Multiple Pathways to Success: Supporting Foster and Homeless Students

On Thursday, June 28th, the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives (CFOI) and Federal Student Aid (FSA) co-hosted a webinar for faith and community leaders, as well as other caring adults, to provide information on assisting foster and homeless students with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Faith and community leaders are in direct contact with many foster and homeless students, and this webinar was the first in a series to provide them with resources to help their communities. Fred Stennis, the Outreach Team Coordinator at FSA, and Dr. Andrea Ramirez, the Acting Director of CFOI, discussed the process for students applying for federal student aid, how faith and community leaders can help guide students through this process and dispelled some of the myths about the FAFSA and FSA.

The purpose of this webinar was to help foster and homeless students who wish to pursue higher education. Dr. Ramirez introduced the topic with information regarding the nation’s foster and homeless student population. She then shared the U.S. Department of Education’s goal of providing students with multiple pathways to success; higher education is one such pathway. Fred Stennis then gave attendees information on resources that FSA provides to students, including directions for filling out FAFSA.

FSA gives out $120 billion to more than 13 million students every year, through grants, loans, and work-study programs. Foster and homeless youth face unique challenges when pursuing higher education, but this webinar explained how they are treated equally when filling out the FAFSA. Caring adults who wish to help foster and homeless students should encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities available to them.

Some key takeaways from this webinar were:

  • All U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for Federal Student Aid, including foster and homeless students.
  • FAFSA opens on October 1st.Check for deadlines from FSA, state agencies, colleges, and other financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
  • Complete the FAFSA with information as of the date of submission. (Applicants do not need to update the application after submission, but can re-submit the form if necessary.)
  • Applicants do not need to provide a home address to fill out the FAFSA. Applicants will be required to provide an address where they can reliably receive mail. This can be the address of any caring adult in their life.
  • Applicants should include up to 10 schools on the FAFSA to compare their aid options from schools they’re considering.

For more information on this webinar, emailEdPartners@ed.gov for a copy of the presentation.

For more information on FAFSA and other FSA resources, FSA holds monthly webinars, has tutorial videos on their YouTube channel and will answer questions via email or web chat on their website, studentaid.gov, or by phone at 1-800-4FED-AID.

CFOI will be hosting another webinar on August 23rd, 2018, from 1-2:00pm (ET), with guest speakers from FSA and the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), to provide faith and community leaders with resources to aid citizens returning from the prison system as they navigate FAFSA and career, technical and apprenticeship opportunities. Registration will be available soon. To be notified when registration is available, and to learn more about our work at the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, email EdPartners@ed.gov and request to receive our center’s highlights.

 

The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge Reflection

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The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge

Part of a reflection series presented by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

 

The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge is an initiative of the White House with support from the Department of Education, the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

 

For many, college years include experiences that challenge long held assumptions about the world and our place in it. Part of that challenge can include building bridges of understanding alongside rising leaders from different religious and non-religious traditions through service. Based on the recommendation of the inaugural President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, President Obama established the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which brings together students and educators, colleges and universities, faith and community organizations, and others to strengthen campuses and communities through the power of faith and service.

 

Now in its sixth year, more than 500 schools have been or are currently involved in the challenge. Currently 12 percent of American college students who attend schools with more than 1,000 students are attending a participating school. This includes schools in 43 states, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

 

The challenge has not been restricted to one model of higher education. Instead it has flourished in a variety of settings including large research universities, four-year colleges, tribal colleges, career colleges, and historically black colleges and universities. Each institution provides a unique perspective on what it means to have an interfaith engagement component to community service. The make-up of the student body, the resources of the institution and faculty, the nature of the community, and the traditions of the school have resulted in unique programs at each school.pic1

 

In 2015, educators and students from around the world were invited to join the conversation about interfaith service. As a result, more than 70 people from 24 countries participated in the Fifth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge gathering. This tradition continued into the Sixth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge where we had 60 international guests representing 31 countries joining the nearly 600 faculty, staff, students, and college presidents at Gallaudet University.

