Tuesday, September 5, 2017

MCH students and charter school teachers welcome new initiatives and programs this school year.

The charter school on the Waco campus of Methodist Children’s Home, operating in partnership with the University of Texas – University Charter School system, started its 14th year on August 15. In June 2017, the school graduated its 300th student and is continuing to implement a new initiative and new programs in hopes of hitting more milestones.

This year the charter school is focusing on Restorative Discipline. According to Michelle Arocha, assistant principal, “Restorative Discipline is a whole school approach to building school climate and addressing student behavior.”

Every day teachers are allotted an extra 15 minutes in their class period for a proactive circle program.

“This is a place for teachers to check in with students, to see what they have learned in class during the week and to see if they have questions about course content,” Arocha said. “Every student in the circle has the opportunity to have their voice heard and know that their opinion is valued.”

When it comes to conflict, restorative discipline also uses the circle program to foster accountability rather than punishment.  

In the event of conflict, “parties have to meet in a restorative circle and discuss what happened,” Arocha explained. “All parties then come to an agreement for how they need to treat each other and what needs to happen moving forward. There is some kind of agreed upon restitution to the party that was harmed and then the facilitator of the circles check in on the parties in the following weeks to make sure the agreement in being kept.”

Echoing the restorative discipline initiative of fostering a healthy school climate, the charter school has been given the theme of Super HEROES (Helping Everyone Reach their Own Educational Success) to use this school year.

Further, the school was tasked to come up with their own campus super heroes. The charter school decided on two heroes, Diamond Diggers, as they are always looking for ‘diamonds’ in their faculty, students and staff, and Data Divas, who make sure that the school helps everyone become successful.

Additionally, the school has introduced another program to foster a positive environment for the students called “Write Your Principal.” This is a way for students to directly and anonymously contact the principals and administration by writing questions and comments on a piece of paper and dropping them off in a locked mailbox that is read daily, Arocha explained.

The final program taking place this year focuses on teachers and staff. All charter school leadership is participating in a book study on The Fundamental 5 which presents the best teaching practices.

As the charter school implements and embraces new initiatives this year, Arocha said it is their goal that 100 percent of teachers daily utilize proactive circles, empowering and correcting techniques and the practices learned from The Fundamental 5.

“I am most excited for our new faculty and staff to embrace our initiatives this year,” said Arocha. “I think that utilizing all of these programs will increase student achievement, create a positive climate and will support our entire community.”

MCH wishes the students and teachers much success as they journey through this new school year. Go Bulldogs!






Tuesday, August 29, 2017

MCH Family Outreach reaches out to families during Back-to-School events

As summer ends, some families are faced with the financial burden of back-to-school preparations such as new clothes for their growing child, school supplies, or scheduling last minute hair or dental appointments. As a way to show support to families in our communities as well as build connections with other area nonprofits and businesses, MCH Family Outreach offices look for opportunities to be a part of back-to-school events.

“Participating in back-to-school events in these communities, whether our own or in collaboration with community partners, allows us to offer an event to clients of our programs and others where families can come together, learn about helpful resources, and get a start on school supplies for the children in their families,” said Kelly Smith, outreach administrator for the Western region. “These events strengthen our partnerships with other community organizations and increase awareness of MCH services as well.”

Below are a few examples of ways our outreach offices partnered with families in their communities as they prepared for the new school year:

Bryan/College Station:  The Bryan Outreach office passed out backpacks to those who were unable to purchase the necessary items for their children. They filled up different backpacks based on the varying school lists and attached the list of contents to each backpack in order to customize the service to the need of the child. Bryan/College Station also set up a booth at the Bryan Independent School District (ISD) pre-K and Kindergarten registration to offer families information on services. College Station ISD included an MCH information card in packets handed out to families.

Corpus Christi: Staff attended the Kingsville Housing Authority back-to-school event and passed out school supplies to children. They also attended the Portland First United Methodist Church 4th Annual Back-to-School Health Screening which provided free annual and sports physicals for children. Adults were also provided free health screenings by vendors.

Grace United Methodist Church also donated school supply items as well as personal hygiene, diapers, and wipes for MCH families. Also, a previous client secured sponsorship slots for MCH children to receive a free haircut, school supplies and a complete head-to-toe outfit. The event was sponsored by A1 Finest Barbershop and Herrman & Herrman law firm.


