Monday, September 19, 2016

Franktuary FUNdraiser for Brashear Kid's Fieldtrips!

Resources for our kids here at ALEC are so important and necessary to provide the best learning environments possible. Our team organized a fun social outing to Franktuary in Lawrenceville this Wednesday in mid-September, in the hopes of bringing attention to such needs and raising funds for future educational expeditions. We hoped to increase prospective options for field trips, an intrinsic part of learning through experience, and boy was it a great turn-out!

Here we are all smiles and optimism setting up for the evening event. Amber, Anna, Dianna and Alyce were so excited to offer a raffle and enjoy delicious hot-dogs. If you've never been to Franktuary, we highly recommend it- the service is wonderful, and as you can see our group gave it the thumbs up. 

Our raffle set-up was truly a blast, and had all of our guests enthusiastically anticipating the winners. See our smiling attendees below! It was a great time for all ages.

Finally, it came time for the moment of truth: announcing the proud winners of our grand prizes: a celebratory champagne and a fine decanter of lottery tickets! The suspense built as Amber drew the winning tickets from the mix as the crowd held its breath, hoping for the best! 

And look at the lucky winner herself, posing with one of the marvelous raffle items. She was so thrilled, and we were for her!

It was such a successful evening, and we were so appreciative to everyone who took out time to participate in our event. In closing, we want to remind our Brashear followers that everyone is a winner who invests their time and resources in our children's future. Thank you all. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Let Me Introduce Myself: Alyce

Hi there, blog enthusiasts. I am so excited to be a new AmeriCorps member in 2016 for the wonderful Brashear Association, and would love to introduce myself to you! Read on...

Name: Alyce, or 'Al

From: Columbus, Ohio

School: The Ohio State University

Major: Women's Studies with a focus on art and engagement, minor in printmaking!

Enjoys: Cooking, stand-up comedy, creative endeavors, spontaneous adventures

If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be: Serendipitous 

In one sentence how would you describe Pittsburgh: The city of my dreams!

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island what 3 books would you bring: 
Their Eyes Were Watching God, 
Me Talk Pretty One Day,
The Little Prince.

Who is your idol? Steve Buscemi 

Cats or dogs: Why choose? 

Vanilla or chocolate ice cream: Strawberry

Who has been the biggest influence in your life: My little brothers. 

How would you like to be remembered: as someone who inspires hope and change, both of which the world is in need of.

Thank you for reading! The Allentown Learning and Engagement Center is one facet of many extraordinary programs and services offered by Brashear, and I feel so lucky to be here. I hope you will tune in to all of the exciting adventures we have planned for this year, and share in our journey with Brashear kids! Over n' out.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Let Me Introduce Myself: Anna

Major:  Psychology.

A snack I could eat every day: Any type of cereal.

Favorite city/town: Sedona, Arizona...for now.

How would you describe Pittsburgh: A beautiful, transformative city with a heart of gold.

If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would it be and why:  An alpaca.  They are fluffy and can be walked on a leash!

Describe yourself in one word: Passionate.

Favorite book:  "How to Win Friends and Influence People", by Dale Carnegie.

I enjoy:  Embracing the great outdoors, traveling, volunteering, exploring, cooking, and playing Nintendo!

Who has been the biggest influence in your life:  My younger sister, Kim.  She has always pushed me to be my best self.

Favorite quote:  "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"- Margaret Mead.

How would you like to be remembered:  A nice human.

I will be primarily mentoring and tutoring kids this year at the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center, as well as participating in other programs throughout The Brashear Association.  I am excited for this opportunity and to be part of the growing community in Allentown and surrounding Hilltop neighborhoods.  I hope you will follow our journey to discover and learn with us this year!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Year At ALEC: From A Duquesne University Student

Hi everyone!  For those of you who have not met me, my name is Shannon.  As a student in the Duquesne University School of Education I was looking for a way to gain more teaching experience and loved spending time with students.  Lucky for me, I found the perfect work study job— working at ALEC.