 

The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge provides a platform though which service connects people from different religious and non-religious back-grounds to tackle community challenges together. American colleges, community colleges, and universities have often been at the forefront of solving our nation’s greatest challenges. The White House is calling on higher education to make the vision for interfaith cooperation a reality on campuses across the country.

Belief, Behavior and Belonging

oct-19On Wednesday, Ocotober 20th, The Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) participated in the State Department’s (STATE) Office of Religion and Global Affairs Religious Literacy, Public Policy and American Schools brown bag event in The Ralph Bunche Library. The event included a panel moderated by Mariam Kaldas (STATE) with panelists Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell (CFBNP) and Benjamin Marcus (Newseum Fellow). Brenda gave remarks on the work of the Department of Education Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Ben presented his research from his chapter in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook on Religion and America Education. Some of the topics discussed were practicing religious literacy, religious identity formation and how to work with religious communities in conflict settings.

In Ben’s research he highlighted how we all have different understandings of faith and religion. For instance, if a group of people are asked the definition of religion, there would be a myriad of different definitions and one may even say it is undefinable. Religious literacy does not mean you can define every religion, but rather “understand and use the religious terms, symbols, images, beliefs, practices, scriptures, heroes, themes, and stories that are employed in American public life.”

Ben’s research delves further into religious identity and formation and perception of religion. He uses a framework called the “Three B’s”: Belief, Behavior and Belonging to explain how one develops his or her religious identity.

When engaging conflict communities, there are a few steps to address religious identity:

  1. Listen and ask “What does your religion mean to you?”
  2. Determine what aspect of religious identity (Belief, Behavior, Belonging), if any, fuels the tension.
  3. Look for common ground, not necessarily talking about scripture, but what they care about.

Through Brenda’s remarks and Ben’s research, the audience was able to engage in an introspective conversation on religious literacy. Brenda reinforced the value of convening and bringing people together. Ben was able to build upon that foundation by discussing practices to humbly address differences and understand the history behind various religious identities. Finally, questions on topics such as separation of church and state, populism and religion, and secularism were discussed.

It was an informative and reflective event that helped the participants gain a further understanding and direction on discussing religious literacy!

Grants, Grants, Grants!

fbo-webinarOn Wednesday, October 05, 2016, The Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships along with Dr. Sylvia Lyles of the Office of Academic Improvement (OAI) held a webinar to discuss Applying for US Department of Education Grants. The webinar was in response to requests from the Hampton Ministers’ Conference and other listening sessions. There were over 400 participants eager to learn more about how to apply for Department of Education grants.

Following an introduction and welcome from Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Dr. Lyles gave an overview of one of OAI’s functions; managing 30 grant programs with a combined total of over 4 billion dollars. Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) are encouraged to apply for grants and to begin the process as early as possible. During her overview of the grant application process, Dr. Lyles focused on the 21st Century Community Learning Center’s (CCLC) Grant. Interested organizations should get in touch with their state 21st CCLC contact and learn more on the CCLC website.

Tiffany Ways, HUB Director of The University Church in Toledo, Ohio and Jen Russo, Program Assistant for the Hope After School Program, in Frederick, Maryland provided were voices from the field. They shared some of their experiences as CLCC grantees. Successful grantees must have effective partnerships.

Key components of effective partnerships:

  • Multifaceted partner engagement
  • Consistent communication
  • Building a relationship of trust
  • Working collaboratively through partner administrator and/or staff transitions
  • Overcoming expectation/ execution shortfalls
  • Celebration of successes

This webinar is just our first step on this journey to increase the participation of FBOs and CBOs in the grant process at the U.S. Department of Education.

Stay tuned!

Family Engagement: Supporting Your Child in School and in Life

Family Engagement Pic1Reid Temple A.M.E. Church (Reid Temple) in conjunction with ED’s White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA) and the ED’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) found a way to get parents and children excited about going back to school. On August 28th, they hosted a Family Engagement Back-to-School Summit filled with information on how to support children in school and in life along with having fun at the church’s Silver Spring, Maryland location.

