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School partnership will serve hundreds

Children in three Caddo Parish schools will receive more intensive community support through a partnership between Volunteers of America of North Louisiana and Communities in Schools starting this school year.

The partnership will use the proven CIS model to connect students with resources so they stay in school and succeed. In the first year, the partnership will address students at JS Clark Elementary School, Booker T. Washington High School and Linwood Public Charter School.

“We are thrilled to be launching this partnership,” said Chris Gabriel, executive vice president for Volunteers of America. “CIS has demonstrated success around the country. Combining their model and our experience with The LightHouse, we can make a positive difference in the lives of these students.”

CIS and Volunteers of America share a belief that any child can succeed if he or she has these five basics:

* A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult
* A safe place to learn and grow
* A healthy start and a healthy future
* A marketable skill to use upon graduation
* A chance to give back to peers and community

With that framework, the school-based program centers around a site coordinator who will be placed at each school. She will facilitate the two-pronged CIS approach. First, the model evaluates whole school needs and addresses those through larger scale projects such as a clothes closet, college fairs or health screenings.

Then the site coordinator will provide more intensive assistance to selected students, usually referred by teachers or counselors. The coordinator will link those students with necessary resources ranging from tutors to counselors to regular goal setting meetings.

CIS was founded more than 30 years ago and now operates in 2200 schools around the country. Last year, of the student receiving intensive services, 75 percent met their attendance improvement goals, 86 percent met their behavior goals, 97 percent advanced to the next grade, and 99 percent stayed in school.

The partnership is funded in part through grants from The Community Foundation, the United Way fund of The Community Foundation and The Grayson Foundation.

Teen Outreach Program expands

A program for teenagers, proven to keep students in school and successful, will expand its services for the 2014-15 school year.

Volunteers of America of North Louisiana implemented the national Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program®, focused on life skills, healthy behaviors, and community service for the first time last year. It served 115 teenagers in six different groups throughout the city.

For the upcoming year, we will be able to serve up to 200 students, and we expect to expand the number and location of groups. Pre-registration began July 1.

TOP is open to teens ages 12-17. The free program emphasizes life skills such as resiliency, academic achievement, compassion, values, conflict resolution, and goal setting. Teens are divided by age groups and participate in clubs once a week after school for activities, discussion and community service projects.

The Wyman Center has been addressing the needs of economically disadvantaged teens in St. Louis for more than 100 years. Eventually, they started replicating TOP® with community agencies around the country. Through their studies, the program has produced the following results:

52% lower risk of suspension

60% lower risk of class failure

53% lower risk of teen pregnancy

To pre-register or for more information, see the website www.voanorthla.org/top or call Jennifer Stinson at 221-8404.

LightHouse students take the stage

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A month of work came to fruition this week as the “Tadpole Players” made their acting debut.

The Highland LightHouse acting troupe performed four short plays with the coaching of Shreveport Little Theater.

Children had a chance to be kings, pirates, and billy goats. And the little ones stole the show as they pretended to be the wind and jumping beans.

Mary Joris was thrilled to lead the rehearsals, which happened twice a week.

SONY DSC“Theater combines all the arts, so they learn so much, build confidence and work together,” she said.

Bree, an 11-year-old who made a convincing billy goat ready to “strut her stuff” in “The Gruffs,” said they learned creativity and how to build a character.

Joshton, 12, made some discoveries about himself as he portrayed the Butler in “Get up and Close the Door,” a skit about a king and queen.

“I just like doing funny stuff,” the 12-year-old said. “I learned I can do anything for people.”

The program was funded by a grant from The Community Foundation.

Brammer models corporate-community partnership

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Ka’Niya comes into the LightHouse ready to do her homework – especially when Stacey, her tutor is there.

Stacey Farhner is one of eight volunteers from Brammer Engineering, which has allowed the employees to have an hour a week of company time to work with students at the after-school program.

“It’s really a blessing,” Farhner said. “When we get out of it will be so much more than what we give.”

Brammer executives have long been supporter of Volunteers of America, and they wanted to do more for the LightHouse in particular, said Ellen Alley, director of Human Resources.

“First of all, the program is focused on children,” she said. “Secondly, these children need a safe and supportive environment after school to finish up homework and unwind from the day.  Lastly, the program has a proven track record of producing ‘Lighthouse Kids’ who become self-sufficient and educated adults.”

Each Brammer volunteer was paired with a student. They start their afternoons with homework and then move on to other academic activities. And sometimes they just have fun.

Many of the volunteers are new to Volunteers of America and have been surprised by all that goes on in the LightHouse.

“I didn’t know this was here and didn’t know what they did,” engineer Graham Thompson said. “There’s people out there that need help and there are ways to help that are fairly accessible.”

The volunteers encouraged other companies to follow the model.

“After the program concluded May 15, each of our employees commented about how meaningful the experience was to work with such bright, affectionate and sweet children,” Alley said. “What a rewarding opportunity for us and we hope for the children, as well.”

Change came for one Veteran

victorVictor sat surrounded by laundry in the basement of the VA hospital, and couldn’t be happier.

It’s an unlikely place for a Marine, but he is proud of the work he has done and thankful for the help of Volunteers of America to be there.

Victor enlisted in the Marines a year before graduating high school, and left for boot camps weeks after in 1976.

“The only thing I regret is I didn’t retire.”

He fell in love, and left the Marines to return to his wife.

As an infantryman, Victor was a trained “American Fighting Man” – not a terribly marketable skill in the civilian world. But he found work and took care of his children until about a year ago.

