Hello there.

We are so excited you have decided to visit the Project Transformation Intern’s Blog! This is a place where our college interns can share about their experiences as they serve children and youth in the Dallas area with us at Project Transformation. Please read their stories of transformation and learn more about our programs. We promise, our interns are some of the most amazing young adults you will ever meet!

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A Recipe for Growth: Love

Liz Guerrant, Elementary Intern at Munger Place

Hey guys, my name is Liz Guerrant! I am originally from a small town in Oklahoma called Antlers and I now attend Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana where I study sociology. This was my first year with Project Transformation, and I had the privilege of serving as an Elementary Intern at Munger Place with eighty of the most spirited and bright children I have ever met.

When I was younger, my parents bought me four small plastic chairs and a chalk board. I would fill the chairs with my favorite stuffed animals and make my family refer to me as “Miss. Liz” while I taught my stuffed animals the alphabet and about how many legs a cat had. Now, many years later, those four small plastic chairs have been replaced with eighty, the stuffed animals replaced with energetic elementary students. I no longer have to instruct my family members to call me “Miss. Liz” because I hear those words roughly ten thousand times a day.

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As my summer at Project Transformation winds down, I realize just how much I love being in the whirlwind of chaos and love what these children have brought to my life. When I am asked what my job consists of, “teaching children at a summer program” seems vague, undescriptive, and hardly begins to explain the amazing experiences I have each day. Each day, I comfort the six-year-old who is upset because he wanted the red crayon when he got the purple, calm down the fifth grade boy who doesn’t understand why screaming isn’t the best way to solve a problem, allow myself to be a human jungle gym, and let the group of ten-year old-girls put my hair into some stylin’ pig tails. No two days at site this summer have been the same.  The love, acceptance and excitement that I feel in the presence of these children is irreplaceable, and quite honestly, indescribable.

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One day, my coworker David and I taught the 2nd and 3rd grade group about gardening and subsistence agriculture by growing green bean plants. When we revealed the sprouted seeds to the children, I asked them what helped the seeds to sprout and grow. Immediately, they began shouting, “They need soil, water and air!” But one of the children raised his hand, and said, “They need love to grow, right Miss?” The answer took me aback for a minute, partly because I’m fairly certain this was the first sentence I had ever heard him say aloud. In a way, I think that this little boy’s answer is accurate for Project Transformation. We need love to grow. The same way that my coworkers and I offer our hearts to the children we serve, the children offer theirs back to us. So when people ask me what my job here at Project Transformation means, I guess “love” is a pretty accurate answer. These rambunctious, crazy, out-of-the-box elementary students have opened my heart and shown more love than I have ever known and I wouldn’t trade my summer here for anything.   

Cultivating Relationships and Building New Ones at Munger Place

Philip Espinoza, Youth Intern and Worship Coordinator at Munger Place Church

This is my third summer as an intern with Project Transformation and my second summer at Munger Place Church. This is my first time working with youth, a concept which used to terrify me in the past, but through my experience working with some of our 5th and 6th graders last year, my attitude about it has changed. I love working with them because I get to form deeper relationships with them and they’re SUPER funny and witty towards us and I get to return the favor. There’s never a dull day with the youth!

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Because this is my second summer at Munger Place, I not only work to form relationships with the kids, but I get to cultivate existing relationships formed during the previous summer with some of them. This was the biggest reason I was excited to be back at this site. It wasn’t the amazing support and wonderful staff at Munger Place (although, they are awesome too!), it was the anticipation I felt knowing I would see some of the kids again from last year. This was reinforced on the first day of site when I saw my kids again. It brought me such joy. It made me certain this would be a great summer. And you know what? They haven’t let me down.

Serving Families in our Community Through Children

Mary Covey, Youth Intern at Elmwood

My name is Mary and I will be graduating from Middle Tennessee State University in December with a bachelor’s degree in social work. So much of my draw towards the field of social work is my passion for families. When I came to find out about Project Transformation, I was sitting in my “practice” class yearning for the break that would take me to the vending machines and then back to the mundane schedule of school and work and more school and more work. Then, as if God Himself sent a messenger, a woman from Project Transformation in Tennessee walked in the door to speak to our class. I listened, as I always do, but this time something about what this woman was saying was different. I felt a spark inside of me that told me that this internship, this program, was meant for me. I remember the shaking nerves during my interview and the anxiousness I felt as I waited for the call that would change my life. The moment I hung up the phone after accepting the position as a summer intern at Project Transformation, I raised my arms in the air and thanked the person I knew deserved it the most.

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When I received my assignment as a youth team member at Elmwood, I was a little apprehensive. I had told Daniel during my interview that I was more comfortable with elementary school children and I had never worked with youth before and probably wouldn’t be very good at it.

Even within those first days at Project Transformation, I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision. Looking back though, I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

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I was taking a break the other day at Elmwood during an intense game of soccer and as I watched my kids play, a smile grew across my face so big I felt tears welling inside. The joy these kids have brought into my life is something I could never express in words. They could never understand how much they mean to me and how much their families mean to me. Interacting with these kids and watching the love exchanged among their families has opened my eyes to where my place, not only in my career but in my ministry to others is. I see the coming generations in their eager eyes. Something to understand about Project Transformation is that we are not here to merely house children in the summer who otherwise have nowhere else to go. This program does exactly what its name implies; it transforms. It transforms children, communities, churches, families, and undeniably those who work with them. It is with ease and no hesitation that I say that this has been the most amazing summer I have ever had and will forever remember this blessing for years to come. 

