Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Barnes & Noble Fundraiser

Last Thursday was Dallas HIPPY's Barnes and Noble Fundraiser. We disseminated a lot of our flyers and vouchers around to our different networks so that when people used the vouchers to buy anything at Barnes and Noble stores, we got a percentage of that sale. We got a special rate for an ad in the Dallas Observer, put up flyers around town, and posted the event on the Dallas Kids webpage of the Dallas City Hall site. Activities during the event included arts & crafts (the kids made winter crowns, paper plate reindeers, and paper plate snowmen), a raffle, a storytime with children's author Janie Bynum, and a music teacher who sang and danced with the kids. We also got a big cookie tray donated from Panera which helped bring people up to the tables so we could explain the fundraiser and the HIPPY program. The turnout of kids from our HIPPY schools was unfortunately a lot less than I hoped it would be but I think we accomplished our goal of spreading the word about the program- we talked to multiple people throughout the day about the HIPPY program and were also able to hand out some of Luis' brochures. I haven't heard the final tallies on how much money we raised during the fundraiser but hopefully we made at least enough to buy some new books/materials for the program here in Dallas. Thanks again to Luis and Cherri for helping me out!! Above is a picture of the music teacher and kids doing some crafts during the event. Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lights On Afterschool

As part of their Lights on Afterschool Program, Big Thought Thriving Minds recently invited me to speak to their community of parents on the value of community service. I was the first act up in a night that included others such as clown complete with balloon animals, one act play and gallery walk.

As the first act up I did my best to set the tone for the evenings events. I did not have the balloon animals, amazing artwork, free pizza, or books and toys that the other had acts to give away that evening. Still, I remain hopeful that parents and children in attendance that night walked away with something more important, a renewed enthusiasm for community service and understanding of the important role it plays in their neighborhoods and lives. Stayed tuned to our blog for dates on future community info sessions in the works at Burnet Elementary. Thanks again to Big Thought and Burnet for having me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Great Pumpkin and New People

Well this is Emi again, and here in South Texas a flurry of things have been going on… mostly grant writing! With the excitement of finally being notified that we received the ENCORE grant, we set to work writing and rewriting a grant for RIF… Until the middle of November we’ll just kind of be sweating it out and hoping that our writing prowess was at its best.
On the 30th my daughter (pictured above) participated in the Literary Parade at school where they dressed as a book character and then had a parade in the halls all morning. She did such a good job that as a reward for both our efforts (I sewed her costume until 3 am) our family went to the Festival of the Great Pumpkin at the University of Texas Pan American. We had a really good time and I was able to buy some wares being sold by the Golden Key Honour Society which I belong to.

Between the writing, rewriting, and final rewrites and visiting the great pumpkin we transformed maybes into yes and I can now proudly say that Tony Forina who is a board member for South Texas Academic Rising Scholars and Heather Margain from The Shell Corporation is on our Advisory Board! These are two great people who have a history of giving back to the community and Liz and I are both excited and eager to see the great work we will be able to accomplish with them on board!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action

Quiet on the set… And Action. Several Dallas HIPPY families were recently featured in a promotional video for the Every Child Ready to Read @ Dallas Program. The event, sponsored by the Dallas Public Library and Big Thought /Thriving Minds, featured an interactive workshop for HIPPY parents and storytime for the HIPPY kids.

As part of the Ready to Read @ Dallas program, enthusiastic library staff and trained facilitators provide free, fun early literacy workshops in neighborhood locations such as libraries, recreation centers, schools, day care centers, churches and nonprofit agencies. Parents, caregivers and childcare providers attend these free workshops focusing on three age levels: Early Talkers (birth to age 2), Talkers (ages 2 and 3) and Pre-Readers (ages 4 and 5). The Dallas program is unique from other national programs in that it places an emphasis on arts education as well. Please visit http://dallaslibrary.org/ecrr/index.php for more info on the Ready to Read @ Dallas Program and be sure to our Texas HIPPY website www.unt.edu/hippy where a link to the promotional video may be posted soon. Cut. That’s a wrap.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Being a Grandparent is Grand!

