Children’s Defense Fund...
Nowhere is the shadow of racism longer in American than when it comes to educational disparities. You can change this.
Our six-week, evidence-based program, developed by the Children’s Defense Fund, has been proven through rigorous research to improve literacy skills, build character and engage parents. During our first two summers, All Souls hosted the only CDF Freedom School in the state of Indiana. In 2017, we got 501(c)3 status, and in 2018 we launched a second site.
Thanks to our donors last year, 83% of our scholars experienced no summer-learning loss of gained literacy skills. Normally their peers would lose 2-3 months of reading ability; such summer learning loss, compounded year-after-year accounts for 50% of the achievement gap. Faithify is our single largest individual donor source. $125 covers the cost of a scholar’s program for one week. Thank you for helping us mitigate the educational disparity gap that keeps so many of our children behind.
There have been three waves of “Freedom Schools” in American history, and Unitarian Universalists have been part of all three. Northern whites, often women, went to the South soon after emancipation to teach formally-enslaved persons to read. Then in 1964, as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the National Council of Churches and SNCC formed summer “Freedom Schools,” focused specifically on literacy, humanities, science and math. These schools, often “taught” by white, northern college students, also had a larger purpose: to show young, Southern black Americans that they were valued and to engage them in community problem-solving.
The Children’s Defense Fund has initiated the third wave with the development a modern, evidence-based summer learning and family engagement model. The model retains the historical focus on offering a culturally-appropriate program designed to empower and promote civic engagement and literacy. The model is defined by five essential components:
- High-quality academic enrichment, which includes age- and culturally-appropriate books that are part of an Integrated Reading Curriculum involving reinforcing activities, field trips and games.
- Parent and family involvement at multiple levels, from morning introductory activities to classroom assistance to supporting community projects.
- Social action and civic engagement by our children and youth so that they are prepared to be active citizens. Participants engage in solving community problems and do social justice work, including through a Children’s Defense Fund yearly National Day of Social Action.
- Intergenerational servant leadership development, by engaging college students and recent graduates to deliver the program, many of whom have had Freedom School experience themselves.
- Nutrition, health and mental health, by requiring programs to provide—at a minimum—two USDA-compliant meals and a snack each day of operation, while training staff to recognize the importance of providing therapeutic health and mental health services.
With your financial support, All Souls Unitarian Church would offer six-weeks of programming for 50 school-age children in summer 2019. Indianapolis has pervasive educational and opportunity disparities and our congregation sits in a high-need community. The church is in close proximity to two struggling public elementary schools. Robert Lee Frost is 87% African-American and over 80% free and reduced-price lunch. In 2014, only 51% of students passed both English and Math in ISTEP. Only 65% of students passed the IREAD-3. At Brook Park, 76% of students are African-American or Hispanic and over 76% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Only 52% passed ISTEP in 2014. Opportunity disparities in is high. Nearly 25% of individuals in the All Souls zip code (46226) live in poverty and nearly 40% of children live at or below the poverty level. We know from national-level research that poverty is correlated with fewer summer learning and other enrichment opportunities.
All Souls has already begun to build a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals committed to making a Freedom School a permanent fixture in Indianapolis. Our partners include, but are not limited to, the Indianapolis Freedom School Partnership (the umbrella organization we helped form), the neighborhood elementary schools near the church, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, neighborhood organizations, the League of Women Voters, the Indianapolis Public Library, and the education departments of Indiana University, Butler University, and Marion University.
“Indiana Black Expo, as the backbone support organization for the Your Life Matters Initiative, is in full support of All Souls’ endeavors with the development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis.” – Tanya Bell President & CEO Indiana Black Expo, Inc.
“The development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis is an important service and support for youth in the northeast part of our city. I applaud All Souls Unitarian Church for its vision and for making social justice visible for children who need a supportive community and gifts that participation in a Freedom School provides.” – Dr. Cindy Jackson, Positive Discipline Coordinator, IPS district, and member of the education committee of the Your Life Matters Task Force
2019 Building Beloved Community Beyond the Binary
Help us put love into action.