El Paso: For the second consecutive year, MCH Family Outreach in El Paso participated in the Ysleta Independent School District Back-to-School Rally on Aug. 19 where 2,000 backpacks were handed out to children from Ysleta and El Paso. MCH Family Outreach donated more than 1,000 notebooks, 590 composition books and 300 packages of crayons.

“Kudos to the El Paso staff for all their hard work and dedication to keep the assembly line running smoothly as they were stuffing backpacks,” said Zahire Gonzalez-Villa, director of MCH Family Outreach in El Paso. “It was a truly heartwarming experience to see the smiles on all the children’s faces as they received their backpacks stuffed with supplies. A special thank you also to the Parkland Football Team and Natalie Hurtado for all their help. It was much appreciated!”




Houston: MCH Family Outreach in Houston participated in the ABC Dental back-to-school event on July 29 to provide school supplies and health screenings for children in need. The event included vendors, a bounce house, snow cones and local emergency teams with fire trucks and police robots. MCH Family Outreach received a recognition award during the event for its support of the community.

MCH Family Outreach also participated in the Back-to-School Extravaganza on Aug. 25, hosted by Houston Independent School District ­– Homeless Education Office, to provide backpacks, shoes, school supplies, health screenings, immunizations, fresh produce, and assistance with applying for Medicaid, CHIP, and SNAP. On Sept. 9, they will also be a part of the Aldine-Harris County – Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support’s 14th annual Family Strengthening Conference. The conference is a community service event to raise awareness of health, family issues, and many more situations that grandparents, kinship, and single parents face with raising children and the entire family. Participants will be offered free health screenings, school supplies, education materials designed to promote personal health and well-being, and a variety of resources from keynote speakers and agencies.

Killeen:  MCH Family Outreach in Killeen facilitated activities for children during back-to-school events at Grace United Methodist Church in Copperas Cove on Aug. 13 and at Y Armed Services in Copperas Cove on Aug. 26. The office also participated in the Head Start Open House on two dates and the back-to-school event at Bell County Juvenile Services on Aug. 18 where they had activities and giveaways for families.

Las Cruces: Gap families from MCH Family Outreach in Las Cruces received clothes, shoes, school supplies, and a backpack during an event hosted by the Las Cruces Gospel Rescue Mission Clothing Room on Aug. 10. Also, on Aug. 11 members of the Caregiver Empowerment Group were recipients of backpack donations from UnitedHealth Care and Unified Prevention Coalition. Las Cruces outreach staff added school supplies to the backpacks. The Las Cruces Police Department visited to talk to families about safety and provide children with identification cards. Molina Healthcare shared information about their services which encouraging children to ride their “Smoothie Bike.” Information about services was also provided to families by New Mexico Kids Resource and Referral program, UnitedHealth Care, United Prevention Coalition and Las Cruces Public School Attendance/Student Services.

On Aug. 12, Las Cruces outreach families were part of the “Shop with a Cop” event hosted by Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #8. Children were given a voucher and shopped with officers to purchase back-to-school clothing and supplies. Families will also shop with officers again in December.



San Antonio:  On Aug. 16, MCH Family Outreach staff in San Antonio worked with Coker United Methodist Church during a backpack distribution event for families receiving food assistance from the church’s wellness center. MCH staff also participated in the Alamo Area Council of Government’s back-to-school voucher event at the San Antonio Food Bank.

Tyler: MCH Family Outreach in Tyler served underprivileged families in the community during the “School is Cool” event in Tyler. This event offered school supplies, discounts for school uniforms and other clothing items. Many organizations, local radio stations and food vendors came out to promote their services and provided food and refreshments to participants. 



Thank you to all the organizations who partnered with us in serving families this year during back-to-school events!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Alumna demonstrates gratitude through continued support of MCH

Mamie Lee Dodds presents the money tree to
Trey Oakley, vice president for development.
Mamie Lee Dodds, a resident of Big Spring, Texas, recently celebrated her 98th birthday. To mark this joyous milestone, Dodds chose to forego gifts and instead asked her friends and loved ones to make donations to Methodist Children’s Home (MCH), a ministry very dear to her heart. With this benevolent gesture, she raised almost $3,000 for the children, youth and families in our care.

MCH became home to Dodds and her four siblings when she was only 3 years old. She lived there for most of her childhood and left in 1935 to move to Big Spring. She went on to complete her education and served as a teacher for more than 30 years in Big Spring Independent School District.

