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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Children’s Law Center of Minnesota

Children’s Law Center of Minnesota

The legal system can be a difficult place to navigate for anyone, but imagine a child in foster care or a homeless young adult trying to navigate the system without any professional guidance.  Today’s organization was founded to help these kids.

In 1995, an interdisciplinary group of attorneys, social workers, youth workers, judges, teachers, pediatricians, and other children’s advocates in Minnesota realized a need to create an organization that focused on increasing the impact and effectiveness of legal advocacy for foster care and at-risk children.  They established the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota in order to help them through some difficult situations and help prepare them for successful adult lives ahead.

The mission of the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota is to promote the rights and interests of Minnesota’s children, especially children of color and children with disabilities, in the judicial, child welfare, health care, and education systems.  The organization’s vision is that through their work, abused and neglected youth achieve stability, hope, and opportunity.

Since their founding, the organization has trained over 650 volunteer attorneys, represented more than 1,800 foster children, and helped promote systemic change and advocacy for vulnerable youth throughout the state.  The majority of the organization’s volunteers are trained to provide legal representation for youth who are at-risk, homeless, or in foster care.  Other volunteers work on special projects such as legal research, copyediting, and graphic design in addition to other legal, paralegal, social work, and administration volunteers and interns.

Today, they serve over 560 child clients each year.  They also collaborate with individuals and organizations in the county, court, educational, and health care systems to support coordinated efforts to ensure the basic needs of the state’s most vulnerable youth are legally met and optimized.

The Children’s Law Center also works on reform efforts that result in policies, procedures, and legislation that protects the safety and stability of foster populations.  They also provide education to lawyers, judges, social workers, educators, school administrators, law enforcement officials, youth, and other youth serving professionals on the issues that youth in foster care or at-risk situations face.

To better understand the difference that the organization makes, Heather Wolfgram, Director of Development, shared Steven’s story with me:

“Until he was 10, Steven lived with his mom and her boyfriend who was a pimp and drug dealer. The boyfriend routinely beat up Steven and his mom. Steven watched as the boyfriend killed his mother. Child protection placed Steven with his father who had remarried. Steven’s step mother hated and abused him. Eventually, Steven’s father kicked him out of the house and he ended up on the streets. Steven reentered the child protection system where he bounced from foster home to foster home and school to school. He began to act out at school, was put in detention almost daily, and was then placed in a special education program. This all happened before Steven was 14.

Children’s Law Center (CLC) was court appointed to represent Steven when he was 14. When the volunteer attorney took the case, child protection was about to place Steven in a residential treatment program for kids with mental health problems. The CLC attorney fought to keep him out of the facility and to get the mental health assessment that he had never been given. That assessment determined institutionalization was not needed. The attorney then fought to get Steven a stable placement where he felt welcomed and comfortable. The attorney also advocated for an education assessment that resulted in Steven being removed from the special education program and put into a mainstream high school program. As a result, Steven graduated from high school. Finally, the attorney fought the county’s efforts to discharge Steven from the foster care system on his 18th birthday and successfully advocated for transitional living education and funding for living expenses and job training. Steven currently has a full-time job and is living in his own apartment.”

You can also watch Sophie’s story below:

How can you help?

  • Children’s Law Center is always in need of financial support from individuals or corporations.  You can donate via their website.
  • They also have a wish list of in-kind goods and services they are seeking on their website.
  • They also have opportunities for lawyers to provide pro-bono attorney services.  You can find information on their website.
  • In addition, they are looking to partner with groups to put together birthday and graduation packages filled with items such as boxed cake mix, frosting, a card, and a gift card for the youth they work with.  Please contact them to arrange a donation.

To learn more about Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, you can visit their website, www.clcmn.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook or Twitter.

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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Classes 4 Classes

Classes 4 Classes

 

Most of the organizations I write about have a personal and moving story behind their beginning.  Today’s organization was born out of an event that impacted many across the country. 

When I asked the founder of today’s organization for the story behind its beginnings, Kaitlin Roig told a story that I want to share in her words:

“On the morning of December 14, 2012, inside Sandy Hook Elementary, myself and my entire school endured one of the worst tragedies imaginable. Twenty-six lives were taken too soon, too senselessly, and too brutally. In the midst of this unimaginable loss, which could have resulted in the loss of my own life, I knew I had to find meaning again.

In the wake of the tragedy, I experienced a deep need to create positive change by choosing, love, caring, consideration, compassion, empathy, and hope. In doing so, I made a commitment to teach that to my students—to our nation’s students—by creating an opportunity for them to be a part of something incredibly meaningful through their school curriculum.

As a teacher, I was well aware that teaching a social curriculum often gets overlooked in many classrooms, where the emphasis is so heavily placed on academic testing and more traditional subject areas. I knew the importance and meaningful impact of teaching students how to treat, interact, and empathize with others, and witnessed it being lost in the mix. I experienced first-hand that children need to be taught kindness, caring, compassion, and empathy, and knew, in the moment of the tragedy, that it was part of her responsibility as a teacher to make sure this happened. This is where I got the idea for Classes 4 Classes, Inc.”

The mission of Classes 4 Classes, Inc. is to teach every child in the United States to have a genuine interest in the wellbeing of others, by providing a platform through which to actively engage them in social curriculum. Students will learn kindness by being kind, they will learn to care by caring, and they will learn empathy by being empathetic. The organization enables students to learn to care for others not by talking but by doing, which cultivates a message that our lives are not separate, but connected.  When kindness, compassion, love and empathy are actively taught, there is no room for hate.