As a congregation it is our hope that this one-day conference will be both a place where trans and gender non-conforming folk can gather, connect and learn and where cisgender folk can learn about being better allies. We are also hoping that by hosting this conference we will make a BOLD statement to our larger community that we are a safe and welcoming community because we really do want to build beloved community beyond the binary.
By doing this fundraising, we are able to offer a nationally known keynote speaker and excellent workshops at a sliding scale ticket price that is accessible to all. Your contribution will also allow us to provide FREE tickets to youth and FREE childcare to those who need it.
Exciting and NEW THIS YEAR, we are working on creating a “toolbox” that will be available to other UU congregations so that they too can host a successful Building Beloved Community Beyond the Binary conference of their own. Your support will help to spread our UU welcome throughout our Association.
Our keynote speaker is J Mase III, who is a Black/trans/queer poet & educator based in Seattle by way of Philly. As an educator, Mase has worked with community members in the US, UK, and Canada on LGBTQIA+ rights and racial justice in spaces such as K-12 schools, universities, faith communities and restricted care facilities. He is founder of awQward, the first trans and queer people of color talent agency.
His work has been featured on MSNBC, Essence Live, Everyday Feminism, Black Girl Dangerous, the New York Times, Buzzfeed, the Root, theGrio, Teen Vogue and more.
His current projects include being the head writer of the theatrical production, Black Bois and being co-editor of the #BlackTransPrayerBook.
Find him on Instagram (@jmaseiii) and www.jmaseiii.com!
J Mase will also be offering two workshops, in addition to the keynote – On Faith and the Criminalization of the Black Trans Body, Write Me Where It Hurts
While workshops are being finalized, here are some topics we are planning to offer:
De-escalation and micro-aggressions
Parenting trans kids
How to make your classroom trans friendly and inclusive
On Faith and the Criminalization of the Black Trans Body
Write Me Where It Hurts
Preemptive Radical Hospitality
How to be a trans ally activist
Health issues and transitioning
This year we have a grant from the UU Funding Program – Yay! Reaching our Faithify goal will allow to also access a challenge grant of 1500.00. Please donate.
If you would like to register for the event click here
Wellness Yoga for Petree Elementary School Students
The UU Fellowship of Winston Salem, NC, is raising $4,000 to enable Petree Elementary School to continue and expand its highly-effective yoga program.
Our Fellowship has a longstanding relationship with this Title I majority-minority school in our community. In 2015, with the help of a grant from the Mayor ‘s office and instruction from a non-profit called “Breathing Access,” the school implemented a yoga program for third-grade students to help them cope with the stress of crucial end-of-grade testing.
Yoga teaches a life-long practice of stress reduction and physical health. Yoga instruction improves behavior and focus, reduces anxiety and aggressive behavior, and supports children dealing with trauma. At Petree Elementary yoga has been used as an alternative to detention and other punishments with great success.
Although the program showed positive results and great potential, funding for this year is insufficient to continue and expand the program.
Funds we raise will reinstate the vital third-grade program and expand the program to fourth and fifth-grade students for a weekly elective class. This money will also give staff training in how to assist children exhibiting behavioral issues and to assist children dealing with trauma.
BUILDING LIFELONG SKILLS FOR PHYSICAL STRENGTH AND MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING
Yoga empowered the students at Petree to feel in control of their bodies, and it gave them tools to calm their minds. As the children work together, they see each other as partners and develop compassion and empathy for each other. This program is extremely important for all students, especially those who have experienced trauma. Yoga helps them build resilience and teaches them a skill which can benefit them throughout their lives.
Christine Bloomfeld, yoga instructor at Petree
Dr. Essie McKoy, the principal of Petree Elementary who initiated the yoga program, observed an improvement in the behavior of the third-grade students participating in yoga. According to Dr. McKoy, those benefits included:
- Fewer disciplinary issues and fewer out-of-school suspensions;
- Less reactive behavior and an increased ability to reflect and devise alternative responses to conflict and stress inside the school, in the home, and in the community;
- Creation of relationships with other students outside of their normal interactions due to the different team techniques incorporated during yoga;
- Cohesion and trust within the small group exercising together;
- Increased creativity and increased enjoyment in being involved;
- Increased self-confidence.
In addition, some parents reported that their children lost unwanted weight during the program.
