POLITICS, MILK & COOKIES, A TEA PARTY TWIST…LIZA MCFADDEN, OUR CEO & PRESIDENT, TALKS WITH DAVE LAWRENCE, LEADER OF NEW CHILDREN’S MOVEMENT
Q. After many successful years in the journalism profession, you retired and began working on early childhood advocacy. What inspired the change in career and your passion to fight for children’s rights?
A. Then Gov. Lawton Chiles recruited me in 1996 to take on a two-year statewide civic assignment. (I was still publisher of The Miami Herald, and continued to be until my retirement at the beginning of 1999.) The appointment was to join the Governor’s Commission on Education and, subsequently, to chair the School Readiness Task Force. What I learned led me to believe that the very future of community and country depended on investing in high-quality services in the early childhood years when the return on investment is by far the greatest.
Q. You’ve started the Children’s Movement of Florida “Milk Party” campaign. How did the name and movement come into existence?
A: Serendipitously! We were talking about the Tea Party, and our principal strategist Sergio Bendixen suggested – at first really as a throwaway line – Milk Parties. It captured my imagination, and we adopted it quickly (and so are now serving milk and cookies everywhere). Doing right by the future of children is a most serious subject, but a smile about the “Milk Party” designation is worthwhile, too.
Q. Volunteer USA Foundation is proud of its own work to promote mentoring, and we’re proud to see it is one of the tenets of the campaign. What can leaders in our mentoring movement do to support this effort?
A: High-quality, best-practice mentoring is among The Children’s Movement’s first five areas of focus. Florida has been a leader in mentoring programs, and most of all we need to expand significantly the best mentoring programs that already exist in Florida. That means real involvement and leadership from the business, civic, faith community and other leaders in our state.
Q. How do our readers follow the tour, and how this effort unfolds?
A: The best way to follow the tour – in addition to daily print and broadcast journalism — is on the website for The Children’s Movement of Florida, accessible via www.childrensmovementflorida.org. The full “Milk Party Tour” itinerary is there – and much else.
~Join the eco-volunteer craze and earn a FREE pass to any State Park!~
Tampa Bay Rays baseball fans are stepping up to the plate to help preserve Florida’s state parkscourtesy of eco-VolunteerUSA(TM). Fans of the Rays, or any fans of State Parks, who sign up as a volunteer for one of our upcoming park projects, can earn a free entry pass to enjoy a Florida state park in the future. See a list of projects here.
The eco-VolunteerUSA(TM) team members help conserve Florida’s most important natural resources through fun and easy park projects including beach cleanups, removal of non-native plants, trail clearing, or building an ADA compliant walkway. The short-term service opportunities are perfect for individuals, families, clubs and groups…anyone who loves the great outdoors.
However, volunteering doesn’t mean all work and no play. Eco-volunteers, please post pictures and comments about your volunteer park experience on our Facebook page. You can also see our current Florida parks project list at www.eco-volunteerusa.org. For more information, call 850-562-5300 or email Christine.Small@volunteerusafund.org.
Candace, a 23-year-old college graduate, fought the odds that were stacked against her. She spent 10 years in the foster care system, coming from a large family where she suffered abuse, neglect, and molestation from the very people who were supposed to care most.
Instead of letting her negative environment get the best of her, Candace chose to pursue a college education and today she’s a motivational speaker and plans to get her Master’s degree. So when she heard about Jaleesa, a 17-year-old high school senior, she quickly identified with the foster teen’s tough background. Candace decided to become a mentor to the teen becoming her mentor through a program funded by Volunteer USA and managed by the Family Services of Metro Orlando.
The new comrades have been meeting for about eight months now. Candace say’s she’s seen a definite change in the teen’s behavior and aspirations. Jaleesa now wants to go to college and turns to Candace for guidance. “Growing up in foster care, I had a lot of mothers to replace the mother I lost,” Candace said. “I’m just trying to be a big sister for Jaleesa, and I hope the time I share with her helps another young person.”
