Tag Archives: Children

Communities in Schools: the leading dropout prevention organization

25 Jun

 Back in the 1970s, Bill Milliken, then a youth advocate in New York City, conceived the idea of bringing community resources into public schools and founded Communities in Schools. In little over 30 years, Communities in Schools has become the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization. Their network includes over 5,000 passionate professionals in 25 states and D.C., who serve nearly 1.3 million young people in over 3,400 schools. Their mission: to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Communities in Schools of Wake County

Communities in Schools of Wake County  (CIS Wake) has been supporting schools in the N.C. Triangle for more than 20 years. CIS Wake currently serves over 500 students in five after-school community-based learning centers and in six Wake County public school sites. By the end of this year CIS Wake will have completed the implementation of Communities in School’s national model, enabling them to expand their service offerings to more than 1,600 students. CIS Wake has three core programs:

Graduation Coaches: provide goal-oriented coaching to ensure that every CIS Wake student has a personalized plan to graduate from high school, to reduce and ultimately eliminate drop-out rates

Eligibility Coaches: fill a very similar role to Graduation Coaches but target student-athletes to address their specific needs

Learning Centers: provide students with a place to go afterschool where they get tutorials, mentoring and homework assistance. The Learning Center monitors the students’ progress in a) attendance, b) behavior, and c) coursework.

Communities in Schools continues to expand nationally, offer its services to more students, and improve its results. During the 2009 – 2010 school year:

  • 98% of students remained in school and on track to graduate
  • 88% of students were promoted to the next grade
  • 87% of seniors graduated on time
  • 82% of students reduced their high-risk behavior
  • Click here for more proven results

CIS Wake now looks forward to its expansion to 1,600 students, which includes opening a sixth community-based learning center, the addition of three new school locations and an increase to 250 community volunteers. To learn more about their plans and to get involved, connect with them! Here are their social links:


KidZNotes: Using the Power of Music for Good

21 Jun

Inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program, KidZNotes is a nonprofit organization that uses musical instruction as a vehicle for social change and poverty alleviation in Durham’s poorest neighborhoods. By improving their musical performance, KidZNotes instruction helps children to develop values and aspirations for personal upliftment, encourages them to make positive decisions about their future, and contributes to their success in school and in society. In only the second year of its three-year East Durham Pilot Project, KidZNotes already plays an important role in the Durham community and looks bound for continued success.

The organization’s ambitious mission is rooted in well-established El Sistema ideals (listed here) published by economist and musician José Antonio Abreu in 1975. Venezuela’s El Sistema program now oversees 125 youth orchestras and training programs and over 310,000 children nationwide. While these are admirable ideals to aspire for, KidZNotes has identified clear objectives to guide the organization:

  • Encourage children’s participation in music training and improve their musical performance abilities
  • Foster the development of children’s social behavior and values that contribute to success at school and in society
  • Support the development of children’s school readiness and academic achievement
  • Encourage children’s positive decision-making
  • Promote parents’ engagement in program and community activities

The program performs a basic but vital preventative function in the children’s lives by helping them choose to stay away from drug abuse, alcoholism, crime, and harmful relationships, and the many ills of underrepresented urban communities. Children that succeed in the program develop the will to improve both their musical ability, and their social and economic situation.

This year the organization added its fourth school to grow the program to 100 children, partnered with the North Carolina Symphony, established a home-base in East Durham and taken root in the community. KidZNotes is carefully is documenting the success of East Durham’s pilot project, and looks forward to expanding into other areas of Durham and North Carolina.

Here are their social links, connect with them!

The East Durham Children’s Initiative: Doing Whatever It Takes

8 Jun

In 2008 Durham community leaders worked with Duke University’s Children’s Environmental Health Initiative to conduct a risk assessment of Durham’s various communities and determine those most distressed. Using the results of the study, a 120 block area of East Durham was found to be most in need of help… and the East Durham Children’s Initiative got to work. Their mission is, “to create a pipeline of high-quality services for children and families in an 120-block area of East Durham, starting from birth and continuing through high school to college and/or a career.”

The EDCI was inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City and Paul Tough’s book Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America described as “the most cogent, provocative, and original thinking on urban poverty to come along in many, many years.” Like Geoffrey Canada, the EDCI’s founders were determined to provide East Durham’s children with the opportunity to attend college and build a career. Between 2009 and 2011, the EDCI took steps to improve its operational capacity and community integration by:

  • Nurturing relationships with the community and its leaders
  • Partnering with local organizations serving Durham’s children and families
  • Building a strong leadership and hiring passionate staff
  • Joining the Center for Child and Family Health
  • Implementing several pilot programs

After the two years of planning, in 2010, the EDCI implemented various programs focusing on early childhood and elementary-aged children. In the first year alone, the organization impacted the lives of hundreds of children and their families. Visit the EDCI site for a comprehensive list of the results of the their work over 2010 and 2011. The organization continues to make significant progress with its pipeline of programs covering early childhood through to graduation, and life in school, in the home and in the community.