Cherri Dehart here…..and school is back in full swing in Maypearl, Texas! Hard to believe the first six-weeks have already gone by! The buzz these days is about what Halloween costumes are going to be worn in a couple of weeks. Our small community is already being decorated for this highly anticipated day, for children both young and old.

Speaking of young and old…..Grandparent’s Day was last week here at Lorene Smith Kirkpatrick Elementary School. The squeal of children’s voices as they spotted their Grandparents was so sweet.

Grandparents can play such a wonderful role in a child’s life…even if the child is not from their own family. Sharing time together benefits everyone: children learn from someone with experience and grandparents get to share family stories that will be passed down to future generations. I am a Grammy myself….and nothing makes me feel quite as young as reading a book with our two-year old grandson or laughing with our teenage granddaughters while talking about the hippy days of my youth. We all benefit!

Here are some fun ways to be together (remember, activities should be pleasant for both grandchild and grandparent):

•Read a book or work a puzzle. Let the child turn the pages or gently guide him to turn the shape several different ways. Make sure the book or puzzle is age-appropriate.
•Make portraits of each other. Even if she colors your face green…be positive with your words and praise. This is a fun time to talk about family and history.
•Cook or bake together. Children love to be in the kitchen cooking and this is a fun way to teach math (count 2 eggs, how many 1/4c. of milk make 1c. of milk, etc.)
•Share a special hobby. Whether it’s knitting or fishing, these times together can present opportunities for learning….and not just for the child!

Talk to you later……..I’m off to call my Grandchildren!!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hello Everyone

Hello everyone! My name is Gabrielle Decoster and I'm the new HIPPY VISTA in Dallas. I'm originally from Fort Worth and recently graduated from Austin College in Sherman. Thank goodness for the college because there was NOTHING else going on in Sherman, TX... I'm living in North Dallas with two friends from college and my roommate's very territorial and yappy pug. Right now I'm working at the central office but should soon be starting work at the Dallas ISD HIPPY office once all of the paperwork is sorted out. So far I've really been enjoying the HIPPY program and in the past couple of weeks have been able to dive right in on a couple of projects. One that I just finished is a Wikipedia article entitled "Using the Americorps Education Award" that gives some information about the education award and presents a forum for HIPPY and other AmeriCorps alumni to add to and explain their experiences trying to use the award at different schools since the protocol at each school is so different. Another project that I've been working on, which Carla may have mentioned to you all already, is the Barnes & Noble Fundraiser for Texas HIPPY taking place on December 10. We're hoping that we can recruit people to shop at Barnes and Noble stores around the country on that day and just mention HIPPY when they purchase something so then the organization will get a percentage of the profits from that sale-yay! In addition there will be a big event at the Lincoln Park Barnes and Noble in Dallas with some children's arts and crafts activities, a storytime with a children's book author, and maybe other activities like a treasure hunt or book trivia-not sure, still in the planning stages. So hopefully we can raise a lot of awareness and funds for the program. Guess that's all I have for now, hope everyone has a good upcoming weekend!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Grant Writing 101

So now that we have settled into the rhythm of a new school year, we are ready to tackle our next great hurtle: Grant Writing. One of the reasons I wanted to work with HIPPY was the fact that we would be Grant Writing, which is a valuable technique to have. I was amazed to find out that there are people whose entire job is to sit, find, and apply for grants. So Liz and I have been busy learning how to write grants. Loads of fun huh, well actually it is kind of. I love a challenge and my perfectionist nature when it comes to anything that needs to be turned in is very OCD. The new CEO of the foundation, Gilbert Maldonado, is like the god of grant writing and partnerships. I think with him teaching us we will get so good at grant writing we can do it in our sleep!

