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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Chester the Chipmunk Fosters a Sense of Unity among Children at Project Transformation

Cristian Gomez, Site Coordinator at Casa Linda UMC

This school year at Casa Linda, we introduced Chester the Chipmunk as the site mascot. The inclusion of a mascot has been very positive with our children. With the help of Chester, we have fostered a sense of unity with our kids. It has also helped with their behavior, as taking Chester home for the weekend is an incentive that they must earn. Every Wednesday, we send home Chester and his diary with the kid who best exhibits our five core rules: Be a Friend, Learner, Listener, Leader, and Respectful. The kids are fully invested in our incentive system and they continue to model excellent behavior in order to get their chance with Chester. The child who takes Chester home is required to document their daily adventures with him.

Chester is beloved by the children and although he is stuffed, the kids often bring him acorns they pick up on the way from school to our site location at Casa Linda. One of our 4th grade boys has even said he wants to be just like Chester because he always listens.

It amazes me every day how committed the children are to Chester and the team at Casa Linda. They are wonderful kids and it has been a pleasure to work with them this year!

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Superhero Capes Encouraging Improved Behavior at Program Site

Rodrick Dickerson, Site Coordinator at Pleasant Mound-Urban Park UMC

If you’ve ever tried to learn, you know exactly why only 21% of the world’s population can juggle. Having less hands than objects, the element that makes learning to juggle so frustrating, is the very thing that makes it such an impressive feat.

When I was taught to juggle, I was instructed to begin by juggling two objects with only one hand (throwing one up just before the other landed in my hand — and so on) and to practice with my right and left hands individually until I had a decent streak with both. Then, I was to add a third object and juggle them with both my hands using the same technique. The secret to learning quickly was finding objects that were similar in size and weight (otherwise the process was prolonged terribly), but small enough to comfortably fit two of the objects in one hand. In a little over two weeks, I managed to be able to juggle fairly well.

That being said, I have found that the dynamics of juggling are much the same as the dynamics associated with my role as a Site Coordinator at Project Transformation. When I wear my “Site Coordinator hat”, I am called to manage relationships, provide academic support, encourage character development, and disciple when necessary. It often becomes a juggling act of sorts, but I am never called to manage it all on my own. Given the variance in my tasks, it can feel like juggling a bowling ball, a puppy, and a giant beach ball; but instead of 2 hands, we have 8 (and sometimes 10 if we’re lucky to have a volunteer or Reading Curriculum Coordinator with us at the program site that day). My teammates have done a wonderful job helping me bear the heavy privilege of being a Site Coordinator.

As a team, we’ve experienced success and failure together. One of our greatest successes has been the use of positive incentives to encourage behavior modification. One incentive program in particular, “The Capes,” has been really motivating among our students. We have created four superhero capes that we reward to the “Leader”, “Learner”, “Listener”, and “Friend of the Week”. These awards are based upon “The 5 Be’s” in the classroom: 1. Be respectful; 2. Be a leader; 3. Be a learner; 4. Be a listener; and 5. Be a friend. Each week, a child is carefully considered for each category based upon their attitude and actions the previous week. Stand-out behavior warrants a child the opportunity to sport a cape each day for the entire week. A child who voluntarily cleans tables after dinner or finds a way to encourage instead of frown upon a fellow student who may have caused the class to lose a privilege is a child who might be honored with a cape.

It is a privilege to wear a cape at “P-Mound” and the children know it better than anyone! Below, you can see our “Learner of the Week” and our “Listener/Friend of the Week” sporting their much-deserved capes!

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Small Victories at Site and Mutual Transformation

Marsharie Williams, Site Coordinator at Oak Cliff UMC

One day, I decided to introduce a new activity to the students at the Oak Cliff UMC site. The activity was designed to create an opportunity for students to express their thoughts about going to college and to also brainstorm about character traits they would like to develop as adults.

When I explained the project however, there was one particular student who simply did not want to participate. He tried his hardest to negotiate his way out of doing the project. I was in shock because he had never responded this way before and I wasn’t exactly sure how to convey to him how beneficial the project would truly be. Earnestly, I tried to calm his fears and encourage him to take part with the rest of the students. I reassured him telling him I would help and encouraged him to at least give it a go. After some urging, he worked so diligently on his project and really tried his best. In fact, once he started, he really didn’t want our help at all.  It felt so good to witness him enjoying a project centered on self –expression and it made me want to shed tears of joy! Though a small victory, I knew at that moment that he and I were both being transformed within our hearts!

You can see his final product below. He cut out images and wrote about his dreams for the future.

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Intern of the Month: Valerie

Name: Valerie

Hometown: Dallas, TexasIntern of the month - Valerie

University/College: Eastfield College

Area of study/major: Environmental Science

Project Transformation site location: Casa Linda UMC

What was your favorite book as a child?: As a child my favorite book was Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss .

How many years have you been with Project Transformation: I’ve been with PT for about 9 years!

What is one important lesson you have learned from the children you serve at Casa Linda?: The children at Casa Linda are a unique bunch of kids. Most of them are always ready and excited to be at site and are always smiling. They have taught me that you should focus on the positive things in life because everything is not about winning it’s about having fun!

What is your favorite aspect about being on a team with your fellow interns?: I love working with my fellow interns as we all bring something different to site! I feel like even though we have different talents and skills, we all care about our kids and just want to be our best to make a difference in their lives. If it’s helping them become better readers or teaching them right from wrong, we work as a team and support each other.

How is Project Transformation helping you prepare for the future?: Project Transformation and the past interns have made a huge impact on me throughout the years and I am so grateful. Now that I’m focusing on my future, I’ve learned that we have to do certain tasks even if we don’t like it. It’s part of life. I’ve been managing my time better and learning what areas I need to spend more time on to improve. Teaching me to follow my goals, values and beliefs, PT has given me a wake up call and it has helped me become a better person .

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.