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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Reading Program Highlighted on WFAA Channel 8

Lindsay Nickell, Reading Curriculum Coordinator 

As Reading Curriculum Coordinator at Project Transformation, I get the privilege of traveling to all of our after-school program sites on a weekly basis. While this can sometimes get hectic, I enjoy the ability to see the amazing and unique things that happen at each of the seven site locations. One of these amazing things happened just a few weeks ago when Shelly Slater, from WFAA Channel 8 News in Dallas, decided to do a feature on Project Transformation (with a special emphasis on the Reading Program!). I spent an afternoon with the interns and children at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church as Shelly and her camera crew followed us around and recorded a typical day at our program site. Although it was an exhausting day, I was completely honored to be a part of the experience!

If you are interested, you can visit our website and watch all of the Shelly’s Bookworms segments featuring Project Transformation!

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I feel like many people would assume I was honored because I’m the Reading Coordinator and the Reading Program was being featured on the news. Well, that was definitely one of the reasons I was so touched by the experience, but I honestly had to hold back some tears as I watched children who were incredibly shy at the beginning of the school year read Dr. Seuss books aloud for the camera crew. I was proud to see a few of the children who at first were less than thrilled about reading get incredibly excited about telling the cameras why they love reading so much! Others became equally frustrated because they said that they loved so many books they could not possibly pick their favorite to say in front of the cameras. These were all incredibly sweet moments that I was able to witness!

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These reading moments, though, were not what made me the most proud that day. I’ve been around Project Transformation for almost four years now and I cannot begin to count the number of times that I have heard about how much of an impact the college interns have on the children we serve. We may not see the results instantly, but transformation is occurring. As a returning intern, I’ve had to remind new interns on rough days that even though you may not see changes right now in the kids’ behavior, what you are teaching them will impact them somewhere down the road, maybe long after their days at Project Transformation are over.

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That day at Chapel Hill with the news crew was so amazing because I actually got to see the results of so many things that we’ve taught the kids over the course of the past few months. One of my favorite examples of this was when one of our more disruptive students begged me to have a chance to read to the camera, and reluctantly, I allowed it. What I saw next was shocking! He walked into that room with the camera crew with so much maturity and on his best behavior. He introduced himself, shook hands with the camera man, and thanked them for taking their time to be at Chapel Hill. Before he left the room the camera crew asked him if he’d like to say anything to the Project Transformation interns on camera and, though I was worried what he might say, he shocked me once more by saying the sweetest things about the program, all of his interns, and ME. This happened repeatedly as child after child showed their gratitude for the interns and for the Reading Program. I was amazed and I didn’t want the day to end!

So whether you’re a teacher, a mentor, a parent, or a Project Transformation intern, you often don’t instantly see your influence and lessons immediately reflected in the children with whom you work, but sometimes, with some time, you do!  And those moments are what make the hard work and effort all worth it!

Intern of the Month: Berenice

Name: BereniceIntern of the month - Bernice

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Area of study/vocation: Christian ministry

Project Transformation site location: Christ’s Foundry UMC

What was your favorite book as a child?: As a child my favorite book was Where the Wild Things Are.

How many years have you been with Project Transformation: I have been a participant in the program since it first began at the same site where I now serve as an intern.

What is one important lesson you have learned from the children you serve at Christ’s Foundry?: I have learned to take a new look on life from the moment I began to work with the children. Children have so much curiosity, enthusiasm, and of course energy. Just by observing them, you see how full of life they are. By simply following their way of living and trying to have a little enthusiasm or curiosity would make anyone’s day better.

How has Project Transformation helped you prepare for the future?: Project Transformation has personally helped me because interacting with the children has brought to me a passion for teaching. This is helping me prepare to become a Youth Pastor; a career that allows me to teach youth about the Word of God. I have enjoyed spending time with children so much that I eventually would like to become an elementary school teacher as well. Working with the children is preparing me for that potential career because I am not only interacting with children in an educational setting, but I am also making an effort to get to know each and every one of the kids on a personal level.

How do you see Project Transformation being a catalyst for change in our community?: There are many children who are not able to do their homework at home due to the lack of education their parents have. Project Transformation is allowing for them to get the help they need. This is helping the children succeed in their work which will eventually prepare them for future success. The programs that Project Transformation offers keep children out of the streets where they are bound to get into trouble and instead provides them with a place where they can feel safe and where they will get the support of other friends that are participating as well.

Lessons on Team Building and Cultivating Leadership

Felipe Alambar, Site Coordinator at Christ’s Foundry UMC 

Our story starts during homework time at Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Church where I serve as a Site Coordinator with Project Transformation. One day, I was trying to help my students who had homework to complete. However, while I was doing so, the few students who didn’t have homework were proving to be a distraction. I had activities for them to complete, but they finished them so quickly that they were left with nothing else to do. So, I decided to bring an Interactive Marble Run, which is essentially a marble rollercoaster, for the students without homework to build.

What happened over the course of the next two weeks amazed me! The kids learned important life skills through the process of building this machine as a team. At first, they tried to copy the picture on the box, but there were just too many parts. So, they decided to use the instructions rather than only going off of the image displayed on the cover. They built a quarter of the machine when they realized they had used some of the wrong parts and would have to tear the whole thing down and start all over again. They continued to work on the machine, but started to grow frustrated because it was taking them much longer to build the machine than they first had anticipated. They remained persistent throughout the week though, and continued to work on the project.

The following week, the students decided to choose a leader who would be in charge of directing the other students so they wouldn’t make any further mistakes. One of our fifth grade boys, Carlos, took charge and became the leader of the building group. The following day, the students made progress and were almost halfway done with the project. Despite their improvement though, Carlos was struggling a bit as the leader. He needed someone else to help him organize what needed to be done. I was not the only one who saw this need. One of my  third grade girls, Stephanie, saw that this project needed someone to distinguish tasks and help with the organizational structure,  so she stepped up and helped Carlos lead the group.  By Wednesday, they were almost done with the project. There were only a few more pieces to add, but the younger students were getting frustrated and tired of working on the project. Carlos and Stephanie were determined to finish however, so they motivated the other kids to keep going and not to quit. On Thursday, they finally finished the project after two weeks of persistent work. They were so happy with what they accomplished and I was glad that they were able to do it on their own.  The completed project was amazing, but what the kids learned throughout those two weeks was much more valuable. They learned to be patient, to persevere through the hard work, to work together as a group, and to be motivating leaders.  I am very proud of what they accomplished and of the two leaders who stepped up when the need presented itself.  Who knew an activity that was meant to keep kids from distracting others would be so rewarding in the end?

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Intern of the Month: Lorena

Name: Lorena

Hometown: Dallas, TexasFullSizeRender (2)

University/College: El Centro College

Area of study/major: Medical Assistant

Project Transformation site location: Oak Cliff UMC

What was your favorite book as a child?: As a child my favorite book was If you Give a Pig a Pancake. 

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 Oak Cliff?: That every child will react and respond to things differently, so you must be able to compromise so that everyone is content.

What is one thing you hope to learn during your time as an intern this year?: I hope to learn to communicate with a group of people more effectively so that everyone’s thoughts and ideas are heard and possibly put into action.

How is Project Transformation helping you prepare for the future?: It is helping me become prepared for the unexpected because working with kids involves flexibility and that will be an amazing tool for a future career and in life.

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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