Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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reflection…

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 12:37 am

My whirlwind summer in New York City has come to an end, and life back at home in Charlotte with my parents and my sisters and my dog seems strangely calm in comparison. Looking back on this summer, despite all the challenges, I know that I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. I have grown and developed in ways that I couldn’t have imagined beforehand.

Back in May, I envisioned this summer being full of confirmations. Confirmation of my friendships, of my “life plan”, of my love of city life, of my professional strengths and weaknesses, and confirmation of who I want to become. But life had another plan for my summer. It wasn’t too long before I began to question much of what I wanted to be confirmed. In reality, I became unsure of pretty much everything. It was scary at first, but I began to realize that I needed to start anew. Go back to square one. What do I enjoy? What am I good at? What frustrates me in a work environment? Where do I thrive? Where do I fail? How can I market myself? What are my passions? These are not the kinds of questions I want to be asking myself the summer before my senior year, when many of my friends are well on their way towards job offers and dream careers. But like it or not, this is where I find myself. It seems as though my journey of self-discovery is just beginning.

Interning at the National School Climate Center taught me so much about responsibility, humility, being passionate about your work, how to maintain professional relationships, how to be trustworthy and accountable, when to speak up (and when to hold your tongue), how to be enthusiastic no matter what, the importance of efficiency, and about the world of education reform. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to work with such wonderful, intelligent and passionate people. I also am beginning to refine my understanding of myself and my wants/needs in a work environment. Having your boss affirm your talents after observing you ONLY in a work environment is anirreplaceableexperience. I learned to not dismiss my “people skills” and my ability to communicate as merely a personality trait, but rather as a marketable valuable skill. I learned that in order to feel fulfilled in my job, I need my work to be creative and innovative in some way. I learned that not only to I work well with others, I work best with others and need a collaborative and cooperative environment to thrive. I learned that excel is painfully boring and numbers do not excite me. I learned that no matter how cool the job or meaningful the cause, if you do not enjoy the people you work with you will not be happy. I learned that it takes a very special, very driven type of person to succeed in a research based non-profit.

Everything I learned this summer is because of my internship experience at the National School Climate Center. And although I don’tforeseemyselfpursuing a job at a research-based non profit in the future, I am so thankful for this incredible opportunity. Discovering what you don’t like is just as important as discovering what you do like, and often challenging experiences offer many more opportunities for growth. I am excited by the chance to re-start my journey of self-discovery and continue to explore my interests, passions and talents. As scary and unsettling as it was to discover that my previous life plan was very off-base and that I don’t like being the person I thought I should become, I’m thankful for my summer of realizations.

I’m beginning my senior year with a renewed thirst for exploration, and in desperate need of a Career Services appointment.

 

See you back in the dash,

hcc

brainstorm queens

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 9:58 pm

Annie, Elizabeth and I spent a couple days brainstorming about the possible ways to make anti-bullying efforts accessible and “cool” for high schoolers. We spent time verbally getting ideas out there, talking and discussing what our experiences with bullying were in high school and how we would have reacted to anti-bullying efforts when we were in high school…. and then we also communicated via google docs, typing out our ideas and editing each other’s thoughts. It was really interesting and fun to collaborate. I learned a lot about myself through this exercise. I really enjoy collaboration and team work and that’s where I thrive the most. Being able to let my creative juices flow in a group setting, no matter what the subject matter, is something that energizes me and makes my work seem fulfilling. As I begin the future job hunt, I know that I will pursue work environments that encourage and require creative group-projects because that is how I best communicate myself. This summer has taught me that I certainly do not shine from behind a computer screen!

Here is an excerpt of our brainstorming session… thought perhaps this would give some insight into what we were attempting to accomplish. We gave this to Jonathan at the end of the week and verbally presented our thoughts to him… he seemed quite impressed!

 

WHAT WORKS BRAINSTORM

Main Objectives:

-further bully prevention

-create an appreciative constructive force in schools

-make guidelines for students that complement upstander alliance material

-outline concrete ways for students to get involved

-comprehensive upstander supportive plan

-help students get involved (work with principal, teachers, other students)

-what are effective resources that will engage students?