 

The focus of the summit was to reach out to families in the community and encourage greater family engagement in their children’s education. We had education representatives from kindergarten through college, including a school Principal and college President, and professional organizations. Most were members of Reid Temple A.M.E. Church congregation, demonstrating the resources available in one’s own community. Free books from the Maryland Book Bank were provided to the children who attended. The Maryland Book Bank, located in Baltimore, MD, is available to all Maryland residents and programs to pick up free books for children.

It was amazing to see the children attending the summit involved in the discussion. They talked about what was important to them when it came to their education. To hear them say they wanted love, support and patience from their teachers and parents was breathtaking. The parents were given the chance to talk about ways they are helping their children in and outside of school. The summit was a listening and learning session for all.

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Rev. Russell St. Bernard “Rev. Russ” of Reid Temple organized the summit with a goal in mind. “Our goal for the Family Engagement Summit is to empower students, parents, and administrators alike to make this school year the best one yet! By providing experts in the field, free resources, as well as encouraging dialog amongst peer-groups (adults and students), we expect for all those who attend the summit to leave with practical tools that they will be able to use immediately in the life of their student.”

Family Engagement Pic2Rev. Russell St. Bernard “Rev. Russ” and members of Reid Temple worked with David Johns, Director of the WHIEEAA, Frances Frost, Family Ambassador Fellow of the Campagna Center and Angel Rush of the CFBNP to create such a powerful and meaningful summit. We are looking to plan additional educational forums with Reid Temple and hopefully other churches in the area in order to reach families and communities that are less represented in school engagement.

By Angel Rush, Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Frances M. Frost, Family Ambassador Fellow, The Campagna Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Innovative Learning in the Heart of Ohio

Photo of McVey Learning Center

The four networks listed right as students walk into the school.

“The ILC has provided students authentic learning opportunities by providing a space for exploring their interests and passions.  The real key to success has been the amount of responsibility and ownership students are taking over their learning, showing that students will push their own limits when given the challenge of freedom to choose.  Working with students to personalize their education prepares them to be Ready for Tomorrow.”–Brent Wise, Director of Innovation

Walking in the McVey Innovative Learning Center (ILC), nestled in the Hilliard City School District of Ohio, we encountered students working independently in various work spaces. Their teacher walked around the building checking in on students and answering their questions. We immediately sensed an energy and interest in each student as they worked!

The ILC is diversifying opportunities to meet students’ needs through four networks: College Jump Start, Imagination, Personal Success, and Young Professionals. These networks offer courses that allow all students from grades 7-12 to come together in a centralized location and share an experience that may not be possible in their home schools. The networks are created through commitment from school leadership, local organizations, and partnerships with institutions of higher education. Students from all three of the district’s high schools and middle schools are shuttled to and from the ILC every 90 minutes to participate in classes in one of the four networks. The networks include:

  • College Jump Start: The College Jump Start Network is a partnership between Hilliard City Schools and Columbus State Community College. Students receive 32 hours of college credit during their high school years and an estimated savings of $13,000. This particular network is designed for the student who wants to experience higher education during their high school career.
  • Imagination: This network is designed for the student who wants to creatively explore learning through the lens of the humanities and discover unique ways to engage their imagination. The individualized experience offered by this network features advanced levels of the arts, language, and other forms of expression. During our visit, we toured the recording studio offered through Capital University, a local institution of higher education, and saw a green room in the studio where students practice media development.
  • Personal Success: This network is geared toward the student who wants to experience school in a very personalized way. Students trade the traditional bricks and mortar classroom for an online experience, small group learning, or one-to-one learning sessions. Additionally, they benefit from a personal learning plan that’s created for them, no matter the goal. While we were there, Superintendent John Marschhausen spoke about how the district never expels a student without offering the opportunity for students to continue their coursework through this network.
  • Young Professionals: This network is designed for the student who wants to experience school through authentic learning experiences outside the classroom, all while becoming a young professional. Whether a student is active in a career mentorship role or teacher or entrepreneur academies, this network is built for them. The Young Professionals network has a partnership with the local career/technical school in the fields of medical, business, and teacher academies. Additionally, the school district has written open curriculum and textbooks for iPads, allowing for constant updates as the world changes.

