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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Changing Lives in Unimaginable Ways

Blaine Gaston, Elementary Intern at Oak Cliff

Born in Texas, but currently living in California for college, I didn’t know what to expect when I signed-up to come back home to work as an elementary intern with Project Transformation. Now I can say working with Project Transformation has changed my life in ways that I could never have imagined. Being assigned to the Oak Cliff elementary team was a little strange because I had been in the church a few times, but really did not know anything about the church, the staff, or the kids that I would be working with. As a person who gets very nervous/anxious when a role of this magnitude is given to me, I was scared my very first day when we had the kids. But, as the day progressed, I realized that these children wanted to be there and wanted to get to know me. Now, keep in mind that these kids are no older than 12-years-old and they often forget many the interns names so they just stick to “Mr.” or “Ms.” for our names. Getting to spend time and devote my energy (sometimes at the cost of patience) with those children has been priceless! Seeing the changes these kids go though in eight weeks is unbelievable. For example, there are some children who are going into 5th grade who cannot read whatsoever and watching them plow through a book at the end of the summer is utterly mind-blowing!

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Don’t Keep it Simple

Stacey Porter, LITE Coordinator at Oak Cliff

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”

- Galatians 6:9 (The Message) 

In 2011, my life was changed forever by my experience at Project Transformation. I worked with elementary students at Wesley-Rankin Community Center, which led me to apply for Teach for America. From 2012-2014, I taught 9th grade in Montgomery, Alabama.

In the spring of 2014, I received a message from Janalee, the Project Transformation volunteer coordinator. She wanted to know what I was doing with my summer after I was finished with my TFA commitment. She explained that there was an opening to be a LITE (LITE stands for Leader In Training Experience) coordinator, where I would work with 10th-12th graders who volunteered with the elementary students in the morning and had their own college and career readiness programming in the afternoon.

At first, I was hesitant. I had spent two years teaching high school students, and I knew the challenges of working with this older age. I had also planned on having a relaxing, and simple summer before I started graduate school in the fall. However, the summer of 2011 was an incredible experience, and I knew that Project Transformation was brought back in my life for a reason. So, I accepted a position as one of the two LITE coordinators at Oak Cliff UMC and prepared myself for another summer working with high school students, which I assumed would be very similar to the students I worked with previously. I could not have been more wrong.

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I knew that Project Transformation was a transformational program, but I didn’t realize the full impact of the program until I met the high school students in the LITE program. Most of these students had been in the program since elementary school. On the first day, in the morning, the LITEs were split up into different rotations to volunteer with the elementary kids. I was worried because I had never met the LITEs and didn’t know if they were going to goof off instead of volunteer. I visited each rotation several times, and every time, I was so excited to see the LITEs not only helping the kids, but being leaders and even helping the interns get to know each kid better. I knew from this day forward that not only could I trust my students, I could rely on them to be an integral part of the program. The LITEs loved coming up with new ideas, and helping in ways beyond the simple expectations set for them.

This summer has been so much less about watching myself grow, and so much more about learning from the LITEs. I have learned so many lessons from my LITEs, but the most important have been about servant leadership. Each day, I watch my students selflessly serve kids by reading with them, playing with them, serving them lunch, and helping them learn. One of my favorite days with the LITEs was when they planned two afternoon activities for the kids. One activity they planned was a glow in the dark obstacle course. I was skeptical of this activity at first and tried to encourage the LITEs to “keep it simple.” However, their determination to provide an incredible activity for the kids won out and they made one of the most memorable activities of the summer.

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Their attitude about this activity inspired me in thinking about my attitude toward what I want to do with my life. I have finished my commitment with Teach for America and to be honest, I am very tired. At the beginning of the summer, I thought many times that it would be nice to just get a simple job that didn’t require a lot of extra effort and that didn’t require me to feel let down when the goals that I’m passionate about don’t get met. However, after seeing the passion of my LITEs — their unbridled creativity, their constant willingness to jump in and help, and their joyful servant leadership — I know that “keeping it simple” is not an option for me. I need to continue to use my passions to fuel creative solutions to the problems in this world. 

I thought that I could not be transformed any more than I was in 2011. However, the LITE program has given me 15 new leaders to inspire me to grow and transform to be a better leader in my community and in this country. I am in awe of  their passion and humility, as well as their leadership skills. The LITEs have taught me that the simple solutions are not always the best, and that instead you should utilize creativity and passion to make the world a better place for our children.

“I See God in These Kids and I See Love.”

Diane Hary, Youth Intern and Worship Coordinator at Oak Cliff

My journey with Project Transformation initially started in June of 2013. The summer of 2013 was my first summer working for Project Transformation and I haven’t stopped since. After the summer was over, I decided to work part-time in the after school program and then to come back again in the summer of 2014. All three of my experiences have been very different, but all have helped me grow, learn and transform. It is crazy to think that one person can develop and change in so many ways in such a short period of time while working for the same non-profit organization.

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Since I started working for Project Transformation, I have changed my major three times and changed colleges. What?! How did that happen you may ask. I was so sure coming into my summer of 2013 that I was going to go to seminary after getting my undergraduate degree in Religion Pre-Seminary and then I would go on to become a missionary somewhere far away. Since Project Transformation, I have built my own degree to help prepare me to pursue urban missions through non-profit organizations right here in the United States. I want to be clear though; none of these changes have been because of my doing. Every transformation I have gone through has been through my kids and the Holy Spirit. I see God in these kids and I see love. I can honestly say that I have really learned what it means to love and be loved while working with Project Transformation. I have learned the reality of children being drastically behind in their reading levels and how that can define the trajectory of their lives. I have learned firsthand of the struggles people go through living in low-income neighborhoods. I have seen a glimpse of what it is like to grow up with only one parent and the effects that can have on a child. I could keep going on and on about what Project Transformation has taught me, but I think there is one specific lesson that I am meant to take away from Project Transformation; that lesson is that I can’t change the world. I am not here to change the world or make a difference in the world. I am here to love and to care for others. I am not here to transform people. I cannot transform people. I believe that only God can do that, but that sometimes that transformation can happen through me. I can be the conduit. I have seen a kid go from not being able to read to being able to read a whole book in half an hour. I have seen children change because someone gave them a leadership role. I have had kids tell me that I changed their lives (even a year later) when I didn’t even realize it. I have seen kids go from hating reading to learning to love books. I have seen a lot, but I have done so little. That is where I see God and ultimate transformation. Project Transformation has changed my life and I will never be the same again.

A Thank You Note to Project Transformation Volunteers, Parents and Stakeholders

Jamille Fields, Site Coordinator at Grace

I cannot believe that Project Transformation is entering our last week of regular summer programming! It has truly been a wonderful experience with our kids. As we all know, many of the children in the program come from various backgrounds and as a result, were initially reluctant to open up their hearts to us. I have made it a commitment from day one for our team to make it a priority to dive deep into the hearts of our kids. Without that, we would only be a group of college students monitoring a group of children every day. Instead, I strive for excellence in our time here so that we can individually relate and counsel the needs of every child personally. This is our ministry. I’m forever grateful for all of the ways that you have donated your time, finances, and hearts to our children. They truly love and appreciate all that you continue to do for them. I want to share with you my vision statement for this summer program that I created in March when I received my assignment to Grace. “Growth, not only in the individual’s abilities, but to see growth in an individual’s mindset, through which all things originate.” Thank you all again. – Jamille 

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A Recipe for Growth: Love

Liz Guerrant, Elementary Intern at Munger Place Church 

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.