STRATEGIES

1. Educational Leadership

• reach out to the school newspaper

◦ opinion pieces, interviews with principal, give students voice

◦ compile & publish anonymous student comments about what is working/what needs to be improved

• reach out to community newspapers

◦ publicize student efforts

• student meeting with local politicians to share upstander efforts in their school

• create a buddy system so that “older” upstanders can mentor “younger” upstanders

• class councils – maybe create a new position

◦ under class president called “upstander in chief”(?)

◦ appointed (by teachers/staff/student leaders) instead of elected

◦ ***make sure the upstander in chief is someone respected by students & teachers alike!!

◦ under the main upstander, create an upstander committee for each class (monthly meetings with the principal

• missions of the upstander committee:

o plan activities for their class that engage everyone in anti-bullying efforts…

o raise money to give out t-shirts to raise awareness of upstander alliance (may sound meaningless, but can really act to unify upstanders, make it seem appealing & “cool”)

o principal could provide dinner/dessert as an incentive for students to attend the meetings

2. Engaging the whole school community

• create more interaction between students and administration through breakout sessions held once or twice a month

◦ set up a system for students to praise efforts being made as well as

point out areas for improvement

• generate more community awareness of upstander efforts

◦ get local stakeholders involved through campaigns

◦ have signs and posters in local stores, organize local run/event

• have principal show commitment to students

◦ principal working with them on problems

◦ will foster trust and a working relationship between students and administration, and will create more dialog for change

3. Assessment

• evaluate what percentage of the student body is involved with the anti-bully movement

◦ survey them to see what types of programs/initiatives they would like to see at the school

◦ survey about bullying in their school, then give teachers the same survey about bullying and publicize results. See if their perspectives about bullying in the school match up!

◦ if not enough students are involved in the upstander alliance, what can be done to make it more appealing and get more students involved? (student voice!)

• involve parents

◦ do they notice that their child feels safe and comfortable at school?

• ensure that there are multiple opportunities for ways for students to participate in the movement throughout the year

4. Policies

• have school council leaders & “upstanders in chief” contribute to the bullying guidelines

◦ hold a brainstorming workshop with principal, teachers and student leaders so that the entire school is involved in creating their anti-bullying policies

◦ in addition to punishing the bully, efforts should be made to increase students’ sense of self-esteem and celebrate uniqueness

◦ make sure that students know that all types of bullying are taken seriously

◦ make sure that students are aware and knowledgeable about the standards

 have posters around classrooms, distribute a copy in student planner

5. Practice

• ensure that the entire school community (teachers, students, parents, and administrators) is on the same page by having meetings throughout the year

◦ important to hear the opinions of all stakeholders

◦ hold forum meetings that allow them to have a say in what they want to see done in the school

◦ stress that bullying outside of school is an important issue (i.e. cyberbullying)

 

 

can bully-prevention be cool?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 8:19 pm

A big part of the mission of NSCC, and something that I’m particularly passionate about, is bullying awareness and prevention. Far too many American school children are afraid to attend school because of the tormenting of other students. Although bullying is not a newphenomenon, it is spreading and become crueler at a rate that frightens educators at the city, state and national level. Anti-bullying programs have often been geared towards younger children, with cartoons and interactive computer games and sing-a-long activities. But as more research comes out about bullies, we are learning that often high school aged children, ages 14-18, are at the highest risk for severe bullying activity.

The question is: how can bully prevention programs be “cool” enough to take hold at the high school level?

This is no easy task. Far too often well-meaning educators create programs and events that are deemed “un-cool” and therefore never take hold or spread throughout the campus in the way they intended. As we all remember from high school, all it takes is one group of popular kids claiming something is stupid for the entire school to agree. This has posed a major question for psychologists and bullying experts… how can we target high school students in a way that is meaningful and effective? Jonathan and the other members of NSCC are gathering all the latest bullying research and attempting to create a list of guidelines especially for students in high school to help them become “co-leaders” in the fight against bullying in their schools. The other interns and I played a critical role in this mission because we are closer to the age of high schoolers, and many of us also still have high school aged siblings, so our insight was especially valuable to the NSCC staff. We spent hours brainstormingways to engage high schoolers and how to creatively prevent anti-bullying initiatives from becoming immediate social suicide. It was a fascinating project, we spent time reflecting on our experiences with bullying in high school, and why certain clubs were very popular while other fizzled after one semester. Hearing about other high school experiences and reminiscing on what was important to me back then was a very rewarding experience and I think we really made some progress towards creating the ultimate set of anti-bullying guidelines.

