Hello there.

We are so excited you have decided to visit the Project Transformation Interns’ 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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Intern of the Month: Demetria

DemetriaName: Demetria

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Univeristy/College: El Centro College

Area of study/major: History

Project Transformation site location: Pleasant Mound – Urban Park UMC

What was your favorite book as a child?: The Twits

How many years have you been with Project Transformation: This is my first year!

What is one important lesson you have learned from the children you serve at Pleasant Mound?: That children are sponges and they really need positive influences.

What is your favorite aspect about being on a team with your fellow interns?: My favorite aspect about being on a team with my interns is the fact that we are so different, but yet we are the same. We come from different backgrounds, but yet we share some of the same values.

How is Project Transformation helping you prepare for the future?: Project Transformation is helping me prepare for my future by giving me this experience where I can work with children and get a head start in my field as a teacher.

Hope Found in Unexpected Places

Allie Hornsby, Elementary Intern at Pleasant Mound

Hi, everyone! My name is Allie Hornsby. I am a sophomore, communications major at Centenary College of Louisiana. This summer, I have been an elementary intern at Pleasant Mound United Methodist Church. This past week has been an incredible last week with my children. After many tears and late nights of reflecting, I have two stories that are a brief representation of my summer in Dallas.

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The first one is of a little boy named Jamie. Jamie is a spitfire first grade boy who has the energy and spirit of . . . well, a first grade boy. He loves to be the line leader, clipboard holder, and play soccer like the big kids. One thing special about Jamie though is that he loves to dance. In our morning “Harambee” (our welcome/wake up/movement time) he can be found in the back of the room, eyes closed, and doing the dance better than me (and I made the dance up!). However, the second he catches you looking at him, he freezes and runs off to play with a group of kids in the corner. If you are lucky enough to witness this brief moment of joy, you get to also experience a moment that inspires hope. I was reading something about hope today and it says that hope is “believing that tomorrow could be better than today… that you’ll get a second chance… that you’ll make a difference… that you matter.” It amazes me that watching a little boy dance with joy to a dance that I simply made up on the spot reminds me that I am making a difference. I do matter.

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The second story is from the last day at my site. A shy fourth grade girl named Valerie came up to me and gave me a hug. At the end of our hug she looked at me and said “Miss. Allie, I love you. I will always remember you and you will always be in my heart.” At that point, I lost it. You see, the thing about Valerie is that she was so quiet and well-behaved that she was often overlooked in a noisy classroom with behavior issues. I see hope in the fact that of the hundred or so people that Valerie saw every day, she took the time to tell me that she loved me and that I would always have a place in her heart. Isn’t that what hope is? It is believing that you will make a difference. It is believing that you matter.

In conclusion, my children here at Project Transformation have taught me that even if you don’t see the difference you are making, just keep dancing and you may find hope in the most unexpected places.   

Home Away From Home

Taylor Shaw, Elementary Intern at Waples

When this year started, I proclaimed that this year, I was going to take chances and do things for the first time. I was introduced to Project Transformation through a basic internship search engine. I was really interested in visiting the state of Texas and this internship would allow me to be a tourist and a teacher all at the same time!

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I received an email informing me that I was placed in Denison, Texas, the only site not in Dallas. Everything in Denison was different than what I was used to. Denison is a small town and I am from a more populated, urban city in Virginia. Everyone from Texas has so much Texas pride that I did not quite understand at first. However, after a while, I decided to change my attitude and realized that I was placed in Denison for a reason.

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Soon after arriving in Denison, I met the wonderful staff and congregation at Waples United Methodist Church. They welcomed me and my team with warm hugs and genuine smiles. They quickly let us know that they were excited about the upcoming summer and that we were now a part of the Waples UMC family.

Throughout the summer, they talked with us, worshiped with us, and encouraged us to keep our heads up in hard times. I really started to feel like I was a part of the family. I didn’t realize how much these people impacted my life until it was time to say good bye. I wasn’t leaving Waples staff, I was leaving my new family that comforted me in my lonely times and in my homesick moments. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to serve the Denison area and the time spent with such selfless people.

Blessed are the Flexible

Emily Troyer, Elementary Reading Coordinator at Pleasant Mound

My name is Emily Troyer and this is my second summer at Project Transformation. I was the reading coordinator at Pleasant Mound UMC, which is where I was placed last summer as well. During a summer at Project Transformation, you experience a roller coaster of events and emotions in a very short period of time. In the first weeks of training, there is excitement about meeting fellow interns and the anticipation of getting to meet the kids at your site. By the middle of the summer, everyone has usually found their groove and their niche in the community that we are a part of. But then, there is the sadness of having to say goodbye to the friends we have made and the kids that steal our hearts in eight short weeks . . . 

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Project Transformation has taught me some very important life lessons in these past two summers. One of them is a saying that I heard before Project Transformation, but something that I think applies to what we do every day in our work with the kids and with our fellow interns: “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape.” Whether it is an activity gone horribly wrong or things just not going the way “I” think they should, this has been my “mantra” at Project Transformation.

I will be forever grateful for the many opportunities Project Transformation has given me. As a future teacher, I have gained knowledge in my career path far beyond what I have learned while in classes at school. During my two summers, I have truly found “where my deepest passion meets the world’s deepest need.” As this summer comes to a close, I am realizing where I saw God at work through me, those around me, and in the children I work with every day this summer. I will treasure every precious memory of this summer and hope to get to come back to work with the wonderful children that I was privileged to work with this summer. 

Planting Seeds of Change: Former Interns

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Dennis Land, Elementary Intern at Waples

Hello! My name is Dennis Land and I attend McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. I am currently pursuing my major in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in psychology, servant leadership, and music.

My story with Project Transformation started on a mission’s trip to Juarez, Mexico this past December. On the trip, I met the person that would plant the seed that would change my life, Dewy Marshall. In fact, he wouldn’t let me sleep until I knew all about what “PT” had to offer. When I returned home, I looked up Project Transformation immediately.

After applying, interviewing, and then being accepted as a summer intern, I learned I was being sent to the Sherman/Denison area to be an intern at Waples UMC. To be honest, I was relieved considering I am from a very small town and if I were in Dallas, I may have gone nuts if I were to see more skyscrapers than grass. The first day, I met the people that would make, in my opinion, the best team of 2014! Our site church was deeply involved in transforming not only our kids’ lives but the interns’ lives as well, including mine! It’s hard to believe that the show is almost over for this year. I will definitely return next year if I can! 

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.