Dodds also became highly involved in community service and was recognized in 1993 as the Big Spring Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Women of the Year for her efforts to improve the quality of life in the community. Dodds is an active member of her church, First United Methodist Church of Big Spring, where she has served as a Sunday School teacher, choir member and lay speaker. 

Dodds received the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Methodist Children’s Home Alumni Association for her service to MCH and the community. Aside from her work with the Alumni Association, Dodds has partnered with MCH consistently by hosting Christmas party fundraisers for the ministry, serving as a commissioner, and assisting in the development of historical projects at MCH including the Perkins Heritage Home Visitors Center and the historical book commemorating the 125th anniversary of the organization.

Dodds was given a “money tree” from a fellow educator around 40 years ago and since then has used the tree as a tool for raising money for various causes in the community and MCH. After receiving donations through the money tree at her birthday celebration, she passed it on to Methodist Children’s Home where it will be displayed in the Perkins Heritage Home Visitors Center.

Trey Oakley, vice president for development at MCH, attended the birthday celebration and accepted the gift on behalf of the ministry.

“Mamie Lee is a living example of how God is at work through Methodist Children’s Home,” Oakley said. “She was blessed during her childhood by this ministry and now returns that blessing to others. We are grateful for her continued support and loyalty. We are proud to have Mamie Lee representing MCH.” 

Mamie Lee Dodds (front, right) is pictured with her siblings at MCH in 1925. 

Dodds recently celebrated her 98th birthday.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Independent Living residents get tips on money management


Young adults in the Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) Independent Living program (ILP) got valuable advice from representatives of Wells Fargo during six-week money management courses. Personal bankers came to Clay Commons apartment complex to lead the groups in lessons such as earning money, spending smart, saving money and building credit.

The course was offered at different times on two days of the week, repeating curriculum for the week so that all residents interested were able to attend. ILP residents Tameka and Chrislynn, who recently graduated from MCH charter school in May, attended the courses and felt they were getting great advice from the Wells Fargo representatives.

“It helps me with learning how to budget my money,” Chrislynn said.

Tameka added, “It is teaching us a lot of things we need to know in life and how to better prepare.”
Wells Fargo branch manager Julie Cowser, who helped teach the classes along with personal bankers Tabatha Turner, Larry Maxwell and Annamarie Eckenrode, said this opportunity came about after she reached out to MCH in an effort to give back to the community.

“Our branch stays involved with the community and I was searching nonprofits in our area,” Cowser said. “When I saw MCH I was excited about the opportunities to help students.”

Cowser worked with Jonathan Olivarez, Independent Living coordinator for MCH, in scheduling the classes. The students follow a course curriculum from Wells Fargo that gives real-world advice geared toward young adults on topics such as saving money on your grocery bill, determining what rent you can afford and purchasing a vehicle.

“These financial education sessions are important to our residents because they help them better understand what will be expected to successfully transition to independence, and it outlines various steps they can take to ensure success,” Olivarez said. “By partnering with Wells Fargo, it helps residents build relationships outside of MCH, which is crucial to long-term success, and it lends credibility to the things they hear from our staff because they are hearing many of the same things from an outside agency.”

The Independent Living program serves MCH graduates as they transition into adulthood. Young adults first live at homes located at the back of the Waco campus before moving to the Clay Commons apartments located off campus. They receive guidance from MCH staff as they work and/or attend advanced education while taking steps toward becoming independent.

Tabatha Turner and Larry Maxwell of Wells Fargo were two of the instructors for the course.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Core Value Award for Hope - Austin Brown

Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) annually recognizes staff who exemplify our Core Values. Staff are nominated by their peers and recognized at an all-staff meeting.

The Core Values for MCH are:
Christian Principles
Relationships
Responsibility Growth
Service
Hope

Austin Brown, clinical therapist, received the 2017 Core Award for Hope at the spring all-staff meeting. The recipient of the Core Award for Hope is someone who believes in the possibilities of the future.

According to his nomination, Brown embodies the Core Value of Hope through his innate ability to connect with and offer hope to the youth at MCH. Even through behavior meltdowns he is a calming presence and someone who the youth trust with their challenges.

Outside of his work with our youth, Brown was also a vital member of the mentoring committee and volunteered to mentor a new staff member as part of a pilot project. He set aside time to connect with this new staff member and help them connect with others at MCH.