During this past school year, I got to work alongside ALEC’s awesome KEYS AmeriCorps members, Steven and Sarah and, of course, Ms. Dianna and Ms. Amber.  I was at ALEC on Tuesdays which meant I got to participate in science days!  This meant doing experiments that were as much fun for me to try as they were for the students.  Making playdough and catapults, having races to put skeletons together, making colors explode, learning weird anatomy facts… there was never a dull moment.

I have also loved seeing how all of the ALEC students have branched out and tried so many new healthy foods.  Some of these foods they have even gotten to help grow themselves in our outdoor learning space.  We get to try a healthy new snack each day and, yes, I have learned a few new recipes for myself, too.

Not only did I get to work on site at ALEC, I also got to be part of the New Artists program at Philips Elementary School with Miss Sarah.  We had a very talented (and hilarious) group.  They got to show off all of their hard work at our Cinco de Mayo themed art show at the end of the year.

I also got to enjoy spending my summer at ALEC with Miss Megan.  From gardening at Eco Camp to kayaking at Outdoors Camp, it was the most sun I had seen in a while.  I loved it!  Not only did I enjoy seeing the students doing something that was new to them, but I got to try so many things that I had never done before either.  Building robots with Mr. Dave from the Y Creator Space and geocaching with Venture Outdoors were definitely new to me.

Between the after school program, Saturday programs, and the New Artist club, I have gotten to spend time with so many unique kids who have each taught me something different about myself and teaching.  Sometimes I think I’ve learned more from them than they have from me!!

Though we have done so many fun activities and met so many awesome people, sometimes my favorite part of working at ALEC has been free time.  From intense four- square games at summer camps to dance parties and running man challenges on the weekends, there has never been a dull moment.

I could not be happier to have gotten to spend my year with such inspirational and supportive team members as well as a great group of kids.  My year at ALEC has been a blast and I am looking forward to the next one.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Megan's Farewell

Well Brashear, it's been a whirlwind seven weeks. Even though I wasn't here for long, I hope that I've had a positive impact on the ALEC community. I'm sad that the summer went by so quickly, but I got to have a lot of fun with a really cool group of kids! 

Mustaches do make one feel rather serious.

I've been with KEYS Service Corps since May 2015, having served previously with the Hilltop YMCA before coming to Brashear. I love the Hilltop neighborhoods, and I was really excited to continue getting things done in this area. What does the daily routine of an AmeriCorps member placed at Brashear look like, you ask? Well, I would arrive at ALEC few hours before the kids, sit at my computer, get coffee, work on blog posts and paperwork, other boring grown up things, etc. I played four square for about two hours every day. (Every. Single. Day.) In fact, I could probably get certified as an official four-square judge and referee, if such a thing exists. I taught some lessons, I sat back and let other people teach some lessons, I prepared snacks, I obsessively counted children, I perfected a shovel-and-pole technique for retrieving balls that bounced over our fence, and I took a lot of pictures. I mean, a lot of pictures. 

Though it would appear that some people found my constant picture taking just a smidge irritating.

Since I was usually busy taking all the pictures, there aren't many that I'm actually in. However, I did manage to squeeze into a fair number of group shots! 

Just a few examples of our adventures, also featuring Ms. Sarah, Mr. Steven, Ms. Dianna, Ms. Shannon, and Ms. Amber 

But mostly what I did at Brashear was have fun. I spent more time outside this summer than I probably have in the last five summers combined, and I have a weird tan line on my feet to prove it. I've gone through Eco Camp, Tech Camp, Go! Camp, and Outdoors Camp alongside all of the kids, and I've had just as much of a blast as they've had. (Maybe more. I really like kayaking).   

The best darn kayak partner a gal could ask for. And I only got hit in the face with a paddle once! 

