Comments off · Posted by Staff in Uncategorized
Last month Outreach and Development specialist Josh Diamond sat down with Migrant Student Advocate Elisa Torres-González to talk a little bit about her and the work of the program. The Migrant Education Program is a federally funded program that works with migrant farm and poultry workers in the Shenandoah Valley. They work closely with schools to ensure students graduate. The program qualifies highly mobile workers and gives supplemental educational and social support for migrant students so they meet high academic standards. The below interview will give you a little snap shot into the work and life of Elisa and her students. Enjoy!
JD: Elisa, you are from Puerto Rico and had a long journey to get here. Tell me a little about that Journey.
ET: Before I graduated college in Puerto Rico I went to Austin, TX for a competition with my husband Edgar where we were presenting on some projects. While there, he was encouraged to apply for his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. At the time I had a cousin in Delaware as well. When I arrived I knew little English. My first job was as a recreational leader at an afterschool recreation program. At that time we were really just living day by day, trying to figure out how to live in a new place. I remember when I got my first check, it was for $250.00 and we had to spend all of it on jackets. Coming from Puerto Rico we did not own a single Jacket!
JD: What did you study in Puerto Rico and how does it influence your education work?
ET: I studied geology at the University of Puerto Rico. During my college years I worked at the Seismic Network of Puerto Rico, analyzing earthquake data from the Caribbean region. While at the Seismic Network, I had the opportunity to create an educational program that taught people about earthquakes, their risks and the science behind it. It was then that I discovered I really like to share my knowledge with others and enjoy teaching. When I moved to Delaware I sought an opportunity as an educator. I became a teacher assistant and later a bi-lingual science teacher. It made sense to me to teach science, and to teach science to students whose first language is Spanish.
JD: How have you come to work with the Office on Children and Youth?
ET: My husband was offered a position at Merck in Elkton and we needed to take this opportunity. I was not excited about leaving because I felt very appreciated at my school in Delaware. But when we got to Harrisonburg I was really surprised by the diversity, which I liked. I really love to learn from other cultures and that’s important for my family and me. I first worked as a teacher assistant in the Newcomer Program at Skyline Middle School and really enjoyed that. I got to meet and become close with students from all over the world, many of them having come to this country in a traumatic way. I enjoyed the position but was looking for something with a little more responsibility. I heard of a position opening up at OCY with the Migrant Education Program and was interested so I applied and got the Migrant Student Advocate position.
JD: What do you do at Migrant Ed?
ET:I advocate for migrant students who qualify for the program. I make sure they are in school and have the resources they need to be successful. Another goal is to teach parents how to advocate for their own resources and children. I help teachers work with students when there are behavioral issues. When this is the case, I meet with teachers and principles to explain the situation of the student so they better understand the root of their behavior. This way we come up with creative ways to help students change their behavior instead of punishing without having an understanding of the life and struggle of a child. I think an unofficial part of my job is to really admire families and students. I am realizing that it’s really important to admire people. Everyone needs that and many of our families get very little of it. I think it’s important just to look at someone and tell them they are amazing and that I really admire them for what they do.
JD: You yourself have had to learn English as your second language, how does this Influence your work with others learning English?
ET: It gives me the ability to connect with other ELL students and know what they are struggling with. All immigrant students arrive here differently but there are a few commonalities in what it means to immigrate somewhere. Sometimes it’s assumed that because we have an accent we don’t understand certain things, which isn’t always true. I have found that I can be a role model for students who have experienced immigration. I know what it’s like for people to make assumptions about your ability to achieve or understand. I think language and culture are an advantage and something to share, not something to overcome.
JD: What are some of the benefits families get from being in the program?
ET: Parents and students have an ally in getting needed social and educational services for their children. Having an ally helps in building confidence; with some help things can happen for them. Some of our families don’t always feel welcome where they go so I try to make sure they feel welcome and give them the support they need. I also challenge students and families when needed and I really push them to be better. Another benefit of Migrant Education is our Parent Advisory Council, a group of migrant parents that meets regularly. Here families and parents have a space to tell me how I am doing and can talk about their issues and struggles as parents and get advice or support. They learn skills to better help their children with schoolwork.