Dr. McKoy’s aim was to address the needs of the whole child. As the program unfolded, Dr. McKoy noticed that the children’s vocabularies increased as they were exposed to new postures and techniques. Yoga practice increased the students’ mental capacities and gave them a new sense of belonging to something special. More importantly, the children became excited about the program and specifically asked for the “yoga lady.”
This program, along with Dr. McKoy’s emphasis on the “whole child” improved academic scores. Petree began with a -3.32 EVAAS (Education Value-Added Assessment System) growth index, and in a short amount of time, achieved a +2.24 EVAAS growth index, exceeding expected growth. As a result Petree became a “Piedmont Signature School.”
BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN
Dr. Marlynn Wei wrote in the Harvard Medical School Health Blog:
Yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve both physical and mental health in school-age children (ages 6 to 12). Yoga improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children. Yoga and mindfulness offer psychological benefits for children as well. A growing body of research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children.
Emerging research studies also suggest that yoga can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can also boost school performance in children with ADHD. A growing number of schools now integrate yoga and mindfulness into physical education programs or classroom curriculums, and many yoga studios offer classes for school-age children. Yoga can be playful and interactive for parents and children at home, as well.
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor, “More than just a game: Yoga for school-age children,” posted January 29, 2016. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-than-just-a-game-yoga-for-school-age-children-201601299055
“Yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve both physical and mental health in school-age children ages 6 to 12.” ~ Harvard Medical School Health Blog
Most children in under-served schools in our county do not have the opportunity for the enrichment that this yoga program provides. Nevertheless, these students are the most in need of practices to help them with in-school and out-of-school stress and trauma. Yoga enables them to self-calm and to be less reactive in stressful situations.
Your generous contribution will ensure that this program is renewed. Please help us create a focus that is positive and restorative.
Help create bail...
Should someone be in jail simply because they cannot pay bail–even if the amount is as low as $100? For most of us, the answer is a no-brainer. And yet it is happening at the Valley Street Jail in Manchester, New Hampshire, and while many New Hampshire citizens have been working to change the law on bail, it’s a stubborn problem, and the jail continues to resemble a 19th century debtors’ prison. Fortunately, there’s a way to help people even under the current system. We are a coalition of Unitarian Universalists in partnership with the Manchester NAACP who hope with your help to bring change.
The people being held have been charged but not convicted of anything. Their jail time costs the general public $100 per day or more in taxes. On a typical day, more than 60 people are held in Manchester because they can’t pay bail of $1,000 or less (New Hampshire Public Radio). On a recent visit to the jail a reporter for The New Hampshire Union Leader found a 66-year-old being held on $200 bail who is on his eighth day in custody who is charged with throwing someone’s clothes into a laundromat dumpster while intoxicated. Another woman was being held after missing court dates for a longstanding dispute stemming from a bad check she wrote to keep her heat on back in 2012.
A number of court and correction officials, including David Dionne, superintendent of Valley Street Jail, have spoken out against the use of bail in many low-level cases. Dionne told the Union Leader that people who are held on bail can have their Social Security retirement of disability benefits cut off, and some may lose Medicaid and have difficulty getting it reactivated once they’re released. “People with low bail like that–$100, $250–they shouldn’t be here,” he said. New Hampshire Public Radio quotes Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau: “we get into trouble when we set low cash amounts because we think somebody might be able to post it, and really the people we’re seeing are poor and can’t.” According again to NHPR, “many will spend more than a month behind bars awaiting court dates.”
Pretrial detention disproportionately affects people of color. NHPR reported in 2016 that while only 8 percent of Hillsborough County’s population is black or Hispanic, these groups make up 16 percent of county arrests and 27 percent of those who are locked up while awaiting trial.
Ideally, the whole institution of bail should be challenged, but this isn’t going to happen immediately, and meanwhile people are suffering. Our plan is to create a fund that would pay the bail of those recommended by a public defender, generally for those owing $500 or less. The good news is that eventually the court will return most of this money, so that your generous contribution will be multiplied again and again as accused people make their court dates and the money gets returned to the bail fund. Such funds have proved successful elsewhere.
Right now–as in so many other ways–the deck is stacked against those at the bottom, who may lose jobs and have their lives torn apart while they languish in jail needlessly.
It’s time to change this!