For teachers, the Classes 4 Classes website outlines a process to engage your class in a caring curriculum.  The step-by-step process guides teachers through picking another classroom to adopt through getting the funds to that classroom.  Students in one elementary school classroom give a gift that fulfills a need or educational objective of another elementary school class, anywhere in the country.  The organization promotes a “pay it 4ward” attitude because the receiving classroom is only able to accept their gift after they have selected another classroom to give to.  There are also curriculum ideas for engaging students in learning a social curriculum, not by talking about kindness and empathy but by actually living it. 

Phase 1 of the organization launched in April 2013 and they already have 14 classrooms that have launched projects to provide gifts for 14 other classrooms and nine of those projects have already been fully funded!  Donors have contributed over $9,000 to fund iPads, Kindles, textbooks, white boards, and projectors for classrooms across the country.  Additionally, $7,000 has been donated directly to support the Classes 4 Classes mission. 

Kaitlin also told me, “Classes 4 Classes’ ultimate goal is not the dollar amount provided by donors, nor the gifts that that money is funding, but the positive influence that grows out of the donor’s contributions. They allow students to participate in a project and to act on behalf of someone else this has an extreme impact on a young mind. C4C aims to positively impact the social climate through the youngest and most influential members of our society, so that they are more likely prevented from ever experiencing a tragedy like the one that occurred at Sandy Hook.”

How can you help?

  • Anyone can support the mission of Classes 4 Classes, Inc. by visiting their website, classes4classes.org.  You can scroll through the list of projects and donate directly to your favorite. 
  • You can also make a donation directly to Classes 4 Classes, Inc. on their website.
  • You can also spread the word to elementary school teachers in your community by sharing my blog post.

You can learn more about Classes 4 Classes, Inc. on their website, classes4classes.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook or Twitter

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Life Pieces to Masterpieces

Life Pieces to Masterpieces

According to the 2012 United States Census, individuals who graduate from high school earn an average of $10,000 more annually than those who do not.  Average annual income raises almost $10,000 more with an associate’s degree and jumps even higher with a bachelor’s degree.  Yet, in the United States as of 2011, only 32% of people age 25 to 29 have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher according to the US Department of Education.  Today’s organization has focused in on one population in an attempt to increase their education rates.

The mission of Life Pieces To Masterpieces is to provide opportunities for African American boys and young men in Greater Washington, DC by developing character, unlocking their potential, and empowering them to transform their lives and communities.  Their goal is to nurture, embrace, encourage and elevate African-American boys and young men so they can grow into mature men who demonstrate social responsibility and create positive change in their communities.  Their do this by focusing on arts and education while supporting young men and boys in disadvantaged communities in Washington, D.C.

Over 90% of the young males age 3 to 25 in the Life Pieces to Masterpieces program live in Wards 7 and 8 of Washington D.C.  They call their program participants Apprentices.  These participants come from communities with a variety of challenges including social, physical, and mental health problems and gang activity.  Over 70% of the households in these wards are headed by single females which causes a lack of positive male role models for many of the Apprentices.  These conditions cause the boys and young men in the community to stray from academic development and other positive development opportunities.

So, what is Life Pieces To Masterpieces doing to make a difference for these boys and young men?  They utilize their “4 Cs” as part of their curriculum:

  • Students connect to themselves and to their classmates.
  • They create — homework, artwork, and poems.
  • They contribute — sharing their work and their thinking with a greater community.
  • And they celebrate their successes.
America What About the Children

America What About the Children
(available for purchase at lifepieces.org)

I think this is best brought to life through the stories of their program participants.

Lorenzo was 13 years old and had a lot of responsibilities when he was first introduced to the Life Pieces to Masterpieces program.  His parents had split up and his mother was battling addiction.  Lorenzo was left to help his eight brothers and sisters by ensuring they were fed and did their schoolwork.  He found Life Pieces to Masterpieces as his home away from home.  He is now 20 and is pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism while serving as a mentor and teacher at Life Pieces to Masterpieces.  He credits the program for “aggressively pursuing education” and for the importance it places on getting the best grades possible.

You can find additional stories of the difference that the program has made on their website.

Their program results are impressive.  They have served over 1500 young men and boys over the last 17 years with 100% of their young men graduating from high school and gone on to pursue a post-secondary education.  Many of their alumni return to serve as mentors and teachers in the after school program.  In addition, 100% the participant’s parents show satisfaction with the program and state that their young men and boys are more confident, make better decisions, and speak in a positive manner about their future.

Expressing Love (available for purchase at lifepieces.org)

Expressing Love
(available for purchase at lifepieces.org)

How can you help?

  • If you live near Washington D.C., you can help serve as an after-school program mentor.  Individuals serve as a positive role model and support the lead classroom teacher.  They are also working on a corporate art leasing program to share their Apprentices art with local corporations and provide additional revenue for their program.  Other volunteer opportunities include social media, fundraising, and volunteer recruitment.  You can learn more and contact them about these and other volunteer opportunities on their website.
  • You can show your support by shopping their store of logo merchandise or by making a donation on their website.
  • In kind donations are also appreciated.  Their current wish list includes art easels, healthy food for their summer program, a 14 seat a minivan, and boxes of white printing paper for their office.

You can learn more about Life Pieces to Masterpieces on their website, www.lifepieces.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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