JD: Tell us some ways your work brings you joy?
ET: I really get a lot of joy from tutoring and mentoring individual students. It makes me happy to work with students over time, develop a relationship with the students and slowly see them change and step into more responsibility and maturity. I would say the other thing that I love is to see parents step up in ways they have not in the past, or begin to read more and get more involve with school work and activities with their children.
JD: How do you measure success for your students or work?
ET: I know things are going well when students request to see me. It can be hard to work with young people who have been through a lot, there are trust issues. So being in relationship and having someone care about your opinion of him or her is a success for me. When I see a child grow into confidence I know I am doing a good job. I also work with a lot of single moms who feel they are not capable of educating their children. I have seen mothers come from this place to a place where they take control of there lives and decide to take a part in their child’s education. Our families go through a lot and it amazes me how resilient they are, especially when they make positive choices for themselves and their families. These changes lead to higher grades and participation in school, which is our goal.
JD: Is there a favorite story you can share with us regarding a certain child or family?
ET: I worked with a middle school aged girl for about two years, tutoring and mentoring her twice a week. When I began with her she was very resistant and very shy. I worked with her and persisted and showed her I cared about her and eventually she began to flower into this confident young girl. Her grades improved and she became more outgoing and confident. After working with her for some time her mother turned to me and thanked me saying, “I never thought my kid could change in this way.” This moment reminded me of why I have this job.
JD: Is there anything going on at Migrant Ed now that you are excited about?
ET: Right now I am really excited about a new class we have started for preschoolers and their parents. Parents are their children’s first teachers so we are doing this class to teach parents how to get their children ready for kindergarten. I’ve been really enjoying this new initiative. People seem to be getting a lot from it, parents and children.
If you are interested in volunteering with the program or tutoring a student please contact Elisa at firstname.lastname@example.org
OCY’s 6th Annual Handbag Designer Bingo was a great success this year! Over 150 supporters and community members came out to have fun and play Bingo in support of the OCY! With your help, we raised over $6,000 for our local youth programs including the Reading Road Show-Gus Bus, Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Youth Council, Youth Suicide Prevention, Migrant Education, and Smart Beginnings. With your participation we are able to increase childhood literacy, build strong youth leaders, and create needed statistics and analysis of youth issues in the area. The funds assist in preventing teen pregnancy, ensure migrant children have access to a good education, and increase the capacity of youth workers in preventing youth suicide. Bingo is one of our two big fundraising events of the year (the other being the Lucky Duck Race in the Spring) and the funds raised GREATLY enable our innovative programs to do new and exciting things. Thank you to all of the sponsors and participants! We hope to have an even bigger turn out next year and of course an array of beautiful Designer Handbags! See you next year!
Thank you to our generous sponsors!!
Event Sponsor Level $2,500 or more
The Printing Express
Chick-fil-A; Aramark; United Bank; Which Wich
Layman, Diener & Borntrager Insurance Agency; Premier Shine Auto Detailing; Daily News Record; Gentry Photography; Katie Christenson
Susan Stewart, Marie Appleby, Willow Springs Spa, Windi Davis (Independent Thirty-One Consultant)
$49 and under
Salad Creations, Wood Grill Buffet, McAlister’s Deli, Brown & Co. Hair Design, Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt, Smoothie King, The Cheese Shop
If you want to be added to our Designer Handbag Bingo contact list please email email@example.com.”
Interested in meeting other young people in the area working to build a better world?
Come and learn what the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Youth Council is all about and have fun while you’re doing it! Meet other youth in the area working on youth issues, community service, and youth empowerment.
Games/Prizes/Food and more!
Youth Council is a Youth-led, adult-guided, youth group out of the Office and Children and Youth at JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services.