Foster youth face an especially challenging road. Sadly, only 54% graduate from high school and just 2% earn college degrees. That’s why, late last year a pilot program was created to mentor foster teens in Central Florida. Data from the first six months indicates significant improvement in academic achievement among the mentored foster youth:
- School attendance improved 400 percent
- 85% percent of the foster mentees passed to the next grade level in high school
- 12% earned a GED
With the early success of the pilot mentor program thanks to supporters like the Darden Foundation several other foster groups in Florida are now interested in starting up a mentoring program and business sponsors are needed to support the need. Please firstname.lastname@example.org about sponsorship opportunities.
Click here to find local contact information about foster youth in your community.
Volunteer USA joins schools and other nonprofits to observe National Literacy Day in September. So what better way to celebrate literacy and learning then by giving away free books! Thanks to a donation from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, we’ve created a contest for schools, classrooms, libraries and other nonprofit groups to each win FREE books.
The books are great for children between the ages of 4 -8. The five titles include “Monkey and Me,” “Diego’s Wolf Pup Rescue,” “Duck for President,” “When Dinosaurs Came with Everything” and “Romeo and Lou Blast Off.”
Contest Details:On our Facebook page, we want to hear why your school library, classroom or nonprofit really needs the books, what makes you stand out above the rest? Post your idea on our wall by September 30. The first 100 nonprofit folks to post will win 10 free books to add to their libraries.
We spend a lot of time talking about the great foot soldiers behind this charity…the volunteers, literacy advocates and contributors who support our programs to make a difference in the lives of families.
This month we add Alan Levine, a champion for health. Alan is the senior vice-president of Health Management Associates. He has previously worked in Governor Bobby Jindal’s Cabinet as Secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals as well as Secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration during the administration of former Governor Jeb Bush. Alan is also a passionate volunteer and youth mentor making time as a “big brother” Boy Scouts and as a Guardian ad-Litem, advocating for children in the foster care and child welfare system. Welcome Alan Levine.
Volunteer USA Board of Directors
|Jeb Bush, Honorary Board Chair
Jeb Bush and Associates, LLC
|Barney Bishop, Board Chair
President/CEO Associated Industries of Florida
|Gwynn C. Virostek, Board Vice-Chair
Senior Vice President, First Federal Bank of Florida
Vice President, Comcast Cable
President/CEO David Griffin Consulting, Inc.
Senior Vice-President, Health Management Associates
President/CEO, Volunteer USA Foundation
President/CEO, Wal-Mart Stores, US
INTERVIEW WITH LOUISIANA’S FIRST LADY SUPRIYA JINDAL… HARDWORKING, HARD-CHARGING MOM!
Q. Even though it’s summertime, you remain an incredible advocate for Louisiana’s students year-round. What motivates your passion for children and their academic success?
A. My Dad was the first in his family to graduate from college. My Mom was the first female in her family to graduate from college. Thus, as a young child, my parents instilled in me the importance of education and the difference it can make in a person’s life. That passion for education has stayed with me, and now I encourage my own children, as well as children across the state to work hard so that they will have the skills they need to achieve their dreams.
Q. Volunteer USA is thrilled to have you as a partner on our Love.Read.Learn! Inspire your Baby pilot program. Soon, parents in some Louisiana hospitals will be receiving a free baby journal filled with tips on how they can inspire a love of books and learning from the earliest years. It also includes valuable immunization and health information. Why did you get involved with this project?
A. As a parent, I know how important it is to begin inspiring a love of books and learning at an early age. Nothing can replace the passion for learning a parent can instill in their child- so providing information to parents on how they can help the intellectual and emotional development of their young child is so very critical. That’s why I was thrilled to be a part of this project- it is my hope that this Journal truly helps parents all across Louisiana, both with answering parenting questions many of us have, and with helping parents to instill a love and appreciation of learning in their children at a young age.
Q. You’ve also created the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children. What is your mission and your hope?
A.The Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children seeks to aid Louisiana’s children in all aspects of education, with special emphasis on math and science, giving teachers new tools that will foster an innovative and enriching learning environment.
Initially, the foundation is providing interactive whiteboard technology to schools across Louisiana. Studies show that such technology gives students the opportunity to learn by combining visual representations, sounds, and the ability to interact with the whiteboard and their fellow students. Simply put – this technology brings the video, audio, animation, sights and sounds our children are accustomed to outside of the classroom, into the classroom. The end result is that these tools help teachers in actively engaging their students in dialogue and active participation in the classroom. Recent studies are showing impressive gains in classrooms with this technology versus classrooms without (17-29 percentile gains!). Thus, it is our hope to make a difference in education today, while helping to create a strong workforce for tomorrow.