As a way of encouraging the kids to be adventurous eaters and try new foods, Ms. Amber encourages the teachers to also partake in whatever snack is made for the day. Which means that I got to eat a lot of real good stuff. Pesto, smoothies, summer salad, trail mix, peanut butter bagels, carrots and hummus, big slices of watermelon... It was ideal. Not only was I well fed, but I got to see the kids start to ask for healthy things and really begin to take an interest in how their food was prepared. Also, it is really funny to see an eight-year-old politely say "I don't care for this" when offered a food he or she doesn't like. The kids aren't allowed to say that something is "gross" or "nasty," because 1) it's a bit rude, and 2) it might discourage another person from trying it. Everyone should be able to decide what they like for themselves! 

I mean, is this not one of the most delicious looking bagels you've ever seen? 

Some elements of our snacks were grown in our very own garden. The garden is one of my favorite aspects of ALEC. I love gardening. In fact, when I started at Brashear, I came bearing a gift of about 20 sunflower seedlings that I had been keeping on my fire escape. I just think that watching stuff grow is the coolest thing. The Hilltop neighborhoods simply don't have a lot of easy access to fresh produce, and the fact that we have it mere steps away from our back door is a really empowering experience. By teaching the kids how to garden at ALEC, we give them the building blocks to start a garden at home with their own families. We made pesto with our basil, salsa with our peppers, and infused water with our mint. We've devoured strawberries that we grew ourselves. There's even talk of making our own pickles with our cucumbers! And of course, we have some flowers growing, too. Gotta look out for our pollinator friends! 

Getting your hands dirty can be pretty cathartic. 

I got to work with some really amazing organizations during my time here, as well. GTECHVenture OutdoorsY on the Fly, Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community, The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy... The list goes on. Partner organizations are extremely valuable to us, because they give our kids so many opportunities that we would be unable to offer if we were trying to do everything all on our own. Teamwork really does make the dream work! 

Lookin' fresh as a daisy with GTECH and some volunteers from AE Works Ltd. As of this writing, our Green Playce is almost finished! 
You can check out the project plan here

Throughout my term with AmeriCorps, there were days that were wonderful and goofy and fun, and there were days that could be best described as tragic. Regardless, this past year has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I've been so lucky to connect with the people I've met, both adults and children. Thank you to anyone and everyone who has supported The Brashear Association, because it's an organization that truly does good work. I love all my kids, and as long as they continue to get support from Amber and the rest of the ALEC staff, I know I can expect great things from them as they get older. This time last year, I had no idea what I was doing with myself. Now, I'm heading to the University of Pittsburgh to get a master's degree in social work. My experiences as a KEYS member were instrumental in that decision, and I can't wait to find out what wacky hijinks I get myself into next. 

Yeah I couldn't even tell you what's happening here.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Over and out, 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Outdoors Camp: Week 2!

This week saw the close of summer camps at ALEC for the 2016 season. We're sad to see the summer end, but we're so grateful for all the fun we've had along the way. And we certainly went out with a bang! It was week two of Outdoors Camp!  

The Brashear Kids warm up for the week with our billionth game of four square!

On Monday, we went geocaching! Teachers from Venture Outdoors brought us some hand held GPSs with coordinates already programmed in. The kids split into teams, and used their GPS to find clues hidden all around Grandview Park! The clues helped us solve a riddle. It was a fun way to get our brains and our bodies working at the same time.

On Tuesday, we went biking again! This time, Mr. Evan and Ms. Brittany played a game with us before we started riding. We split into two teams, and had a relay race to see which team could correctly identify different parts of the bicycle the fastest! Afterwards, we rode about two miles down the bike trail at North Shore Riverfront Park. Some of our kids still weren't quite comfortable on the bikes, so they hung back and played in the Water Steps fountain instead. Everyone still got to spend time outside and stay active, regardless of their skill level!

On Wednesday, we went kayaking! This was another activity that we did last week, but we felt it was work repeating. This trip went even more smoothly than last week, since a majority of the kids had done it before. Some of the kids that were scared to go out on the water last week jumped right in a boat with a friend, instead of a teacher! It's always rewarding to see your students find confidence in themselves when participating in new activities.

No fear here!