Youth Council will meet weekly starting Oct 2nd from 6:00-8:00pm at Blue Ridge Hall (across from Costco)
for more information contact Josh at 540-568-3666 or firstname.lastname@example.org
join our event on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/events/476537129037857/
Comments off · Posted by Staff in Uncategorized
A Note From the Director
Hi! Thanks so much for visiting our website! My name is Kim Hartzler-Weakley, director at the Office on Children and Youth. I am so proud of our work and the difference OCY makes in the lives of children and young people. For this reason we would like to share with you more about our programs through a series called Program Spotlight. Over the next few months we will give you an inside look into our programs; who runs them, what they do, and what their work looks like in the community. Each month we will “spotlight” a program to give you a deeper sense of what goes on at OCY. I am so excited to introduce to you the first Program Spotlight featuring the work of the Gus Bus. Take a look and thanks so much for all you do! Enjoy!
Our first Program Spotlight takes the form of an interview between Outreach and Development Specialist Josh Diamond, and program coordinator of the Gus Bus, Natalie Duda. Beginning in 2002, the Reading Road show is a mobile literacy program that visits neighborhoods in Rockingham county, Harrisonburg City, and Page county. The Gus Bus provides literacy programming and allows children to check out books each week. For more information on the Gus Bus and its schedule go to The Reading Road Show tab on this website.
JD: Do you enjoy reading? What sorts of books do you enjoy reading?
ND: My mom is a librarian and has always loved books. She taught me that reading is very important and instilled in me a love for reading. I enjoy most books but tend towards fiction. My favorite book in the world is Child of My Heart by Alice McDermott. I’ve come back to it off and on since I was twelve or thirteen. Falling in love with this story at an early age showed me that reading could be enjoyable. I think reading at an early age helps create a sense of imagination, which is important. Knowing how to read and write at an early age helps children imagine, and imagination is key to visioning possibilities of something different from what you know. No matter where you come from, if you can read and write, then you can imagine and make anything of yourself.
JD: I know you went to JMU, What did you study and how do you use this on the Gus Bus?
ND: I studied Social Work. My degree taught me to look at children, especially children who are survivors of poverty or abuse, from a Biopsychosocial-cultural perspective. In other words, looking at a child’s environment and culture for cues on how to understand behavior. This got me to look at things beyond “bad behavior” and to analyze the environment of the child and how that might be effecting or creating the behavior at hand. On the Gus Bus many of our children come to us with tough behavioral issues, and this perspective helps me see behavioral issues connected to something bigger and gives me patience and understanding.
JD: How have you come to work with the Office on Children and Youth?
ND: I started out as a social work intern here and I loved working at OCY. I was treated with respect, was taught and mentored a lot by staff—I felt like an equal. I have always been passionate about early-childhood literacy and the importance of reading and writing at an early age and feel I’m good with kids. When I was done with the internship I saw a position open to work with the Gus Bus and decided to apply and luckily got the job. Given my passion for children, literacy, and love for the staff, working with the Gus Bus seemed like a great fit for me. And it is!
JD: Tell us some ways the Gus Bus and your work bring you joy?
ND: I love working with kids. My name is actually hard to say for most children, so when a child learns to pronounce my name and remembers it, it makes me happy. That’s small but important for me. It really brings me joy when kids come to the bus consistently and understand the process. They get on the bus, sit down to learn and read and are really excited to be there, excited to read and learn.
JD: Who is the Gus Bus for? Who comes to the Gus Bus?
ND: The Gus Bus is for anyone really, but mainly we are a reading road show for children ages 2-12, with most participants being ages 5-12. We invite parents on the bus to participate in what we do as well. The Gus Bus is usually in low-income neighborhoods where transportation is an issue. The Bus goes to these neighborhoods, stops in a central location and any child or parent in that neighborhood is welcome to participate on the bus and in the activities.
JD: Why mobile literacy?
ND: The Gus Bus is a unique program that eliminates the transportation barrier in receiving literacy services. (This is especially true in rural areas where things are very far apart and harder to access) Lots of the kids in the neighborhoods we visit don’t have the opportunity to go to the library, stay after school, or receive supplemental services due to lack of transportation. The Gus Bus is a safe space for kids, some of who don’t have a learning-centered environment where they can study or read. The Gus Bus makes kids feel special and prioritizes their growth and learning where kids live, in their own neighborhoods. We also give every kid who comes to the bus a food bag and a snack while on the bus, which is important for kids who come to the bus hungry.