*A special thanks to Carnival Cruise Lines for helping us to provide the baby journals at no cost to new parents in Louisiana.
Nonprofits apply today ~ Deadline is August 20th
Volunteer USA’s grant process is now underway in an effort to support family literacy projects during the 2010-2011 academic year. Awards, ranging from $10,000 – $70,000, may be available for eligible programs interested in opening or expanding literacy experiences to families of diverse backgrounds – including families of deaf and hard of hearing children.
Parents and children who participate in our current family literacy network of academies are benefiting richly from free literacy classes and parenting lessons – excelling at home, in the classroom and through improved job opportunities for parents.
Click here for detailed information on the grants and to download an application package.
GOVERNORS SEE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER….HURRICANES AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS SPUR LONG-TERM RECOVERY FUND FOR SOUTHERN STATES
There are still several months to go in the annual season that brings threats of severe weather in the south including hurricanes, tornadoes and tropical storms. We know from experience that natural disasters often cross state lines. The most immediate focus is always with immediate response…but a great need exists to help states and local communities prepare for and coordinate the long months and even years of recovery.
That’s why Volunteer USA is in the planning stages of the National Disaster Recovery Fund. Under the leadership of Jeb Bush as honorary chair and Walmart CEO Bill Simon as chair – the Fund will provide long-term support to fill gaps where insurance and FEMA funding don’t exist. The states of Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi are new partners in the development of the National Disaster Recovery Fund. The Fund will allow faith and community-based non-profits that have track records of sustainable efforts helping communities rebuild to compete for funds – transparency and accountability of fund allocation will be paramount. The focus of the awards will be on repairing low-income homes and nonprofit establishments, as well as repairing or replacing essential work materials. Visit www.nationaldisasterrecoveryfund.org. Stay tuned, much more to come…
*And, in case you haven’t heard…hats off to Volunteer USA board member Bill Simon. He’s the new CEO of Walmart Inc. and is now in charge of the company’s entire fleet of U.S. discount stores. Bill’s leadership and management skills are evident in all he accomplishes both professionally and philanthropically. We’re grateful for his continued commitment to Volunteer USA.
Scott Ellington, FLI Advisory Board, Chair
We bid farewell to our good friend Scott Ellington this month. A champion of literacy, he chaired our Family Literacy Initiative for 11 years. His passion and commitment to literacy and lifelong learning helped us touch the lives of so many parents and their children across Florida.
With a unique combination of humor and sophistication Scott was always on hand to help us welcome our special guests at the annual Celebration of Reading event, which featured nationally famous authors including Brad Meltzer, Carl Hiaasen, Eric Carle, Fannie Flagg and so many more.
“Scott’s passion for family literacy is evident in his decades of work promoting the effort. I wish his wife Lynn and his entire family to know our admiration for Scott’s efforts,” shared Jeb Bush.
On behalf of the thousands of families he helped, we will continue to honor Scott’s legacy at Volunteer USA.
THE AMAZING RACE…FOR EDUCATION DOLLARS: AN INTERVIEW WITH ERIC SMITH, FLORIDA’S COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION
Q: The round 2 deadline for the Race to the Top competition is drawing near; has the vision changed as you try to raise Florida to the top of the pack?
A: “Florida’s application for Phase 1 of the competition was grounded in innovation and boldness and, given our fourth place finish, those are certainly things we want to keep intact as much as possible. We have made some modifications to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) based on the consensus of a Governor-appointed stakeholder workgroup and it is our hope those changes will garner additional support for our Phase 2 application. It is my hope that this added consensus, coupled with our preservation of the core ideas of our original application, will result in a win for the state in this next round.”
Q: Can you address union and partner support – which some see as critical to a reapplication by Florida?
