SCANStar: One Year, One Perspective

Just a year ago, Kiesha Boney stepped into her very first volunteer opportunity with SCAN’s Parent Education Program. Since then she’s volunteered 40+ hours, working alongside SCAN’s Children’s Program Coordinator and helping children learn and grow in a structured children’s program while their parents participate in weekly educational support group sessions. We asked Kiesha to share how her first year has gone at SCAN, and we’re delighted to share her thoughts with you this week:

BuildingBlocks: How long have you volunteered with SCAN, and what have you done as a volunteer?
Kiesha: I have been volunteering with SCAN since November 2011. I provide support, care and structured activities for children while their parents participate in SCAN’s Parent Education programs.

BB: Why did you decide to join SCAN as a volunteer?
Kiesha: While pursuing my dream to be a social worker, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with all different types of children and their families. Because of these experiences, I wanted to get involved with SCAN because I whole-heartedly believe in the importance and necessity of its mission to promote the well-being of children, improve parent-child relations and prevent child abuse and neglect.

BB: Describe your favorite SCAN memory.
Kiesha: My favorite SCAN memory was  completing an artistic activity with the children at a parent support group one evening. They were asked to draw an illustration of what they would like to be when they grow up. The children were very excited and used their imaginations to the fullest. It was great to watch them and be a part of their dreaming.

BB: Why have you continued volunteering with SCAN?
Kiesha: I have continued to volunteer with SCAN because the organization is dedicated to supporting, educating and appreciating children, parents AND volunteers.

BB: Has anything about being a SCAN volunteer surprised you?
Kiesha: I was surprised by how supportive the families are to one another.

BB: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What do you do now?
Kiesha: When I was a child I wanted to be involved in fashion when I grew up. Now I am pursuing a career in the field of social work.

BB: What was your favorite book/movie/activity when you were a child?
Kiesha: My favorite activities as a child were dance and karate.

BB: Who was a positive influence in your childhood?
Kiesha: My mother was a positive influence in my childhood and throughout my whole life.

BB:  What are your current interests/jobs/hobbies?
Kiesha: Traveling around the world.

BB: What is something most people don’t know about you?
Kiesha: I enjoy relaxing and listening to books on tape.

BB: What would you tell someone thinking about volunteering with SCAN?
Kiesha: Volunteering with SCAN is a great idea! SCAN is a strong organization truly dedicated to their mission. I’m proud to be a part of their cause.

SCANStar: This is what hope looks like.

“How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

Kaylyn Pennock is certainly not waiting.

You know those people you can always count on to do a good job? The people who make everyone’s eyes light up? Now let me ask – are they teenagers?

In the eyes of SCAN, 16-year-old Kaylyn is one of those stellar people. She makes the SCAN team feel happy and very hopeful for the future.

A childcare volunteer at SCAN’s ABCs of Parenting Class and Parent Support Groups, Kaylyn has been through it all—from toddler tantrums to rambunctious young boys to older youth struggling with schoolwork—and in the midst of every challenging situation, Kaylyn has maintained a loving and compassionate demeanor with ALL the children around her.

So last month, when SCAN’s Parent Education Coordinator Sam Poyta nominated Kaylyn for the Connect with Kids Champion Award, we were ecstatic to hear that she was chosen out of dozens of other Northern Virginia high school students for this well-deserved honor!

Kaylyn is a junior at West Potomac High School studying Early Childhood Development. When asked to describe Kaylyn, her Childhood Development Teacher Ava Bergan said this:

“Kaylyn’s gentle, soft spoken demeanor encompasses her kindness, compassion and commitment to everyone she meets and everything she does”. WOW! We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

On April 23, Sam and AIPC Member Mary Ann Moran from the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families presented Kaylyn with her Connect with Kids Champion Award during her Childhood Development class.

Along with certain bragging rights that come with being a Connect with Kids Award Recipient, all of the spring 2012 Champions will be announced at future Arlington County Board and School Board meetings.

Congratulations just doesn’t say enough, Kaylyn. SCAN is honored to have you as a volunteer and supports you in all of the wonderful things that lie ahead for you (and the people lucky enough to be around you)!

p.s. We hope that Kaylyn’s commitment and impact inspires YOU to volunteer for SCAN! Check out all of our great volunteer opportunities here.

SCANStar: Lori Brooks from WASH-FM

You’ve probably listened to the voice of Lori Brooks while sitting in morning traffic or driving the kids to school. One half of the popular Loo & Lori morning show on WASH-FM, Lori has now also offered her voice to support SCAN’s work to prevent child abuse and neglect in our community. Lori recently taped 3 new Podcasts for Parents — on Positive Communication, Self Care and Divorce — that are available on our website as well as our iTunes channel.