JD: When the Gus Bus stops in your neighborhood, why would you want to jump on the Bus?
ND: The Gus Bus is a fun place to be. There are activities, snacks, and you always leave with a book. We have Spanish, English, and bi-lingual books. We have little celebrations and arts and crafts. Like I said earlier, it’s a safe place where kids can come and feel special for an hour, meet new friends, have a snack and participate in fun activities. The Gus Bus gives kids more access to reading, to free books and prepares them for kindergarten. Another benefit the bus provides that’s not directly tied to academics is the healthy relationships that are created with adults and other kids. Parents and kids feel it is a safe space so we have positive relationships with neighborhoods, which helps grow and nourish communities of literacy.
JD: How do you measure success for the Gus Bus?
ND: By the number of kids excited to be on the bus every week who understand the structure of how the bus works, who ask questions and are ready to learn. When this happens I feel we are doing our job.
JD: Is there a favorite story you can share with us regarding a certain child?
ND: Yes. Very recently actually. There was a young girl on the bus who, when leaving, asked if we had any books that she could bring to her cousin whom she was visiting soon in el Salvador. I didn’t want to give her books to check out to bring to El Salvador fearing they might not make it back, but I told her I would take some to her house at a later date that she could have. So I packed up two bags of books and brought them over to her house. When I got to her house she looked at me with such surprise, excitement, and joy. It was almost like she didn’t expect me to come through for her. She was so happy that she had some English books to bring to her family in El Salvador to help them learn what she has been learning on the Gus Bus. Her family invited me in and fed me. This little moment touched my heart; she wanted to take what she learned on the Bus and share that with others.
You can email Natalie directly at email@example.com or call her at 540-568-5814 to inquire about volunteer opportunities.
check out the Gus Bus on Facebook!
Mark your calendars for October 6th for the annual OCY Designer Handbag Bingo fundraiser – featuring COACH, Dooney & Bourke, and Vera Bradley bags! We have beautiful, elegant bags this year and you don’t want to miss it! Join us for a fun evening in support of local youth and children’s programs! All proceeds support direct service programs of the Office on Children and Youth.
Where: Weyers Cave Community Center
When: Saturday, October 6th. Doors open at 3:00, games begin at 5:00
How much: Pre-sale tickets = $10 (for 1 card);
Tickets at the door = $15 (for 1 card)
*Each person only needs one ticket. Additional bingo cards can be purchased at the door for $5 each or 5 cards for $20.
*Get your tickets early for special pre-sale only games and door prizes!
Thank you to our sponsors!
Major Event Sponsor – The Printing Express
The Daily News Record
Call 540-568-5814 or email Natalie Duda at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to order tickets today. Interested in sponsoring a bag or the event? Contact Natalie.
Join our event on Facebook, or like our page to receive Bingo and OCY updates!
We have been receiving a number of phone calls, emails, and inquiries about the teen pregnancy data for Harrisonburg that was included in the 2011 Youth Data Survey Report released on Monday. Mostly, this has stemmed from an error in the story that the Daily News Record ran on Tuesday, June 19th. Below is the editor’s note identifying the mistake:
“Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that for every 1,000 girls age 15-17 in Virginia, 18.8 percent were pregnant in 2011. It should have said that for every 1,000 Virginia girls in that age range, 18.8 were pregnant last year. The corrected version appears below. Also, in today’s print edition, a chart that accompanies the story makes the same error. The chart also says that 54.4 percent of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County girls age 15-17 were pregnant in 2011. It should read that for every 1,000 girls in that age range, 54.4 were pregnant last year.”
While it ISN’T the case that half of all 15-17 year-old girls in Harrisonburg are pregnant, the high rates of teen pregnancy in our community are cause for concern and it is important for the community to work together to reduce the instance of teen pregnancy. The full Youth Data Survey Report can be accessed here: http://www.theocy.org/youth-data-surveys/2011-youth-data-survey/
Comments off · Posted by Staff in Uncategorized
The Office on Children and Youth (OCY) at James Madison University’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services (IIHHS) is pleased to present the Youth Data Survey 2011 for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. The OCY has been working with the community since 1996 to provide key data about local youth behaviors and produce data which enables the community to develop priority areas around youth issues. You can locate and view all of the archived data by clicking the “Youth Data Surveys” tab at the top of the page.