I have always been able to write a good story, and wrote daily in my former life as a political consultant. In politics you are selling a person and his or her vision to people. Well in grant writing it is kind of the same thing. You’re trying convincing people that your vision and the good you do should be accomplished with their money while simultaneously proving yourself worthy of their time and money. In my pre research on grant writing I became confused and found the different styles interesting. I was perplexed and over whelmed until Gilbert explained it to me in a way I could understand. Don’t make it more difficult than it really is. Simple and funny even, but true none the less. I was beating myself up on the logistics thinking that it had to be a certain way when in all truth each grant is tailored more or less to the author’s style and perception.

Now that we have our first grant application under our belt, we are waiting for the results and preparing to write another one. Life is good and almost Always sunny in the Rio Grande Valley.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The end of a HIPPY Summer

When the end of the universe comes there is one thing you can never say about the valley: It wasn’t very hot. This summer has seen some crazy temperatures. At one point a friend from Phoenix called me and said they were laughing at McAllen Texas because we were 109 and they were 103. Go figure. We survived the summer here at the HIPPY RGV outpost in thankfully a nice air conditioned building. It did go out once and everyone bonded as we pretty much cried in the corner with paper fans until the AC man got here, but at least he fixed it fast! It was a horrific combination of Lost and Survivor; those were the most terrible 3 hours of my life, okay not really more like a whole day and a half at the least.

Anyhow, my partner in crime Liz and I braved the heat as we visited different libraries and attended different coalition meetings spreading the word about HIPPY and how wonderful a program it is for our children. We made an awesome trip out to the mother ship in Dallas to see the Team and bonded with our fellow VISTA’s. It was a pretty awesome experience, because even though everyone is like a 12 hour drive away it made us feel connected into the matrix which is HIPPY*Texas.

Of course all good things must come to an end, and the summer of 2009 was a great one. It seems just as we were hitting a stride it became time to say goodbye to the wonderful days of summer. A flurry of excitement began both at work and at home as the new school year kicked off. Both Liz and I have small children and while my daughter was returning to P.SJ.A ISD for kindergarten, Liz’s little girl is starting pre-k at Edinburg CISD. As hectic as it was, it got worse as new guidelines for vaccinations surfaced, mandatory school uniforms, and we were pretty frazzled. The heat turned up for a bit hitting about 103-104 a day. I honestly had to tell my daughter to take her crayons out of the car because they melted into a blob in my backseat. I REALLY wish I had gotten them scotch guarded. Finally relief came this past weekend as the clouds rolled over us and chilled us out to a much needed and wonderful 82 degrees. We are back up into the high 90’s today but it’s all part of living in the Rio Grande Valley.

So now that we have settled into the rhythm of a new school year, we are ready to tackle our next great hurtle: Grant Writing. But that's for next time my grasshoppers :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What’s Going On?

While it is true that the HIPPY program year has come to end for summer break, here at the Texas HIPPY Center things have been busy. The Texas HIPPY VISTAS have developed a free three part parent workshop series that communicates the crucial role parent involvement plays in a child’s academic and professional success. Summer grant writing is moving along slowly but surely and development of a new Texas HIPPY website and brochure is near completion. Looks like summer vacation will have to wait.

For more information on our Free Parent Involvement Summer Workshop Series please contact the Texas HIPPY Center at 214.442.1631 ext. 631 or email us at hippy@unt.edu. Also be sure to keep an eye out for the new look of Texas HIPPY on the web in late August (Pictured Right: Sneak Peek of the new HIPPY brochure).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Long Awaited Proposal

I bet that caught your attention! What I am referring to however, is the fact that the Carrollton HIPPY camp has submitted a grant proposal! Just as exciting!!

For the last couple months, I have been working with Foundation Communities on developing a project plan for implementing a 20 family pilot HIPPY program there at their communities. Then just a couple weeks ago, we submitted the proposal! What a load off :)
Here's a little background on their organization:

"Foundation Communities is a nonprofit organization that empowers low-income families and individuals with the tools they need to succeed. Founded in 1990, Foundation Communities provides affordable apartments and duplexes to more than 2,000 families. We own 14 affordable housing communities‚ 11 in Austin and three in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. We have also developed a model of service-enriched housing that enables families with low incomes to permanently improve their educational and financial standing.