Service Learning

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 6:53 pm

Recently, in the education world, there has been an increase in incorporating community service into lesson plans. Typically these kinds of lesson plans are reserved for high schoolers, but new research suggests that service learning can be useful at any age, even as young as kindergarten. Introducing concepts like giving back, awareness of the needy, heroism, and making a difference can really bring the curriculum to life and help children make connections between the classroom and the world. Another fairly new aspect of service learning research is the impact that it can have on at-risk children in low-income neighborhoods. In previous years, service learning has been reserved for schools in privilegedneighborhoods because lower income schools appeared to “not have anything to give” due to their financial and educational stress. But in reality, low-income schools benefit greatly from service learning based curriculum. It gives the children something unifying and motivating to help them invest in the lessons, and teaches them the importance of making their community a better place. Many people disagree, saying that spending time and effort creating service learning activities takes away from time that could be spent increasing math and reading standardized testing scores… but that is not the case. A public school in Brooklyn that NSCC helped get their service learning curriculum up and running had the biggest increase in test scores in the entire New York City public school system, despite their being labeled as a “failing school” previously. For a variety of reasons, service learning encourages children to invest and succeed and I feel strongly that more needs to be done to teach teachers how service learning can be fun and beneficial to their students.

One of my main final projects at NSCC was to create a Service Learning Database which could then be uploaded to our online Resource Center and accessible by school systems, principals and teachers who are interested in service learning based lessons. I read countless case studies of service learning lessons for every subject and at every grade level, chose the ones that seemed most valuable, and then summarized them and added them to the database. I was also responsible for finding the corresponding “standards” benchmarks which the lesson could complete. This took a lot of careful attention and research on my part, and I’m pretty proud of the completed project! I hope that my database helps teachers get started and makes incorporating service learning into their lesson plans a little easier.

rewind… more details about the institute

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 2:56 pm

Hello friends!

I think it only fair to rewind the clock a bit and share a little bit more about my experience at NSCC’s Summer Institute. It was truly a very rewarding experience, despite the stress of event planning and troubleshooting. My fellow interns and I arrived early on the first day to set up the registration table. We had quite a few goodies to distribute to all the participants: New York Magazine (with Emma Stone blowing a gum bubble), the infamous binders that we slaved over, miscellaneous handouts that didn’t make it into the binder, nametag, NSCC pen, schedule for the Institute, and a copy of our monthly newsletter. Our directors had warned us that educators tend to arrive early and eager, but no warning could have prepared us for what happened. We were to arrive at 7:30, the other directors at 8, and the SI participants at 8:30. Thinking we had plenty of time, we were taking our time getting everything alphabetized and organized…. but at exactly 7:43am, a bubbly gaggle of teachers from Colorado arrived at our table, not phased in the least that they were 47 minutes early. We were like deer in headlights. None of the directors were there yet for backup! Having to think on our feet, we jumped into gear, put our smiley faces on, and directed them to the breakfast table telling them that we’d find them at 8:30 for registration. I was very proud of us, our ability to stay calm in that little moment of crisis, and our professionalism and people skills when dealing with the participants. Although manning the registration table may sound like a meaningless task, it actually was quite important! In a way it set the tone for the entire institute because we were the first people they came into contact with. I feel as though this experience allowed some of my true strengths to shine. Although I have (I hope!) completed my tasks quickly and efficiently this summer, my strengths do not shine behind a computer but rather working with people. Another revelation I’ve had this summer: in order to feel fulfilled at work, I need to be interacting with people. Every day. That’s what I am good at and that’s what I enjoy. I think part of my frustration this summer has been too much independent quiet work in my cubicle, when what I really need is collaboration and brainstorming. I’m grateful that this summer gave me the opportunity to discover my strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully I’ll be better able to decide what type of work environment is right for me after spending time at NSCC this summer.