True to the title of Paul Tough’s book and the attitude with which Geoffrey Canada approached his work, this great organization is doing Whatever It Takes to help East Durham’s children.

Here are their social links, engage with them!

Playworks Durham: All Play and No Work!

5 Jun

Play is fundamental to a child’s daily life. Visit the Playworks.org website and you’ll find references to countless research articles documenting the importance of play to both children and those around them. This is why Playworks exists: “To improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.” Their work is especially important in low-income schools where less time is allocated for play.

How did it all begin? In 1996, after witnessing the consequences of poorly managed recess in an Oakland school –demoralized faculty and good kids needlessly misbehaving on the playground and in the classroom– Jill Vailet decided to take action and founded Sports4Kids. Playworks grew out of Sports4Kids with the goal of transforming recess from chaos into safe and healthy play. With the organization’s very noticeable success, it quickly grew. Ten years later, in 2006, Playworks was serving 114 schools across the nation, and by 2010, they were serving 105,000 students in 248 schools in 15 cities.

Still today Playworks continues to expand and remains the only nonprofit organization providing low-income schools with trained play coaches focused solely on recess. And the feedback in unanimous – an overwhelming 85% of school principals report happier, more engaged students on the playground and in the classroom!

Last year, Playworks launched in Durham, bringing meaningful play to nine schools across the county. Playworks Durham’s energized and dedicated staff have already begun a number of initiatives to include the Durham community in their work… and play! These include:

  • Corporate Recess: bringing play to adults at their place of work
  • Spring volleyball  leagues
  • An annual basketball extravaganza
  • An annual Playworks Corporate Kickball Tournament
  • And much more…

Keen to get involved? Here are their social links, take the first step and engage with them!

Ronald McDonald House of Durham: A Home Away from Home

4 Jun

Ronald McDonald House Charities have been improving the lives of critically ill children and their families for 37 years. In 2011 the organization opened its 309th house, the first in Thailand. Ronald McDonald House of Durham opened its doors 31 years earlier in 1980 to become the 13th nationwide, the first in North Carolina and the first to open without the financial support of a professional football team. Why? In the 1970s it became clear that the many families traveling from far and wide for pediatric medical treatment in Durham were in need of affordable accommodation. The community pulled together, and applied for and received a license to operate a Ronald McDonald House. In true Durham spirit, it was then, and still is today, supported and run by the local community.

Ronald McDonald House of Durham’s mission is to “allow families to focus on the health and well-being of their critically ill children by keeping families together who are in need of a community of hope, comfort and empathy.” And they’re doing just that! Since its inception Ronald McDonald House of Durham has maintained a 97.5% occupancy rate. In 2009 alone, the Durham House hosted over 1,000 family visits! To achieve its mission and provide the best means of support for families during extremely stressful times, Ronald McDonald House of Durham runs two programs: a housing program and Family Rooms.

  • Ronald McDonald House of Durham has 29 rooms and provides visitors with all the comforts of home: a fully stocked kitchen, a cozy dining area, play room and library, computers and laundry. Volunteers make lunch and dinner daily, tutors keep children up-to-date on their school work, there are games, theatre productions and sports, and even a Pet Therapy Program! The House describes its vision as “a home away from home” but this sounds better than home!
  • The organization has two Family Rooms in North Carolina’s Triangle. These rooms provide families with a comfortable place away from the hospital atmosphere but close enough that they quickly and easily return to their child’s bedside. The original Ronald McDonald Family Room is located at Duke Medical Center and includes a living room, kitchenette, bathroom with showers, laundry services and computers. A second Ronald McDonald Family Room was added in 2010 at the Wakefield Children’s Hospital in Raleigh.

Volunteers prepare nightly dinners

Keeping Ronald McDonald House of Durham stocked with home necessities often relies on donations. They recently launched an easy-to-donate Amazon Wish List which you access here.

Catchafire is excited to have Ronald McDonald House of Durham as one of its 20 Founding Members!

Here are their social links, engage with them!

We have a winner!

1 Feb

Congratulations to Adoption & Foster Care Mentoring (AFC) for winning Catchafire’s 2012 Holiday Campaign. AFC rallied its supporters behind the campaign to walk away with the most votes and $2,012 towards Catchafire projects.

Catchafire is in the business of “matching” – matching skilled pro bono professionals with organizations that need their help. AFC is also in the business of matching. It made its first mentor-mentee “match” in early 2002, and registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit two years later. Today, the organization continues to serve both youth in foster care and those adopted out of care. And just as Catchafire’s success is largely attributed to the high caliber of its pro bono professionals, AFC has enjoyed growth and success over the years thanks to highly committed volunteer mentors.