For more information, visit the Hilliard City School website: http://www.hilliardschools.org/ilc/

They All Have My Last Name

“These children have my last name. If there is something my daughters should have—all children should have it.”-Co-founder and Board President of the Hilltop Preschool

While on a visit to Columbus, Ohio, Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell stopped in the Hilltop Preschool, a non-profit organization located in Hilltop Lutheran Church that offers free preschool to residents of the Columbus west side area. It just happened to be picture day, and the children were dressing up in little graduation caps and gowns in anticipation of their upcoming graduation!

The preschool is funded through non-profit donations and thrives on several partnerships, including one with The Ohio State University (OSU) Speech-Language Clinic. This is a successful example of how institutions of higher education can effectively partner with local schools to create positive change.

Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell reads with young students.

Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell reads with young students.

All of the children attending the school come from families who are below 125% of the poverty level and face daunting realities:

  • 61% of the children have been identified with developmental delays;
  • 40% live with a parent with a known substance abuse problem;
  • 27% have a parent who has been incarcerated;
  • 20% are learning English as a second language.

In October of 2014, 67% of the children were assessed as falling “below average” on the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ GET READY TO READ! screening tool. Something had to be done to address such stark realities.

Staff at the Hilltop Preschool began to communicate with the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at the Ohio State University to develop a unique partnership aimed at raising students’ literacy-based skills in the classroom through workshops with students, teachers, and staff. For the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, this collaboration presented an opportunity for staff to go into the community and set the bar high as the first clinic to be on-site leading a pre-K early literacy intervention program. For the Hilltop Preschool students, the new partnership paved the way for them to participate in lessons specifically designed to strengthen their early foundations in language and literacy by building skills in four key areas: vocabulary, narrative, phonological awareness, and print knowledge. Lesson plans for the intervention sessions had students gathered in reading groups and focused on topics ranging from the blending of sounds and rhyming, to comprehension, sequencing, and vocabulary. As a result of this initiative, OSU affiliates tripled student contact hours.

At the conclusion of the 11-week intervention program, the preschoolers were assessed to determine if their earlier literacy scores had changed. 89% of the students demonstrated higher literacy scores and 67% achieved “average” or “above average” on the GET READY TO READ! screening tool! Not only did the students see positive differences, but the teachers also learned modeling techniques for literacy concepts and the parents benefited by gaining skills to support their young readers through family events, take-home sheets, and parent-teacher conferences. Invigorated by this success and the community need, OSU continues this partnership today and the Speech-Language-Hearing-Clinic is now building a library at the school to continue to advance literacy skills.

Further background information and source: http://artsandsciences.osu.edu/news/literacy-intervention-and-hilltop-preschool 

Creating Faith-Based Partnerships that Work: White House and COGIC Partner to Help Faith and Community Organizations Build Their Capacity

COGIC Blog - Photo 1As part of the 108th Holy Convocation of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships partnered with COGIC Urban Initiatives to present a panel discussion on opportunities for partnerships between faith-based and community organization and Federal agencies.  Entitled “Faith-Based Partnerships that Work,” the discussion highlighted the unique role of the Federal Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP). Located inside many Federal agencies, these Centers serve as a resource for secular and faith-based non-profit organizations seeking to partner with Federal agencies to address the needs of their local communities.

Led by the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education (ED CFBNP), the COGIC workshop included staff representing several Partnership Centers along with pastors and staff from COGIC-affiliated organizations and other community-based organizations that had partnered with Centers in the past. These representatives described their experiences partnering across issue areas, including education, housing, health and human services, and veterans issues, among others.  For example, Dr. Gwendolyn Diggs, Assistant Superintendent Educational Operations for the Ferguson-Florissant School District, commented on how a partnership with the ED CFBNP has resulted in the 1) increased collaboration between the School District and community partners and 2) the strengthening of various programs that benefit the School District’s students.  Paula Hearn, Executive Vice President of COGIC Urban Initiatives, discussed how COGIC’s Partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships strengthened their ability to reach hundreds of students throughout the nation with the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.