Julie Spiech, associate administrator for the Waco campus and Brown’s supervisor, gave another example of Brown’s repertoire with the youth.

“Another youth on campus requested Austin as her therapist after just one interaction with him during an acute crisis,” she said. “This young lady did not connect easily with anyone in her home, but something about Austin made it easy for her to want to come back and talk to him again.”

Charlsie Whitney, program administrator for residential services, said Brown provides family and individual counseling for MCH residents and their families in a hopeful and inspiring manner. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

U.M. ARMY 2017


Seven youth from Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) had an experience they will always remember during the United Methodist Action Reach-Out Mission by Youth (U.M. ARMY) trip July 16-22. MCH representatives work alongside volunteers from Kingwood United Methodist Church for this annual mission trip.

According to its website, U.M. ARMY “provides an opportunity for youth and adults to experience Christian growth through service to others.” Volunteers provide home repairs and maintenance for low income, elderly and/or disabled homeowners who are unable to make the repairs themselves. This year, the group traveled to Port Arthur, Texas, to assist families who were referred by social workers from a home health agency.  
Kingwood representatives work with MCH staff to determine groups for the mission trip. The young people from MCH are spread out into different groups to work alongside adult team leaders and youth from Kingwood and other church youth groups. Ron Britton, spiritual development minister, accompanied the residents this year. It was his 15th mission trip with MCH, and Britton said every trip he looks forward to watching the youth transform and grow through their experience in helping others.

“It is a tangible way to change someone’s life,” Britton said about the mission trips. “I love getting to see our students experience that [because it also] creates a situation where we explore their faith.”

MCH youth built wheelchair ramps, painted houses, reinforced porches, and helped out in the church kitchen throughout the week. Gail, a resident at MCH, attended U.M. ARMY for the first time this year.
    
“You feel a sense of joy to come help people who need it and don’t have the resources,” she said. “It is a beautiful thing to see them get that freedom. It is all about the people we are impacting through these missions.”

MCH’s connection with Kingwood UMC began through their senior pastor who developed a love for the ministry, and the relationship has continued to grow. Kingwood sponsors MCH residents each year so that they can attend mission trips.

“For Kingwood, they love the opportunity to give our kids a chance to do something they’ve never done and be there with them,” Britton said. “For our kids, it is surprising to them how other people are willing to do things for them that they don’t know. During the trip, they are able to step into that environment of openness and comradery and by the end of the week, they’ve accepted it and enjoy it.”

Throughout the week, the friendships between the volunteers grow as they work hard during the day, worship in the evenings, and celebrate God’s love as they give back to others.

“With our kids, I’m hoping they grow in their faith, and understand and appreciate that they are not the only ones who hurt or have problems,” Britton said. “They come to realize that and it leads to growth in their faith and in the way they view people and humanity in general.” 



Monday, July 31, 2017

Students have a day on the job at a local retail store

A group of six Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) youth were able to receive tips, personal insight and hands-on job training at a seminar on July 18  hosted by Waco’s local Old Navy store. The job training seminar, which took place at the local Waco Old Navy storefront, was hosted by Old Navy representatives.

The four-hour seminar was both informative and interactive, according to Codi Stafford, MCH recreation coordinator.

Youth listened to Old Navy employees share about their line of work in retail. Further, the employees walked students step-by-step through how to get a job. Then, students were able to be hands-on in the seminar by participating in mock job interviews, training on registers and inventory, and how to speak professionally with customers.

Kimberly Bobbitt, recreation director at MCH, said the event was a great opportunity for MCH youth to “gain some hands-on job training experience and [gain] clearer understanding of what it looks like to get and retain employment at a basic job level.”

According to Old Navy’s website, Old Navy employees believe that “business communities need to work together to thrive.” In turn, as an organization, they focus their community programs on areas that line up with their business expertise. “We think we can make the biggest difference by advancing women, teens, and young adults and supporting volunteers,” the company states.

It is Bobbitt’s hope that through this experience “students gained wider understanding of insight into what the process of getting a job looks like, as well as what a ‘day on the job’ might look like.”

“Often our students are told what it takes to get a job and what behavior is needed to keep one,” Bobbitt said. “But it is not often that they get to experience a day on the job and get the hands-on experience to back up these words.”