Planting Seeds of Faith, Hope, and Love at Project Transformation

Upendo Makali, Elementary Intern at Grace

My name is Upendo Makali and I recently graduated from Wofford College. I am currently serving at Grace United Methodist Church. I have definitely enjoyed getting to know the children that I work with on a daily basis. I have been there for about 5 weeks now and there is a lot that I have learned. For example, one should never underestimate the impact they can have on a child’s life — even for a day. One story that comes to mind is that of a little girl (age 6) who fell in love with her reading volunteer.

Reading is an important component of Project Transformation as it helps to prevent summer learning loss. The children read with volunteers for about 40 minutes in the morning. This particular student’s reading volunteer was from a visiting youth team that worked with Project Transformation for a week. Although her favorite volunteer is gone now, she still asks me every day in my art class if she can draw or write something for that volunteer because they are now pen pals!

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Their relationship reminds me that I must take advantage of every second with the children as an opportunity to enrich their lives in ways that they will look back and smile at all the wonderful times we shared. Her smile when she tells me about the letters she has received from her pen pal motivates me to give myself away in serving each child as best I can. Every day, I am humbled to be a part of an organization that gives me the opportunity to plant seeds of faith, hope, and love in these children. I look forward to making my last 3 weeks with Project Transformation one of the most memorable times of all our lives!

Lessons on Joy and Laughter from our Youth

Lyndi Jo Trammell, Youth Intern at Munger Place

Starting Project Transformation was a bit scary and overwhelming because I came to Dallas on a whim and had no idea what I was about to get myself into. Little did I know, but I was about to fall in love with this program in just a matter of days.

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Working with the youth at Munger Place has taught me many new things every day, like what Minecraft is or the coolest social media sites. There is one important thing I have relearned from my kids though and that is joy and laughter. Over the past few years, I have found myself getting lost in the seriousness of jobs, bills, and my school work. Somewhere along the way, I lost some of my free spirit. Through Project Transformation and my kids, I am finding myself again. These kids have this addictive joy that I cannot get enough of. They are always laughing and running around without a care. Something as simple as elbow tag (which everyone should play at some point in their life) turns into an unstoppable, contagious round of laughter. Last week, we were playing elbow tag and there was an odd number of us so I sat out to just watch while the kids played and I could not help smile while they ran around in circles chasing each other. When I am around my kids my heart is so full and I cannot imagine spending a day without them. 

Growing Future Leaders and Readers at Project Transformation

Abby Adair, Elementary Reading Coordinator at Chapel Hill 

My name is Abby Adair. I am from Detroit, Michigan. I just graduated with a degree in history from the University of Michigan and will be returning in the fall to work on my master’s degree in social work. I am the Elementary Reading Coordinator at the Chapel Hill United Methodist Church site for Project Transformation.

I feel so blessed to be directly involved in Project Transformation’s reading program. This part of the program is where interns can really see the transformation that Project Transformation strives for. At this point in the summer, several of my kids have moved up one, two or three reading levels from where they were at the beginning of the summer. If you had asked me in that last week of May when I was being trained as a Reading Coordinator whether I really thought I was going to be able to make a difference in these kids’ lives, I would have said “no”. “How will I be able to actually change a kid’s life by improving their reading skills?” was a question I asked myself.

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However, now I am seeing firsthand at my site — those kids are learning to read and improve their skills every day. It’s truly amazing and I am so proud of them. It may be challenging. I may have long and tough days. But when I think how several of my kids are now reading on grade level or even beyond, it blows my mind. Project Transformation is giving these kids the chance of a lifetime to learn and grow in their literacy achievement. They may even be gaining the skills they need to be the first ones in their families to graduate high school and/or attend college. It is a privilege for me to witness such progress firsthand at my site.

One child at Chapel Hill, Alex, is a great example of this. He is going to be starting first grade this upcoming school year. He just recently moved up from our easiest reading level to the next and the pride that I saw on his face when I told him to pick a book from the light blue section rather than the dark blue was amazing. Because of Project Transformation, he will now be on level or perhaps even ahead of many of his classmates this upcoming year. He will hopefully grow to be a leader in his class. It is an amazing feeling to know that I made a difference in his life.

Where Lasting Relationships are Formed

Katie Wade, Youth Intern at Chapel Hill 

Working at Project Transformation has taught me so much already. I have learned to be more open and let people get to know me and not hold so many walls up. This summer, I have made so many friends that I can see being in my life for a long time. I have also formed relationships with some of the youth that I work with – relationships I will never forget or be able to match.

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For example, I have formed a strong relationship with one student in the youth program at Chapel Hill. At the beginning, he seemed to only want to talk and not participate in activities. Once we got to know each other better though, he listens and engages in the program. Now, anytime he learns something or needs something, I am the first person he comes to! He wants to make me proud of him and that means the world to me.

I can’t wait to see what other relationships will form and adventures I will have this summer!