A: ”Based on the scoring and comments from Round 1 of the competition, it was clear that a lack of union support, in addition to seven of our districts not participating, resulted in a loss of points. Going into this next round we have taken a very important first-step through the successful efforts of a Governor-appointed stakeholder workgroup. Key stakeholders, representing teachers, parents, superintendents, legislators, students with disabilities advocates and the business community got together during a marathon 12 hour meeting to change our MOU in a way that would be more conducive to gathering more local support while preserving the boldness of our strategies. We are very hopeful that this effort will result in a much broader base of support for Phase 2.”
Q: How critical of a role do mentors play to nurture success in our schools?
A: ”Mentors are absolutely critical to the livelihood of those students who do not have stable and committed individuals in their everyday lives. The role of a mentor can serve so many purposes for students – whether it is coach, friend, teacher, or parent. Without mentors, our schools would lose out on those connections that are so critical to our students continued well-being. When students are able to do well, it changes the whole campus environment helping the entire student body strive for and believe in their own academic success.”
Q: As a lifelong educator, what do you see as the #1 “must have” to improve academic achievement among Florida’s diverse students?
A: ”The diversity in our student-body makes our state so unique. It helps to enrich the environment our students grow up in. But there is one essential component that impacts every single student equally – a motivated, effective teacher who is able to challenge and engage their students on a variety of levels. Teachers can have an extraordinary effect on the outcomes of the children under their care and finding new ways to support them in this critical task must always be our top priority.”
People across the country are looking for ways to help following the massive oil spill in the gulf coast. So, we’ve set up an eco-Volunteer USA facebook page for those involved to post volunteer opportunities and discuss experiences related to oil spill clean-up efforts. Also, here are a few important numbers and websites to keep you informed:
- To volunteer with a cleanup organization:http://oilspillvolunteers.com/, 866-448-5816
- To report injured wildlife or damage related to the spill call 866-557-1401
- The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is also providing volunteer information. Wildlife experts warn that animal cleanup should only be handled by trained individuals.
Other long-term disaster recovery information is available at www.nationaldisasterrecoveryfund.org/
(Must be located in the Southeastern U.S.)
Teen Trendsetters, our hugely popular volunteer program for high school students, is now accepting applications from schools interested in starting up this award-winning program. We train teens and then pair them one-on-one with elementary students who need extra help to improve their reading skills. Thousands of teens love their volunteer time and the leadership experience. They say it makes a great addition to their college resumes. And, we also offer the teacher/advisor at each high school a yearly $1,000 stipend to oversee the youth program.
Just ask Elijah Nichols. He’s a busy college freshman but somehow still finds time to stay connected to a couple of favorite reading buddies. This past year, while attending a South Carolina high school, Elijah took his volunteer experience to the next level mentoring not one, but two, boys several times a week. The two young mentees were described by one of their teachers as at-risk boys whose future academic and purpose in life could have been compromised…but, with Elijah’s help over the course of the school year, each boy saw his reading level and interest in doing well in school improve dramatically.
Interested high schools may access the application online for the 2010-2011 academic year. Slots are limited, so it’s a great time to get started. Click here (pdf. 861 kb) for an application and more info. Current Teen Trendsetter programs are not required to submit an application.
Are you looking forward to a more relaxed schedule this summer? Do you have plans for vacation or a road trip? Summertime can be a wonderful time to expand your child’s understanding of math or strengthen their reading skills through fun family activities. Check out the following tips to help you make summer a learning experience for your kids.
- When planning a road trip allow your child to assist you in determining the route you will take. Use mapping resources on the web to give you the most direct route and then focus on areas you would like to visit to determine your exact route.
- Based on the route you have determined ask your child to figure out the number of hours you will travel, amount of gas that will be needed,
amount of money for gas, etc.
- For younger children, traveling can build background knowledge that will serve them well in the future. You can go on small trips to local state parks, historical sites or just simply places you and your child have never been. Background knowledge is critical for children to be prepared for new information.
- Create a photo journal with your child. Under each picture have your child write a sentence or paragraph that will explain the picture. Encourage your child to use expressive words that will help the reader to know the smells and sounds of the picture.
- Prior to the start of your journey… read books or stories about the location that you are going to. If you are headed to St. Augustine, read with your child books about the Castillo or the indigenous plants and animals to the area.