Thank you to everyone who volunteered or assisted in the 2011 Youth Data Survey process. This information helps the community assess needs, ascertain gaps in service, and determine priority areas for our youth. It also assists in bringing in over $1 million to our community each year by allowing agencies access to local data in order to write successful state, federal, and foundation grant applications.
In addition to the data presented in this report, the OCY is available to make specialized presentations for any interested group. Please contact Kim Hartzler-Weakley at 568-7083 or email@example.com with requests.
The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council will be hosting a documentary film screening of Shades of Youth: Youth speak on racism, power, and privilege, followed by a YOUTH-led and centered panel highlighting experiences of race and identity in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County and a discussion of how this issue affects ALL youth in our community.
The event will be held Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 at Court Square Theater. Admission to the event is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Doors open at 7:00pm; the film begins at 7:30pm.
Youth Council students are excited about the opportunity to begin dialogue around a community issue that affects all of us, but is rarely acknowledged and may be difficult to talk about. The purpose of this event is not to place blame or point fingers, but to share real stories that youth of color have experienced in our very own community and begin a discussion about how race and identity affect all of us and what we can do in response.
We hope you can attend! The event is also posted on Court Square Theater’s website: courtsquaretheater.com/shades-of-youth
This year’s Teen Health Fair was held April 10th-11th at Turner Ashby High School and Spotswood High School in the school’s gymnasiums, with over 1200 students participating in the event! Each year, the fair hosts various organizations and agencies that help educate high school students about many diverse issues that relate to their health and over all well-being. Students learned the about the consequences and costs of teen pregnancy, the danger of drugs and alcohol, how tobaccocauses significant damage to the throat and lungs, counseling services in the community, how to suture with AHEC, how to get their groove on with instructionon how to stay fit with the exercising phenomenon, Zumba, and so much more!
By participating in the Teen Health Fair, students were able to gain informed insight about their health in a fun, interactive, and engaging setting. The majority of students, after completing a survey, indicated that they learned a lot from the Teen Health Fair and wished for the fair to be held every year at their high school!
Thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s Teen Health Fair a success!
Information Vendors Included:
Rockingham Co. Sheriff’s Office
Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation
James Madison University Police Department
Strong Families Great Youth
Teen Pregnancy Prevention
Youth Suicide Prevention
Morrison Bruce Center
Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center
The Collins Center
The First Tee of Harrisonburg
American Cancer Society
RMH Nutrition Services
Shenandoah Valley Migrant Education
Hand in Hand Resource Mothers Program
Rockingham Memorial Hospital
The McNulty Center
Atwell Family Chiropractic
Rockingham Harrisonburg ASAP
Crossroads to Brain Injury Recovery
Harrisonburg/Rockingham Health Department
Harrisonburg Community Health Center
Harrisonburg-Rockingham Dental Clinic
Valley Aids Network
Event Sponsors Included:
Rockingham Memorial Hospital Foundation
Community Coalition on Alcohol Abuse
Thanks for those who provided food donations for vendor lunches:
James Madison University Special Events Catering
Mr. Jay’s Bagels
And a special Thank You to Turner Ashby High School and Spotswood High school,
all of the vendors, organizations, and agencies, and everyone who donated their
time and effort to assist in the Teen Health Fair!
Comments off · Posted by Staff in Uncategorized
Saturday, April 28th from 9:30 -12:30p.m. bring your friends and family to the Reading Road Show’s Touch-A-Truck Event! Located at the Chic-Fil-A of Harrisonburg, kids of all ages will get to safely explore a fire engine, police cruiser, a loader, John Deere equipment, a semi, a bus, and so much more!
Event takes place rain or shine. $2 donation per person or $5 for three people.
All donations will be going to the OCY’s Gus Bus Program.