After this broader discussion, participants received practical training from staff of the HUD Center on building the capacity of local non-profit organizations to more effectively carry out their mission. This workshop was excerpted from the HUD Center’s Signature “Capacity Building and Grant-Writing Training.” In the training, participants received personal instruction from HUD CFBNP staff on how to secure 501(c) (3) status, strategic planning, creating the organizational structure necessary to secure government funds, and how to become more competitive for Federal grants. Participants also received valuable lessons on best practices in partnering with Federal agencies Attendees felt that the lessons on past partnerships from Federal staff and community partners, combined with the practically-oriented capacity-building workshop, provided new tools and strategies for organizations to pursue their mission.

Organizations interested in partnering with relevant Federal agencies can find complete contact information for all Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the White House website here. Faith and community organization seeking to learn more about the “Capacity-Building Training for Emerging Organizations,” or other partnership or training opportunities, can contact the Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at (202) 401-1876 or edpartners@ed.gov. Centers stand ready to partner with faith-based and community organizations as they pursue their vital mission serving communities nationwide.

By Paula Lincoln, Director of the HUD Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Joshua Bancroft, Program Specialist for the HUD Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

In Ferguson, Missouri, The Community and Schools are Working Together

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On a recent trip to Ferguson, MO, my office colleague, Dr. Ken Bedell, and I had the opportunity to visit with community leaders. The trip supported Secretary Duncan’s promise that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) would not forget this community.  Our recent visits to the city have strengthened relationships and created partnerships that are already making an impact in Ferguson schools.  When the Ferguson-Florissant School District (FFSD) requested assistance regarding its Summer STEM Program, we connected them with Hope Worldwide, an international charity dedicated to delivering sustainable, high-impact, community-based services to distressed communities.  Hope Worldwide helped supply FFSD with robotics kits to replicate the District’s STEM efforts and provide equitable learning to its students.  Additionally, our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FFSD, and local community-based organizations for the Summer Meals Program increased the number of students receiving meals.

We also hosted a meeting of community leaders committed to making Ferguson a safe and healthy environment for youth and their families.  It was excFerguson Blog - Photo 2iting to hear about the local efforts of these organizations.  Church groups are supporting the development of small businesses in Ferguson. Ernst and Young has initiated a mentorship program. The Urban League has created an Empowerment Center in Ferguson to better serve the surrounding neighborhoods in North St. Louis County.  Pen or Pencil, a National Alliance on Faith and Justice (NAFJ) service learning program, is mentoring and working to reduce dropouts and prevent crimes. Other federal agencies are providing services to the school, including AmeriCorps Vista, which has placed volunteers within schools, and the National Parks Service, which is working to increase the educational opportunities and capacities of students.

Dr. Joseph Davis, the new Superintendent of FFSD, and Dr. Gwendolyn Diggs, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Operations, shared the FFSD’s vision: to 1) create an elite K-16 S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) school, 2) enhance professional development and educational opportunities for teachers, 3) train parents to become educational professionals in their own households, and 4) strengthen family and community engagement to establish a culture where education is understood as a shared responsibility by all community members.

Our perspectives from Ferguson echo the remarks of Secretary Duncan following his visit to the city:

Education is—and must continue to be—the great equalizer that overcomes differences in background, culture, and privilege. Educational opportunity represents a chance at a better life, and no child should be denied that chance. Where our children lack that opportunity—it’s not just heartbreaking, it is educational malpractice, it is morally bankrupt, and it is self-destructive to our nation’s future. I don’t believe that we are going to solve the challenges in Ferguson and places like it from Washington alone; but, we can be part of the solution if we listen closely to the people living in these communities. Making things better for kids, their families, and their schools will take all of us working together. We can—and we must—get to a better place.

As we continue to listen and work with FFSD, we can ensure that every student has the chance to achieve his or her hopes and dreams.