AFC is one of only a handful of mentoring organizations in the US. That may be surprising, but often it’s the story behind the organization that explains its origins, its success and its passion. AFC exists today thanks to its founder Justin Pasquariello. After four years without a permanent place to call home, nine-year-old Justin was placed with a foster family. Beating the sad statistics shadowing foster care, Justin was fortunate to find a caring and permanent home. His experience never left him though, and nine years later, while a freshman at Harvard College, Justin developed a mentoring program serving the foster and adopted youth in the Boston area. In 2001, Justin joined forces with Massachusettes Mentoring Partnership and AFC was off the ground.

Catchafire is proud to welcome AFC as its newest member and looks forward to helping them build capacity as they build lasting mentor relationships for hundreds of children in Massachusetts.

Achieving greater impact with non-profit partners

10 Jan

Thanks to the rising demand for corporate social responsibility, the non-profit world is enjoying more opportunities to partner with eager for-profit businesses. But what about non-profit / non-profit partnerships? While it’s less common, the partnership can still increase the impact of their efforts.

Whenever possible Catchafire has connected different nonprofits and social good organizations. Many have partnered to dramatically enhance their ability to serve their causes… sometimes very different causes. Recently we connected two of our member organizations: Second Chance Toys and tay-bandz / Kids Curing Cancer collaborated this past December to bring gifts to hospitalized children.

The story and impact of Second Chance Toys

In 2006, 15 year-old Sasha Lipton and her mother drove around their New Jersey neighborhood and gathered 50 used toys that former owners had left on the sidewalk for trash collection. They donated them to Babyland’s Family Violence Center in Newark, NJ and Second Chance Toys was born. By providing underprivileged children with toys and preventing thousands of toys from ending up in landfills, they’re effectively serving two causes – children and the environment. This holiday season they reached a record of 100,000 toys donated. Their goal is to donate another 100,000 toys over the next two years.

The story and impact of tay-bandz

Tay-bandz is dedicated to raising awareness and funding research for pediatric cancer. The organization was founded by Taylor Matthews, who at age 11 was diagnosed with cancer. Taylor bravely fought her illness for five years. Her strength came with an enduring sense of compassion for others and a belief that every individual effort can make a difference. Surprisingly, the government provides minimal funding for children’s cancer. Tay-bandz fills this very important gap by funding cutting-edge cancer research. To date, tay-bandz Grants have exceeded $800,000!

Non-profit / non-profit partnerships

“Non-profit / non-profit partnerships – especially the more entrepreneurial organizations – can come together faster [than partnerships with for-profit organizations] on the basis that there is a win-win in the equation for both parties. They have enabled Second Chance Toys to foster new collaborative relationships and the ability to serve a greater number of children in need.” says Second Chance Toys board member Shelly Lipton. While their for-profit partners help with the transportation, Second Chance Toys is able to serve its cause with greater impact thanks to nonprofit partners work directly with children.

For tay-bandz, collaboration with other non-profits has enabled them to take on side projects and accomplish new goals. While their focus is funding for pediatric cancer research, together with its other non-profit partners whose cause is also pediatric cancer, they’re collaborating on two objectives: raising awareness for the cause and establishing a voice in congress. Together, Matthews believes, their organizations can achieve far greater results.

The impact of the Second Chance Toys / tay-bandz partnership

Of the partnership with Second Chance Toys, Sue Matthews, president of tay-bandz said, “Through our collaboration we were able to deliver 55 brand new beautifully wrapped gifts to children with cancer at Columbia Presbyterian Children’s Hospital. Second Chance Toys was awesome to work with and brightened the lives of so many. Thank you Catchafire for introducing us.” Matthews went on to say how simple gestures like delivery of these toys help tay-bandz to continue serving Taylor’s mission of helping other kids.

The Second Chance Toys / tay-bandz partnership is one that neither organization had previously considered, but it was ultimately a perfect fit. Together they touched the lives of 55 underprivileged children who spent Christmas in the hospital. This was no small feat. For Second Chance Toys, the project was seamless but impactful. For tay-bandz, it was both very personal and perfectly in tune with a philosophy of giving to the less fortunate that Taylor Matthews instilled in the organization.


If you would like to learn more about this partnership or about these great organizations, please join us for the Do Right Be Brite Brunch next Saturday, January 14th. The purpose of this monthly event is to highlight different ways to give back in New York. Along with Catchafire and a number of fantastic nonprofits and social enterprises, tay-bandz and Second Chance Toys will be there to share their wisdom and hopefully guide you toward the volunteer experience that’s right for you. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.

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