During the Institute, we were occasionally able to attend the workshops and learn a little bit about what the latest trends are in education reform and school climate improvement. My favorite workshop that I attended was a “strand meeting” of about 20 educators who were interested in learning how school climate improvement initiatives can benefit students with learning disabilities. This teachers, coaches, principals and psychologists care so deeply about the wellbeing of their students and I was really moved. They went around the room before the workshop started and introduced themselves and told a little bit about why they chose this particular strand meeting to attend. I got choked up during many of the introductions because you can tell that these people literally dedicate their entire lives to their students, and are willing to do anything to help them learn and succeed. The passion and the vocation that those educators had was remarkable. The workshop was very informative, talking about how school climate benefits vulnerable students the most because healthy school climate allows all students to feel connected to one another. I enjoyed hearing the practical implementation strategies of school climate reform as well, because so much of what we discuss daily at NSCC is intangible or theoretical.

Being surrounded by so many passionate and interesting people who are interested in EXACTLY what I am interested in made the experience of the Summer Institute so valuable to me. Despite the craziness of the first day, I am grateful for the chance to attend such a prestigious conference and participate in the workshops. All in all, it was a great experience.

catch ya later.

hcc

i am now a professional holepuncher

Thursday, July 12, 2012 3:03 pm

The last day of the 15th annual National School Climate Center Summer Institute has finally arrived. Seeing all our hard work pay off has made this experience so much more meaningful for me. It has truly been incredible to see so many principals, superintendents, behavioral psychologists, education activists and teachers from around the country gather to learn about school climate reform and how it can affect the children they work with. The opportunity to network and learn about the various careers that can come from a passion for educational psych has been very inspiring. I feel a renewed sense of vocation to get involved with this type of work.

Being a lowly summer intern, I have been personally involved with all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that go into making a convention happen. Over the past week there has been an incredible amount of tedious and mindless grunt work to get this Institute up and running. One of my main tasks that took me literally hours….. BINDERS. Each participant received a binder full of lots of nerdy goodies and handouts from the various Institute workshops. The binder has been their Bible for the past few days and although it seemed ridiculously meaningless while we were making them, they really are a critical part of each participant’s experience. Rewind about 2 weeks: my intern friends and I spent hours upon hours and days upon days printing every handout, holepunching it, stacking it in order, then stuffing the stack into each binder. Needless to say, I now know more than I ever wanted to know about copy machines and holepunchers and binders and dividers.

How fun.

Although the work has been unusually tedious and annoying lately, I still am learning a lot and meeting so many influential people every day that it makes the experience worthwhile. This summer has been such a journey to discover how I can turn my passion for education and child psychology into a career, and what steps I should take in the next few months to prepare myself for life after graduation. I’m still discovering what I’m good at and what excites me… and I’m learning through my experience at NSCC this summer that I shine in collaborative creative settings. Spending lots of time doing personal research-based projects is not something I would want in my future job. I think this discovery about myself is just as valuable as finding something I’m wildly excited about. I’m not allowing myself to feel discouraged at all, but rather finding the best in every situation I’m put in, trying my best to learn something new every day, and looking forward to the future with the skills I havedeveloped.

Hopefully today I’ll be able to sit in on some of the workshops and learn some more about the latest school climate improvement efforts and how they can affect the intellectual and emotional development of the most vulnerable children in America.

week 2: bloggers & brainstorms

Friday, June 15, 2012 3:58 pm

It’s the end of my second full week at the National School Climate Center. I feel like I’m really getting into the swing of things here, and feel comfortable working with the various members of the staff. I am as passionate as ever about the mission of NSCC, and believe that this organization truly has the potential to affect our education system in concrete ways. Research based non-profits are by nature organized chaos, with a thousand different projects going on at any given moment. Often times there’s a list of goals that we hope to accomplish, yet no one knows exactly what steps to take in order to get there. This makes interning somewhere like NSCC very interesting and there’s never a dull moment, but it’s definitely frustrating at times. This experience is really challenging me to work autonomously and be able to complete tasks without guidelines. Although at times I wish there was a little more direction, the other two interns and I are learning so much about independent work and at this point we know enough about this organization to make some decisions on our own.