On Thursday, we teamed up with The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to make some seed bombs and plant some trees! The seeds in our bombs were all redbud seeds, as part of the Pittsburgh Redbud Project. Redbuds are trees that are native to the Pittsburgh area, and they have beautiful flowers that are similar to cherry blossoms. The idea is to plant over 1,200 redbud trees, so that the city is filled with pink every spring. We even got a seedling to plant in our Green Playce, and we all got to take home seeds to plant ourselves!  

Afterwards, we went on a hike in Grandview Park, played on the playground for a little bit, and then we got some goody bags from Venture Outdoors! Each kid got a certificate of completion, a nifty new t-shirt, and a voucher to be used for kayaking or biking. That way, the kids can get their families moving as well! Spending time outdoors doesn't have to end with Outdoors Camp, after all.

Goofy faces due to being tickled just moments before this photo was taken.
You'd be surprised how hard it can be to get them to smile!

ALEC is usually closed to the public on Fridays. But since this week was our last week of the summer, we had a family outing on Friday night! We were worried that rain might ruin our trip, but we got lucky! The rain held off for us, and we had a blast. It was awesome to see parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. get to take part in what their kids had been doing for the last two weeks.

After we got back on land, we had a pizza party on the steps outside PNC Park! Most of the parents and guardians agreed that kayaking is pretty cool. We think there's a good chance that most of the vouchers from the goody bags are going to get used pretty quickly!

Again, thank you so much to Venture Outdoors, The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and all the parents and family members that let their kids hang out with us. Y'all made this week pretty special! We hope to see everyone this fall during the school year!!


Friday, August 5, 2016

The Brashear Kids Take it Outside: Outdoor Camp!

All this week, the Brashear Kids had the opportunity to do different activities with our friends from Venture Outdoors! We got to go on a few field trips, try some new things, and get moving while spending time outdoors. 

On Monday, Mr. Evan and Ms. Ashley from Venture Outdoors came to ALEC to introduce themselves and play a few team building games with us! Mr. Evan even remembered some of the kids from last year's Outdoor Camp. The games we played focused on working together and following instructions. This was important, because the trips we had planned for the rest of the week may have gotten a bit hairy if kids decided not to listen.

Encouraged by the teamwork we saw at the park, on Tuesday we all piled into a bus and took a drive down to the North Shore for a bike ride! Some kids hopped on and went full speed ahead (for four miles!), but others were less confident in their biking skills. Those who needed a little extra time getting used to the bikes got to hang back with some teachers and practice for a bit. Everyone made some pretty impressive progress! The Brashear Kids are usually pretty good sports when it comes to trying new things. 

Wednesday was kayaking day! It was an activity that a lot of kids were excited about, but a lot were nervous as well. The Venture Outdoors staff fielded a lot of questions before we got started (What if I can't swim?! What happens if I drop my paddle?! Are there sharks in the water?! etc.), but they were very patient with us. They taught us how to paddle correctly, fitted us with life vests, assured us that we would neither drown nor get eaten by sharks, and we were on our way!

Note the water bottle in J's pocket. Hydration is important!!

It was worth the risk! Everyone had a blast. While we were having fun, we got to revisit some of the lessons we learned from previous camps! When one of the kids asked why there was garbage in the water, it gave us a great opportunity to remember when GTECH visited during ECO Camp to talk about water sheds and water pollution. It's awesome to see their little minds start to independently draw connections between all the camps they've participated in.

Thursday was our last day of camp for the week, and we went on a hike in Frick Park! We got to test out all the exercise equipment along the trails, commune with nature, and play some games. At one point, the kids spontaneously rolled down a hill all together! It was a pretty silly sight. After our hike, we even had some time left over to play on the blue slide playground! 

As always, when we got back to ALEC, we had a healthy snack.This time, we got to chow down on some strawberries and cucumbers that we picked from our garden! Having fresh produce so easily accessible to us is a pretty rad experience. 

Thank you so much to Venture Outdoors for making this week possible! The kids AND the teachers are already jazzed to do it all again next week. 



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