INTERVIEW WITH GEORGIA’S FIRST LADY
INTERVIEW WITH GEORGIA’S FIRST LADY
Q. The State of Georgia just celebrated enrolling the one-millionth child in the state’s Pre-K program…why was this such a milestone?
Dozens of states offer voluntary Pre-K for 4-year-olds, but Georgia’s program is the first tosee a total enrollment of 1 million. Georgia’s Pre-K program is the only lottery funded pre-k program in the country providing this type of cutting edge instruction that helps prepare our youngest children for the 21st Century. The Pre-K program provides our young students with high-quality experiences in order to prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. One million Pre-K students is a milestone that all Georgian’s can celebrate.
Q. You’ve been a longtime champion for children. What do you see as the most pressing needs of children today?
As a mother, grandmother and First Lady I have seen first-hand the wealth of knowledge a child gains from early interactions both in education and social settings. In my experience I have found that providing Georgia’s children with the right resources we are building a strong future for our state. We can no longer afford to rely entirely on what government agencies can do for these children. We need you – in your business, your faith organization or your civic group – to get involved in your own community.
Q. Pre-K teachers and educators do a great job working with children; what role does the parent play in helping their child love learning?
Nothing can replace the passion for learning a parent can provide their student. I have worked with the Millionth Child Campaign to highlight the benefits of reading with your child. Reading to a child allows a parent to take time out of each day to focus on a loving relationship with both the parent and the imaginative world of reading.
FYI: Volunteer USA is partnering with Georgia to provide our Love. Read. Learn! program to 50,000 Pre-K families. Thanks to Dollar General Literacy Foundation and Pearson Foundation the parent workshops are free of charge.
Barbara Bush gets a gift from Sweet Potato Queen Author Jill Conner Brown
Volunteer USA’s annual Celebration of Reading is always a crowning event, and the 10th Anniversary Celebration held in Bonita Springs Valentine’s Weekend topped them all. With ten best-selling authors returning to join former Governor Jeb Bush and his family, the event was a huge success in raising funds for family literacy programs throughout the southeast. You can enjoy a lot more Celebration of Reading photos and news coverage by clicking here.
Fox & Friends host and author Steve Doocy was a crowd favorite and kind enough to
share a little airtime to talk to Jeb Bush.
Want an easy way to give back? Just apply for our custom Volunteer USA credit card and valuable cash donations for every purchase you make will be donated to our organization. Plus, we’ll get a $50 bonus when you make your first purchase. The card has no annual fee, and every time you make a purchase a donation will be made to support our programs. Apply today!
We’re collecting Cards of Care, hand-drawn pictures and messages from children in the U.S. who want to share their love and concern to families in Haiti and Chile. The goal is simple—to spread hope in the months and years ahead as these countries recover from the
Teachers may access a free lesson plan on our website to help guide class discussions using the earthquakes and other real-life disasters as examples of how Americans eagerly assist with recovery efforts. The lesson also provides a platform for teachers to discuss the need for all families to prepare for disasters in
advance, when possible. Click here to learn more.
It’s never too early to start teaching children the value of money and the importance of wise spending and saving habits. So, Volunteer USA and SunTrust Foundation are offering free parent workshops and lesson plans to teachers of 3rd-5th graders in Florida.
The new family-friendly financial education program is supported by the Florida Department of Education. Teachers have easy-access to lessons and worksheets aligned with math and financial literacy standards; just download the lessons from our website to help guide young students through the basics of banking, budgeting and saving, using core math skills including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Dr. Jo and Buddy Hewell are dedicated literacy advocates and supporters of Volunteer USA, because they believe that in any culture “success” of the people and the nation depends upon the ability to read, write, and speak the primary language. They see the USA as a beacon of hope for people seeking a better life…with many individuals coming to our land with little more than their dreams.
“Our family has always enjoyed the freedom and the opportunity to pursue our dreams, and we regard our efforts to supportFamily Literacy, as responsible citizenship in our nation that has provided so much,” said Dr. Jo Hewell. The Hewell’s are owners of A.T.A.P Insurance Clearinghouse – their mission is to help people live life and live it more abundantly by embracing the interlocking circles, of life, love, and learning.
Thank you for all you do to support families and a love of learning.