The Marine Veteran, by then divorced and in recovery for addiction, was laid off from his job in Monroe and his prospects for improving his situation were bleak.

So he drove down I-20.

“I wanted better things – to do something positive,” he said.

When he arrived in Shreveport, he stayed at the Salvation Army and then connected with the VA and Volunteers of America’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. Instantly, he was impressed by his case manager.

“She made me feel welcome,” he said. “She motivated me to want to do the right thing.”

Through the program, he found an apartment and established a home. He also found a job through the Vocational Rehabilitation program at the VA, which helps struggling veterans get back into the workforce.

Proud to be a federal employee, he jokes with co-workers and is happy to share his experience with Volunteers of America.

“Y’all gave me the right tools,” he said. “But you have to want it.”

A few weeks, he graduated from the program, and was elected by his peers to speak at the ceremony. He plans to close by singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Power lifters bring strong message to LightHouse

Brian Hornback of Lifted in Faith, lifts two students holding on to a piece of steel.

Brian Hornback of Lifted in Faith, lifts two students holding on to a piece of steel.

Breaking a baseball bat requires 400 pounds of pressure.

Keith Nelson bench presses 450 pounds.

The Louisville Slugger didn’t stand a chance when he propped the bat on his knee. In about 60 seconds, it was in two pieces.

Nelson and his teammate Brad Hornback are part of Lifted in Faith, a power and strength team on a mission. They visited the LightHouse this week to talk about bullying and to share their faith with the kids.

“We break baseball bats and tear phone books as a platform to share the good news of Jesus Christ,” Hornback said.

SONY DSCThe tactics are effective. Children cheered, cringed and stared in amazement as the men showed off their strength. Hornback bent a half-inch piece of rebar holding it in his mouth while the crowd grimaced, and Nelson paused to tease the kids for their stunned expressions after he tore a license plate in half.

Amid the show, the message was just as powerful. Nelson spoke about the epidemic of bullying in schools.

“We classify bullies as cowards,” he said. “It’s not cool picking on folks and laughing. You should be a positive influence to everyone.”

Bullying can be combatted, he said, with teamwork and standing up for each other.

The team has been together about four years and they have travelled as far as Africa to share their message with schools, prisoners, and church groups.

“God orchestrated and put this together,” Hornback said. “We never thought it would get to this.”

LightHouse graduates

The class of 2014 is ready for college and careers.

Since preschool, the LightHouse has been part of SirDetrick’s life.

He is one of 15 LightHouse seniors who will walk the graduation stage at the Convention Center this week, and carry the lessons learned to college and careers.

“They taught me morals, and values and how to conduct myself,” he said.

He particularly remembers how the LightHouse took him on field trips and exposed him to new opportunities and connected him with staff, who always provided encouragement. This week, the staff and volunteer scholarship committee took one more chance to share some advice at the annual senior lunch:

“Be true to yourself.”

“Don’t expect anyone to do more for you than you would do for yourself.”

“Sit in the front.”

“Try something new.”

Each of the graduates has a plan for college or technical training with career goals ranging from firefighting to accounting to pharmacy.
Derrick shared a story of how the LightHouse helped shape his plan. Originally, he wanted to be a welder. But Teen Club coordinator Britney Waters encouraged him to have some options. He will enroll in LSUS in the fall to pursue a degree in business, with the thought that someday he might own his own piece of the construction business.

If it wasn’t for the LightHouse, Aaliyah said she would have spent most of her high school years sitting at home and just hanging out since her mom works two jobs. Instead, she volunteered, got help with her homework and developed a plan that will take her to either NSU or Southern in the fall.

Many of the seniors will stay with the LightHouse as employees over the summer, helping with the younger children in the summer program. To them, SirDetrick passed on the advice he learned: “Work hard and graduate.”

 

Title: June 4 – Tour Bossier LightHouse
Location: 2101 Scott St., Bossier City
Link out: Click here
Description: About 25,000 children in Caddo and Bossier parishes live in poverty. Through our LightHouse after-school program, they have an opportunity to do better than their parents. Come visit and hear from a child whose life is better! The tour will only last an hour, and all are welcome!
Start Time: 11:00
Date: 2014-06-04
End Time: 12:00

fishing trip

Even strong winds couldn’t blow away the excitement around the Adult Day Health Center fishing trip sponsored by Diamond Jacks.

Clients, bundled in jackets against the cold, reveled in the sunshine and held their poles steady at the Cross Lake pier.

Regular volunteer Bill Richards, a waiter at DiamondJacks’ steakhouse, coordinated the effort. Clients told him about an annual fishing trip they used to take and how they wanted to bring it back.

“They enjoy being at the Center but they never get to do stuff like this,” Richards said. “They’re having a great time.”

SONY DSCThe Center serves the elderly and people with disabilities, who cannot stay at home by themselves. Even though many have supportive families, their conditions often limit their activity.

Richards brought the idea to the community service arm of the casino, and they were happy to help, even providing a picnic lunch.

One client Michael, had on gloves and a blanket draped over his wheelchair, but he couldn’t stop smiling. Since he had a stroke, he has not had many chances to fish.

While the weather meant the fish weren’t biting, nurse Sherri Burleigh was grateful for the opportunity.

“They love to fish. They love to get out.”

Thank you to the LSUHSC Student National Medical Association for sharing your knowledge with our kids. They learned so much — and had a great time.

health fair

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