We chatted with Lori about her new connection with SCAN, and are just delighted to share some insight and childhood memories from a favorite local celebrity…

BuildingBlocks: How did you find out about SCAN?
Lori: Clear Channel has been working with SCAN for many years and as a Public Affairs Director at WASH-FM, I thought SCAN’s programs would be something our listeners would benefit from and could spread the word about.

BB: Why did you decide to support SCAN as a volunteer?
Lori: Volunteering is a way to make the world a better place, like SCAN does. In my job I get lots of opportunities to volunteer with great organizations.

BB: Has anything about working as a SCAN volunteer surprised you?
Lori: How streamlined everything is. SCAN has something for everyone and they’ve really thought out what they teach and provide and made it easy for people to use their services.

BB: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What do you do now?
Lori: Growing up I always thought I would be an attorney or a veterinarian! Now, I have been doing radio for more than 30 years, currently on the air with Loo Katz, as Loo and Lori, mornings at  WASH-FM, 97.1.

BB: What is your favorite childhood memory?
Lori: My mother would whistle when she would do housework, like dusting, and I loved it! That and getting my Swingy doll in third grade.

BB: What was your favorite movie when you were a child?
Lori: Without a doubt, it was National Velvet!

BB: If you were given a free flight anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Lori: Wherever I could do the most good being there.

BB: If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Lori: Nuts, all kinds of nuts!

BB: What is something most people wouldn’t know about you?
Lori: I had a pair of Black Vultures (not Turkey Vultures) that had two chicks in my old dilapidated barn shed last year. They’re gone now, but I really miss them!  It was so fun watching the babies learn to fly.

We’re thrilled to produce our new Podcasts for Parents thanks to a grant from AT&T and support from local celebrities like WASH-FM’s Lori Brooks and NBC4’s Leon Harris (you can read his BuildingBlocks interview here.) Learn more about (and subscribe to) our podcasts here!

A SCANStar Farewell to Susan Britton

This month we bid adieu to Susan Britton, a member of SCAN’s volunteer family for more than half a decade.

Every week, Susan served as the Children’s Program Coordinator for SCAN’s Monday night Parent Support Group. This month she’ll oversee her last evening of children’s activites to allow time for other personal and professional opportunities.

“I’ll miss the wonderful dedicated staff and volunteers I have had the pleasure of working with over the years,” said Susan, “but I think I will especially miss the children. They are amazing people and have taught me so much!”

Susan’s enthusiasm for organizing developmentally-appropriate activities has been a blessing for the parents, SCAN staff and volunteers who work side-by-side with her each week.

“Susan is obviously very dedicated,” said Juliet Mason, a SCAN volunteer who appreciated how welcoming Susan was when she first started helping with the group. “I think in the year and half I’ve been working with her, she’s only missed three Mondays,” said Juliet. “She knows all the kids, even those that don’t come regularly; she remembers them and their names instantly.”

“Susan is a volunteer you can always count on,” said Shannon May, SCAN’s previous Parent Education Coordinator, who spent 4 years working alongside Susan in numerous capacities.”Her energy and flexibility to be creative and adjust to working with children and their sometimes challenging behaviors is admirable.”

Susan enjoyed giving her time and talents to support SCAN’s Parent Support Groups because, as she puts it, “Children learn how to take good care of each other by sharing a toy, inviting someone else to play or standing up when someone is being teased. That sense of responsibility for each other and caring is really refreshing and re-energizing, especially when it comes from a child who did not have or use those social skills when they first came to group”.

We will miss Susan and the wealth of knowledge she has shared with SCAN as well as the parents and children we have been privileged to serve together over the past five years. Luckily, SCAN will remain in touch with Susan professionally at the three SCAN-supported developmental playgroups she coordinates as part of her work at the Center for Alexandria’s Children.

We’re sending a special thank you to Susan this month, for the hours upon hours of expertise and care she has put towards enhancing the lives of children in the Alexandria community!

SCANStar: CASA Volunteer Vicki Strimel

Eleven years and more than 20 CASA children later, Vicki Strimel is a volunteer who continues to be an incredible advocate for children in our community. Since being sworn in as a CASA volunteer in the fall of 2000, Vicki has helped those 20+ children have safe, stable homes where they’ve been able to thrive. Her calm demeanor and willingness to go above and beyond during a case have an even greater impact because she gives parents involved the respect, support and encouragement that makes a difference for the entire family. Being a CASA volunteer can be a challenging responsibility. So how has Vicki remained so committed and effective for more than a decade? We sat down with her to find out:

BuildingBlocks: How long have you volunteered with SCAN and what have you done as a volunteer?
Vicki: I’ve been a CASA for ten years.  My focus has been on each case I have been assigned, doing whatever I could to help children to be safe and to be nurtured.

