth and prosperity. In promoting literacy from an early age,  we are able to set a standard of learning for children to take with them throughout the rest of their lives.

Visit our Events page to join us in all of our initiatives!

Impact Story: Tutoring and Mentoring

ONE-TO-ONE

When one concerned mom wanted to do something to help struggling students achieve greater academic success, she turned to the community around her and to Educate Midland for help.  Immediately, she perceived a need for consistent, subject-specific tutoring and mentorship beyond the classroom. She realized her greatest resource was her church congregation, a group with open hearts and sharp minds. With volunteers on-board,  students in need began to be matched with tutors for after-school tutoring at the church right across the street from the school.

This concept has grown into the “One-to-One” Tutoring program, an after-school program involving the partnership between churches, neighboring school campuses, and community volunteers. After seeing the success of the program, Educate Midland is partnering to help leverage this initiative across the community to help ensure more students and volunteers are linked. Currently, four large churches are partnering with four large campuses in the coordination of volunteer, after-school tutoring in Midland, and with growing interest from churches, schools, businesses, and community-based organizations, many other partnerships are poised to be launched.

 

FUN CLUBS

Another Educate Midland partnering organization wanted to do something to assist elementary students at-risk of falling below grade level in reading, so they designed the “Fun Club.”

Through this initiative community, volunteers dedicate 30-minutes per week to read to and play a game with a small group of assigned students during their lunch period; A seemingly simple interaction with astounding results. The Fun Club program began with 17 volunteers serving 111 kids on 2 campuses. So far in 2017, the program has grown to 50 volunteers serving 283 kids on 8 campuses every week of the school year! Not only has regularly scheduled reading and fun helped increase the students’ academic performance, but a transformation has taken place between volunteer and student, from tutoring to mentoring, from reading to a relationship.

For more information about these and other Educate Midland Partnered Programs, and to get involved yourself, give us a call or fill out our contact form.

Impact Story: Education Impact Series

How do we facilitate conversation between education stakeholders around a common goal? What are some of the world’s best practices in education? Which education leaders will help build community awareness and motivation for educational excellence? These are some of the questions that led Educate Midland to present the Education Impact Series.

Sponsored by the Abell-Hanger Foundation, the series was created to bring in some of the world’s most prominent thought leaders in education and learning and serves as a catalyst to motivate and challenge our entire community to reach for excellence in education.

The first featured guest presenter was Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized expert on creativity and innovation. He is an acclaimed Ted Conference veteran and his Ted Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” has been viewed online nearly 50 million times!  Throughout the evening, Sir Ken used his wit, intelligence, experience and authoritative speaking style to weave an inspiring portrait of the importance of allowing children to find and thrive in their element.

Sir Ken’s lecture was preceded by several performances featuring area Students and an Education Resource Fair during which the community was invited to come and interact with a variety of local organizations representing the education system and supporting sectors. Hundreds of parents, students, educators, business leaders and community members attended and reported highly on the impact of the evening.

We hope to continue to facilitate events like this in order to empower students and educators and connect them with people and resources to help the education system in Midland achieve its full potential.

Visit our events page to see what other great programs are on the horizon.