It takes more than a roof over your head to make your dreams come true. We help families end the cycle of poverty through on-site programs that increase literacy and financial stability. Our Community Learning Centers, located right in the center of the community, are open daytime and evenings providing free services like a computer lab, pre-school class, after-school programs, teen clubs and ESL classes."

To find out more, visit their website! http://www.foundcom.org/

Fingers crossed everyone!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's A Celebration by Luis

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Dallas HIPPY End of the Year Program at Skyline High School. The event celebrated the completion of the 30 Week curriculum for HIPPY families by honoring parents and children for their hard work, recognizing the home visitors for keeping families in the program for the full cycle and providing parents with the opportunity to revel in their child's educational accomplishments.

The other members of our Texas HIPPY Center office were hard at work attending to HIPPY business out of town and I had the pleasure of congratulating Dallas HIPPY on their behalf.
The event also afforded me the chance to don a tie and practice more on my Spanish, as the event was a bilingual presentation. The past month we have been busy here at the state office with grant writing and it was nice to see some HIPPY faces as a reminder of why we do what we do.

Like Carla Weir, our State Director, I too am humbled and honored to be a part of HIPPY and will do everything I can to help bring it to more families and communities in Texas. Thank You Dallas HIPPY for sharing your day with me.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hello to everyone from South Texas!

My name is Esmeralda Zuniga but I respond to Emi, Esmi, or genius extraordinaire. I, like my VISTA partner in crime Liz, am at the Edinburg Texas office. This is my first year in either AmeriCorps or VISTA, and it is pretty exciting. I got to meet a great group of interesting people on my PSO in New Mexico. It was beautiful and very educational, though the Juniper was out to get me; I returned intact (barely) lol.

I am, let's just say 30ish, and am raising a beautiful little girl who is the apple of my eye. She is 5 and quite precocious. If you hang around her long enough she will school you in Art, Politics, and -thanks to Google- can describe the difference between starving and famished.
A brief history, I graduated from college in 2002 from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, GO ISLANDERS!!! I am about a semester short of my Masters from the University of Texas-Pan American. I swear the thesis will be my undoing!

I taught kindergarten for a year and decided that I didn't know how or in what way, but I wanted to make a difference in not only the children's lives, but the parents as well. I wasn't quite sure how I would do it, but trusted that if I took a giant leap of faith, somehow some way, I would find my way.

With my first summer off I began volunteering at the local political party office. I was hired to be a volunteer coordinator and before I knew it, I was the executive director. I was simultaneously heading up an Alternative Certification Program (ACP) for teaching certification. On top of public relations, marketing, and negotiations, I learned some very important things through this experience:
  1. You can survive off 4 hours of sleep a night, though it is not recommended.
  2. 15-hour workdays are a walk in the park, if you don't need things like clean laundry, showers, or time with your kids.
  3. If you serve food, they will come, no matter the crowd.
  4. If the person traveling is important enough, people will lend you an airplane.
  5. Political campaigns-though no one tells you in the beginning- are war and you can expect casualties. If you escape with your reputation intact, it's been a good day.
  6. Non-profits rock my socks off- seriously- these are people who fight the good fight and expect very little in return, which is good because they will get little more than the satisfaction of a job well done.
Through the political, I found non-profits. I begin volunteering for Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley and La Union del Pueblo Entero (L.U.P.E.). One of my proudest moments was being asked to design the shirts for the Cesar Chavez march 2 years in a row. I will happily volunteer to do them every year. I would have to say that the experience that impacted me the most was volunteering with the local arm of the 2008 Equal Voice for America's Families Campaign by the Marguerite Casey Foundation. I truly learned a lot about capacity building through them.
Around Christmas time my best friend told me that there was an opening for someone with an Education background and who possessed some of my talents. I looked into the job and wanted on board very badly. When I saw it was a VISTA position I realized I would have to take a significant pay cut to work for them, but the ultimate rewards would be more than monetary. I would be able to look back and know I made a difference in my community. I realized this was the leap of faith I had been searching for. This was the opportunity I had been looking for to make a difference in not only the children's lives but the parents as well. I had somehow, some way, come full circle and found my way.