BB:  Why did you decide to join SCAN as a volunteer?
Vicki: It was hard to resist an opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of children in our community.

BB:  Describe your favorite SCAN memory.
Vicki: There have been several occasions when I was present that parents in my cases graduated from Alexandria Drug Court.  The process for them was long and involved a lot of work and personal commitment. To witness the happiness and pride of these parents, their families and the professionals who helped them along the way has been my most cherished memory.  Lots of tears of joy have been shed! [BB: Wondering what Alexandria Drug Court is? More than 10 years ago, SCAN’s CASA Program and the Alexandria Juvenile Court collaborated on a Model Court Project. As part of that project, an Alexandria Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC) was created to focus on parents entering substance abuse treatment more quickly and families being more likely to be reunited.]

BB: Why have you continued volunteering with SCAN?
Vicki: It has been a great experience for learning and emotionally rewarding for me as well.

BB: Has anything about being a SCAN volunteer surprised you?
Vicki: I have been both surprised and pleased to observe the level of commitment of those who work to help and support children and families.

BB: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  What do you do now?
Vicki: As a child, I thought about becoming a nurse, but as an adult, I became a Manager of Human Resources for a large consulting firm.  Now, I am retired from my profession but remain very active with my family, community and parish.

SCANStar: Leon Harris

He’s a local celebrity. He’s a dad. And he just happens to be a friend of SCAN, too. We’ve watched him on the ABC7 evening news for years, but we didn’t meet him in person until he emceed our Child Abuse Prevention Month kick-off event last year where he–literally–gave out his email address to all 200 guests (many of them working in the child welfare community) and asked to be contacted for stories. We were hooked.

Fast forward a few months, and Leon was helping us again. After receiving a grant from AT&T to begin producing a series called Podcasts for Parents, Leon agreed to offer his well-recognized voice to record the audio for the first three podcasts. He talks here about meeting SCAN and looking ahead at other ways to support our mission:

BuildingBlocks: When did you first volunteer with SCAN, and what have you done as a volunteer?
Leon Harris: I’ve never really volunteered with SCAN in the traditional sense. I emceed the Allies in Prevention Awards Luncheon for them last year and had a wonderful time meeting such committed people. Then, this fall, I helped them record their first three Podcasts for Parents on Anger Management, Positive Discipline and the Pause for a Child campaign.

BB: Why did you decide to support SCAN?
Leon: I can’t think of a better way to use my time, resources and support than to assist in any way those who are making a better world possible for kids. I don’t think a day has gone by over the nearly thirty years I’ve been involved in covering the world that I haven’t seen, read or heard something about the plight of a child somewhere that broke my heart. With all the things we’ve learned from watching history unfold, I’m amazed that we still must convince people that a small investment of love in a child, and some effort in giving them a safe and nurturing environment benefits us ALL! That’s why I support groups that do the good work that SCAN does.

BB: Has anything about SCAN surprised you?
Leon: I’m in the process of learning as much as I can about SCAN. In fact, I can promise you that in the next few weeks you will see a report on my newscast about the necessary and selfless work that SCAN and its leaders are doing in our communities!

BB: What is something most people wouldn’t know by looking at you?
Leon: I went to Ohio University (where I met my wife) and began my career as an unpaid intern at CNN in Atlanta. I eventually became an anchor on CNN, and then came to WJLA in 2003.

In September, thanks to Leon’s help, we launched SCAN’s Podcasts for Parents on iTunes, and plan to record additional segments this month with another local celebrity (stay tuned for that announcement!) Be sure to subscribe to our podcasts today for future updates and new shows as they are available!

SCANStar: Meaghan Morris

It’s volunteers like Meaghan Morris who make our ABCs of Parenting Class a special experience for the whole family. While parents are engaged in lessons with class facilitators, their children spend time with Meaghan and other volunteers who teach lessons on correlating topics, engage in meaningful conversations, have fun and provide a supportive, energetic ear to both kids and their moms and dads. (Did we mention kids also get to enjoy yoga and help prepare a healthy meal thanks to partners YoKid…Stretch Your Limits and The Regal Fig Food Co.!?)

We are so grateful for Meaghan and the other volunteers who truly make these classes so successful. They are changing lives and strengthening families every time they volunteer! Don’t forget to check out past SCANStars to meet more of our dedicated volunteers, program participants, and program facilitators who help us build hope for the children and families in our community.

BuildingBlocks: How long have you volunteered with SCAN, and what have you done as a volunteer?