NSCC is in the process of improving and re-launching their “School Climate Resource Center” which is basically an online toolkit of climate improvement methods that schools and/or individuals can access. This online site is really going to take NSCC to the next level. The SCRC is a critical part of their overall plan for growth and will allow them to affect any school that accesses the resource center and wants to learn more about school climate. My latest project has been to spend some time researching organizations and individuals who could be interested in the SCRC (bloggers, education databases, policy and education reform organizations, teacher networking sites etc). We really are looking for any kind of publicity they can offer, whether it be advertising on their site or writing an article about the SCRC, even “liking” our page on Facebook or “tweeting” about us on Twitter… any way to help us get the word out about all the awesome resources we are in the process of gathering. The entrepreneur inside of me LOVES this aspect of my job because it gives me some room for creativity, and I feel like I’m contributing to meaningful growth and expansion in this organization. The staff members really respect and trust me to figure out which kinds of websites would be interested in our mission, which is motivating for me. Even though hours of online sleuthing for education blogs is not exactly my idea of a thrilling time, I’m learning as I go and am spending time reading about the many different perspectives on education reform. Eventually once I’ve collected a sufficient amount of contacts and the SCRC is up and running, we’ll compose an email to send out to all the various contacts. Hopefully reaching out will help get the word out and increase internet traffic to the resource database.

If you want to have a good laugh at my expense, check out my bio on the website:http://schoolclimate.org/about/people.php. I’m the fifth from the top. I look straight up like a wet mouse in my picture, but in my defense it was literally torrentially downpouring on my first day and I (obviously) didn’t bring an umbrella. I walk a lot. I showed up frantic, lost, nervous, sticky, smelly and dripping with rain. First impressions are everything!

Happy Friday all, have a kickin weekend.

hcc

living the intern life

Friday, June 1, 2012 4:06 pm

Happy Friday!

This summer I’m working at the National School Climate Center, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit based in New York City that aims to raise awareness and promote healthy school climate in schools nationally and internationally. Basically, school climate is the combination of all the many aspects of school life other than academics. It encompasses the social, emotional, and moral environment of the school and the general quality of life that the teachers and students experience. There is research to suggest that regardless of the quality of academic instruction, students will not succeed if the school climate is unhealthy. Unhealthy school climate contributes to bullying, drop outs, violence, apathy and failures, all of which plague our public school system.

NSCC works to ensure “thatall children will develop the essential social, emotional and intellectual skills to become healthy and productive citizens.” Through advocacy, policy, research, and educational services, they work to “measure and improve the climate for learning in schools to help children realize their fullest potential as individuals and as engaged members of society.”

Even after only being here for 3 days, I am completely convinced of the critical nature of this organization’s work. Raising awareness about school climate and integrating healthy psychological development into American classrooms could literally transform our education system. So many children fall through the cracks, or feel unsafe at school, or feel unwanted and unneeded, or are emotionally unfulfilled. These are the children who end up filling our jails, forming gangs and abusing drugs. Dropping out often is not a result of lack of intelligence, but rather a combination of factors which make going to school no longer worth the effort. NSCC argues that all “failing schools” have an extremely unhealthy school climate, and that by implementing school climate programs, these schools will improve academically as a result. I believe in the urgency of their mission, and so far I have really enjoyed being a part of this organization.

There are about 15 full-time staff members, 4 research fellows, and 2 summer interns. So far, my main duties are to help organize their 15th annual Summer Institute, which this year occurs July 10th-13th. Hundreds of teachers, superintendents, guidance counselors, child psychologists, parents and principals will attend the conference, where they will learn the main tenants of school climate and learn practical ways to improve the climate of their communities. The fellows and interns really make this event happen, so it will be my responsibility to handle all correspondence between NSCC and the institute registrants and prepare the many materials necessary for this event. Here’s the link for the brochure: http://www.schoolclimate.org/programs/documents/SI2012_brochure.pdf.

Once this event is over with, I will have some freedom to work on various NSCC projects of my choosing and hopefully get lots of hands-on experience with the ins and outs of a non-profit organization.

I’m really loving this experience… There’s something thrilling about living in New York City, pretending to be grown up for a few months, spending time with friends, taking the subway, contributing to such meaningful work, all while exploring my interest in child psych. Feeling extremely lucky to have this opportunity.

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

peace & blessins,

hcc

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