Was it hard to make this decision? I would like to lie and say ‘Not at all, I'm magnanimous that way' but alas I would be lying. It was a tough decision to make as a single parent, but it also was sort of easy. I wanted to do something that allowed me to be a role model for my daughter. To show her that if you care about people and you put out that vibe into the universe, it eventually comes back to you.

I am proud to be an AmeriCorps VISTA, and glad that it’s with the Texas HIPPY Program.

- Esmeralda ‘Emí’ Zuñiga

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Stew Thickens

We have a few big things brewing over here in Carrollton-Farmers Branch in the HIPPY pot. Last week Carla and I met with the Head Start folks at Brookhaven College to discuss implementing the HIPPY curriculum as part of their center-based pre-K set-up. AND we had Amber Brown from UT Arlington on our side, offering to apply for a federal grant to pay for the start-up and implementation. That definitely sweetened the deal! UT Arlington apparently is interested in doing research on the effects of a child completing the HIPPY program with the Head Start program, versus a child completing Head Start alone. We already know what the results will be! We just need the data to prove it ;) They were very interested in moving forward with this initiative, so keep your fingers crossed that we secure the grant!

I've also made some progress through the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Rotary Club. It's kind of a long story how that all came about... so get comfortable :) Since January I've been volunteering at Farmers Branch Elementary through Communities in Schools. The way that works is, once a week I go and have lunch with my Kindergarten "buddy" Martin, and we work on spelling or reading or we play games, really whatever Victoria, the campus manager, plans out for us based on Martin's performance in the classroom. Meanwhile, some time in February, I sent a giant packet of HIPPY info to the Rotary Club, and when I didn't hear back right away I assumed they weren't interested. But then one day when I went to have lunch with Martin, Victoria sat down with me and said, "Hey, another of our volunteers is a Rotarian, Mr. Cross, and he called me to see what I knew about HIPPY! Would you be interested in meeting with him?" Of course I was! So we had a meeting, Mr. Cross and I, and I told him all about the HIPPY program and what it would mean for Carrollton Farmers Branch. He admitted that he had some issues with the program, but invited me to speak to the Rotary Club and make my case for a HIPPY program here. So I did! It went very well, and apparently the idea of supporting our program financially will be brought up at their next board meeting. Exciting!

So that's what I've been doing lately :) What have you been up to?

Me in my little nook, plugging away at Special Care & Career Services! Thanks to Helen for taking this picture :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Time for Some Action by Luis

Hello World. I am Luis Rocha and I am the AmeriCorps VISTA member working with the Texas HIPPY Center in Dallas, TX.

Why AmeriCorps?

Though many people who grow up in El Paso, TX cannot wait to leave, I cannot wait to get back. It’s a unique often unappreciated place. Despite the absurdly hot summers, and howling winds in the spring, there is nothing quite as awesome as a desert sunrise, a full moon over the Franklin mountains, or the yellow poppies in the spring. And who could ever forget Chico’s Tacos.

Growing up along the US-Mexico Border, as the son of a maquiladora (Mexican-twin plant) manager and a bilingual ed teacher the struggles of those in poverty where never far from our home. I remember going to the Sun Bowl every year and looking across the Rio Grande at shanty houses less than a football field away, made of tires, cardboard, and scrap wood, while I sat in my $60 seat and munched on an overpriced nachos and soda. Maquila employees in Mexico could not afford to buy my nachos and soda with a day’s salary. It seemed wrong to me, but it would take a few years for this to move me to take action. Enter AmeriCorps.

Why Texas HIPPY?

How do you rise up out of poverty? Education. I learned quickly from my mom that without a solid foundation and parental support students are destined for failure. In her second grade classes she could already tell which students would go on to graduate and those that would struggle and fall by the wayside. HIPPY serves as a catalyst for change at all levels; family, school, and community and I want to be a part of that change. Here at Texas HIPPY we believe that “Home is Where the start Is”. It my hope I can play a small part in helping other families have a similar start to the one my home afforded me.