Meaghan Morris: I have been a SCAN volunteer for almost 2 years as a lead teacher of the kids ages 5 and older at the ABCs parenting classes.

BB: Why did you decide to join SCAN as a volunteer?

Meaghan: After getting a job with the government in DC, I realized my life consisted of only work, gym, and social events. I have always volunteered or taught/tutored in some capacity and realized that was missing. I looked up Spanish-speaking volunteer opportunities on volunteernet.org and came across SCAN. After meeting with several of the SCAN employees, I became aware of what a great organization it is, and promptly signed up!

BB: Describe your favorite SCAN memory.

Meaghan: Choosing just one favorite memory is impossible – there are just too many. I’ll pick two: The first is a memory of a parent of one of the kids in my class. The parent approached me after the final celebration of the last class and, having never spoken to me before, told me that the relationship between the parent and the child had matured and improved so much since the beginning of the eight-week course. The parent thanked me for having worked one-on-one with the child on several occasions, attributing much of the child’s success to our classroom activities. It was a very rewarding and happy conversation.

The second memory is of a conversation we were having in our classroom one night, when one child began describing a difficult home situation. Another child, having little to no experience with any disruptions in his/her home life, expressed concern and confusion at the classmate’s story. Before I could jump in to redirect the conversation, all the students in the class began to open up and tell their own home stories, comforting each other in their own way. It was a safe, open space for conversation, all created by the children themselves.

BB: Why have you continued volunteering with SCAN?

Meaghan: I believe in SCAN’s mission and have seen first-hand over and over again the benefits and positive outcomes of the ABCs of Parenting class. It would be worth it to help out even just one parent or one child, and to know that hundreds are reached each year through the program is just incredible.

BB: Has anything about being a SCAN volunteer surprised you?

Meaghan: What has surprised me on numerous occasions is when a parent or child approaches me to let me know that a conversation or action that we shared really changed their perspective on things and helped them move the relationship with their family forward. I have learned that seemingly standoff-ish parents are often just quiet or shy  are often the ones who get the most out of the class. I have been surprised on numerous occasions by parents that seemed uninterested in the class who then approach me and let me know that SCAN has meant so much to them and their families.

BB: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What do you do now?

Meaghan: I was always interested in the world, and in global events as I got older. I studied international affairs and now work at USAID – U.S. Agency for International Development – whose mission is to support long-term and equitable growth across the globe through programs in economic growth, agriculture, trade, global health, education, humanitarian assistance and conflict prevention. I am currently a strategy analyst in the Program Office for the Asia and Middle East Bureaus.

BB: What was your favorite movie when you were a child?

Meaghan: Anything Disney! (Not much has changed since then…)

BB: If you were given a free flight anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Meaghan: I would go to Ireland and Italy where my families are from.

BB: If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Meaghan: Pasta or Ice Cream!

BB: What is something most people wouldn’t know by looking at you?

Meaghan: I have a humongous family and am very close with each and every one of them. I also LOVE kids!

SCANStar: Jackie Rodriguez

Jackie Rodriguez is a SCAN renaissance woman. Before she took on the role of backup facilitator for Educational Parent Support Groups, she participated in SCAN’s ABCs of Parenting Classes and Support Groups. Her involvement with SCAN for nearly eight years has made her this week’s SCANStar.

And for those of you who didn’t see last week’s installment, SCANStar will be a regular feature on BuildingBlocks that highlights our dedicated volunteers, program participants, and program facilitators. Get to know the serious and silly things about the people who make SCAN great!

BuildingBlocks: How did you get involved with SCAN, and what is your current role in our programs? 

Jackie: I’ve always been a single parent and have never been married. When my son was five, we went to the library and saw a sign that said “help with parenting and support.” So we went to the first parent support group meeting, and I just kept going. This is my only support because I don’t have family here. They all live in New Mexico or Chicago. Then I started going to ABCs of Parenting. Around four years ago, I got started with facilitation for support groups as needed.

What do you like about volunteering with SCAN?

It helps me know that I’m not alone. I know there are other parents out there struggling with raising their kids, and that all of us can share and give advice. We all share ideas and try to work out something that can fit for our kids. Knowing that I’m not alone—that’s the main thing.

What do you enjoy most about facilitating Educational Parent Support Groups?

I enjoy hearing what other people have to say, learning from them, and learning what they’re going through. I like getting feedback about to how make group better. So many parents need support and they just don’t get it. They always make excuses. I like listening to other parents, and that makes me feel better.

Describe your favorite SCAN memory.

It’s hard to say because they’re all pretty intense. I remember times when we’ve had workshops to bring in guest speakers. During the last workshop we had we brought in pizza, all the kids and parents ate, and we shared ideas.

What do you think is the most important skill a parent can have?

Listening. I know when I go to these support groups that listening is important. Especially with children, I’ve learned the hard way that I need to listen because I always interrupt. The number one skill is listening, not criticizing your children, and not telling them what to do. Give them a choice. That’s always been my biggest problem. I have so much going on in my head that I miss what my son is saying. Just stop, listen, and relax.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What do you do now?

Me and my sister always played dress up. We always wanted to have kids. Now I work for personnel and human resources at the Department of Agriculture with food and nutrition. I used to work for WIC at the federal level for nine years.  

What is your favorite movie from childhood?

Grease (film)
Image via Wikipedia

Grease.  The original, with Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, came out when I was in junior high/middle school.  I still love the movie.  I could watch it over and over. My son loves it, too.

If you were given a free flight anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I’d love to go to Cancun or something like that, or the Caribbean or Hawaii because I love beaches. I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii because I don’t need to get my passport renewed. Anywhere with beaches and islands makes me happy.

What is something most people wouldn’t know by looking at you?

One is that I’m Hispanic. Whenever people talk to me they think I’m not Spanish because I don’t have a dark complexion. My ancestors are from Spain.

SCANStar: Christine Chambers

SCANStar will be a regular feature on BuildingBlocks that highlights our dedicated volunteers, program participants, and program facilitators. Get to know the serious and silly things about the people who make SCAN great!

This week’s SCANStar is CASA volunteer Christine Chambers, who has advocated for children for three years.

BuildingBlocks: How long have you volunteered with CASA, and what have you done as a volunteer?

Christine: I’ve been a CASA volunteer for about 3 years now.  In 2008 I completed my training and accepted my first case involving a teen mother with two children.  Shortly after that case ended I picked up another one involving teenage girl which ended in December of 2010.  I took a short break and I am now looking forward to starting a new case advocating for a 10-year-old girl.

What made you want to become a CASA volunteer?

I was interested in finding a rewarding volunteer experience that involved working with children.  Having grown up in Florida where CASA volunteers are known as Guardian Ad Litems, I immediately thought to check this out; however I discovered to be a GAL in Virginia, you needed to have a law degree, which I did not.  After doing a little more research, I figured out that the CASA program was what I was looking for and I immediately contacted the SCAN/CASA office to learn more.

Describe your favorite CASA memory.

Every CASA has heard the scenario in training—when your recommendations do not match the recommendations of the other professionals who are also working on the case (GAL, social worker, etc.).  This happened to me at one point during my first case.  Dana Taylor was my Case Supervisor at the time and supported my decision to stick to my original recommendations.  During court, the judge immediately picked up on the fact that my recommendations suggested a different plan than the other parties.  I was able to elaborate on my reasoning  and the judge agreed to carry out what I had put forth.  This was especially rewarding since it had been the number one wish of the child I was advocating for during the entire time we worked together.

Why have you continued volunteering with CASA?

It becomes very apparent in court how much insight a CASA can bring to a case.  The beauty of the CASA report is that important elements of the case can be illuminated to help the judge get a clearer picture of the child’s situation and what is in the best interest of  the child.  Being able to see your contributions make such an impact on a child’s life makes it all worth it.

Has anything about being a CASA volunteer surprised you?

How often I find myself thinking about a case.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What do you do now?

I wanted to be a neurosurgeon and now I am a marketer for the American Psychological Association’s databases and electronic products.  While I am sure neurosurgery would have been fascinating, I enjoy the human interaction and psychology that comes with a career in the field of marketing.

What was your favorite movie when you were a child?

The famous "Beauty and the Beast" ba...

Image via Wikipedia

I always looked forward to the Disney cartoon movies that would come out every so often—I was the proud owner of several VHS tapes of them, including Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Aladdin, and so on, but my favorite was surely Beauty and the Beast.

If you were given a free flight anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I love traveling and have been fortunate enough to get a taste of several different regions of the world, but I currently dream of a safari trip in Africa.  I’ve always wanted to stay at Tamimi, Giraffe Manor, where you can observe the herd of Rothschild giraffes that roam the grounds or visit with them as they come up to your hotel room window.

If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

I enjoy foods of all kinds, however I do get tired of even the most delicious things very easily.  If I had to pick one thing that I may not get sick of, it would probably be a fresh fruit salad with a lot of variety in it…and mangoes are a must (which oddly enough I used to dislike until about 3 years ago!)

What is something most people wouldn’t know by looking at you?

How lucky I feel to have the wonderful friends and family that I do.

SCAN