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Posts Tagged ‘Community Action Grant’

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Bianca Zhang.

“AAUW promotes lifelong learning. I think that’s what’s happened to me. You start with one thing and want to find out more, which leads you to something else — all different experiences and all enriching. You hope, along the way, that you have made a difference.”

— Community Action Grantee Charlotte Crawford

Before engaging in a career as a self-proclaimed “professional volunteer,” Charlotte Crawford was a math teacher. She joined AAUW of Illinois after her daughters went off to school. Crawford began working on a Title IX compliance survey in her daughters’ school district, which led to a nine- year stint on the school board. It was then that she became very involved in community service and other AAUW issues and activities. Crawford received an AAUW Community Action Grant in 1997 to fund an AAUW of Illinois gender equity newsletter entitled What’s Working for Girls in Illinois. One AAUW project led to the next, and Crawford earned grants to create more newsletters, build middle and high school curricula, and co-found the AAUW Gender Equity Fund of Illinois.

Crawford then moved to Tennessee, where she joined the AAUW Maryville (TN) Branch and co-founded the Women’s Equity Foundation, where she worked on an array of projects, including writing and editing six books. If all of her volunteer work has taught her one thing, it is the importance of linking up with others. “Reach out to others in your community,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to try something when you have an idea. It all starts with someone saying ‘I think we ought to … ’”

Crawford (back row, second from left) with members of the AAUW Maryville (TN) Branch

Her most recent project exemplifies this creative and valiant attitude. Crawford and former AAUW of Tennessee President Ruth Johnson Smiley are collaborating on a book called the Tennessee Women Project, which recognizes Tennessee women and their contributions “from frontier days though the 20th century.” Created with the help of an advisory council and 20 authors, the book will profile 22 women. Crawford explains that the ultimate goal for the book, which is scheduled to be published next year, is not necessarily to generate profit but to acknowledge women who have had an impact, if even it’s just on a local level. All proceeds generated by the book will support its distribution and AAUW of Tennessee’s scholarship fund to send local college students to AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.

Crawford and the Tennessee Women Project are certainly paying it forward and furthering the mission of AAUW to break through barriers for women and girls! It seems to me that Crawford, through her continuous advocacy for gender equity in education and volunteer work with AAUW, has made a truly positive difference.

The Community Action Grant that Charlotte Crawford received was sponsored by two Illinois Research and Projects Grants – the Eugenia Chapman Research and Projects Grant established in 1981 and the Mildred Freburg Berry Research and Projects Grant established in 1982.

 

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“I never did learn to read — now I have the opportunity.”

This is one of many testimonials about Reading against the Odds, a 2007–08 AAUW Community Action Grant recipient. The touching and personal responses show the program’s dedication to boosting adult literacy rates.

Reading Against the OddsAdult illiteracy is a problem that does not get enough attention. The National Association of Adult Literacy’s last major study on this issue, conducted nearly a decade ago, showed that 12 percent of American adult women and 16 percent of adult men were below basic literacy, which means that they possessed no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills. Even without more recent data, we know that remarkable programs like Reading against the Odds are working hard to improve these statistics.

AAUW member June Porter and Jaye Jones, a co-facilitator with Leslie Reese, developed the program out of the curriculum at Literacy Chicago, the Windy City’s oldest and most renowned adult literacy program. Jones proudly says that she has been able to observe the dramatic reading improvements of the participants, some of whom have been with Reading against the Odds since the inaugural class of 2007.

As a volunteer for Literacy Chicago, Jones wanted to find a way to help struggling adults read for fun. She approached Porter with the idea, and the two developed the proposal for the program. Jones says that the organization could never have existed without the support of AAUW. Thanks to an AAUW Community Action Grant, the group has been able to share its work with various AAUW branches and volunteers in the Chicago area.

Since 2007, Reading against the Odds has continued to be one of the most popular groups at Literacy Chicago. Twenty to 30 students participate in the group, which engages in discussions on books, writers, and new cultural experiences. Originally focused on women, the program now includes men and students for whom English is their second language. The program caters to the participants’ reading requests, which have evolved with the changing composition of the group. The reading curriculum began with a concentration on African American women writers and has expanded to include classics like Hamlet, the work of various Latino authors, and a current focus on the Asian American experience.

The program is also expanding participants’ connection to Chicago’s cultural offerings. After reading Invisible Man, students watched a local production of the work. Additionally, they have become involved with One Book One Chicago, a program that connects the Chicago community — through reading and programming — around one book. In fall 2011, they read The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. Literacy Chicago co-sponsored a community discussion to further engage participants in the One Book One Chicago selection.

Students speak proudly of the progress they have made, the books they have read, and the skills they have gained with the help of Porter, Jones, and the rest of the Reading against the Odds family. These students exemplify the success that this program has had in fostering an amazing learning community, and they prove that one woman’s idea truly can make a difference.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

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According the Department of Labor, women ages 16 and older account for about 47 percent of the civilian workforce. However, paid female firefighters represent 3.7 percent of the civilian workforce, making it among the lowest 11 percent of all occupations for women employees.

GO! (Gals Only!) Fire Science Camp, a 2009–11 AAUW Community Action Grant recipient, is determined to change these statistics. The camp was originally developed out of successful basic and advanced coed fire-science career camps, which were launched in 2004 by the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh; Fox Valley Technical College; and the Oshkosh and Appleton fire departments. Since 2009, the GO! camp, which is led by female firefighters and instructors, has brought together young women ages 15–20 who are interested in exploring fire-service careers. Their aim is to educate, train, nurture, and mentor the young women to better prepare them for careers in fire science.

GO! presents a realistic view of fire-science careers to attendees. The girls participate in tours of fire stations and learn that the occupation is more than fighting fires. It includes station maintenance, physical fitness activities, cooking, cleaning, and sometimes discrimination and sexual harassment. The camp maintains a balance by exposing the girls to a combination of theory and field experience. Participants learn how fires behave in various scenarios and how to work gear and equipment — knowledge that is then applied to field activities. In addition to learning about fire science and the life of a firefighter, participants are exposed to leadership development, team building, new friendships, and fun.

The success of the GO! camp has shown in rising enrollment of camp alumni in technical colleges and bachelor’s degree programs. However, fire science isn’t a field many girls consider in their career paths, which results in low camp participation. To overcome this obstacle, the camp works to develop a one-on-one, personal relationship between attendees and the experienced women firefighters. While training is still an integral aspect of the young women’s experiences, those mentoring relationships — developed through camp activities and shared meals — have left lasting impressions on their lives.

The AAUW grant has given GO! the opportunity to help underserved young women explore the fire science field and make connections with female firefighters as mentors. The camp continues to “advance equity for women through education while increasing science and math competencies and knowledge of nontraditional careers for women.” This summer, the camp will offer this unique opportunity again, giving more girls an in-depth look at the life of a female firefighter.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

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Atrévete a Soñar ¡Edúcate! — or Dare to Dream: Get Educated! — will kick off its fourth annual conference for young Latinas on January 28 at Illinois’ Elmhurst College. Founded by Connie Baker, former president and longtime member of the AAUW Elmhurst (IL) Branch, this conference grew out of the 2007 AAUW National Convention in Phoenix, where Baker learned about the Adelante Mujer conference for Latina high school students. She returned home with the idea to create a conference for Latina girls and their mothers. Her aim was to encourage girls’ academic achievement from middle school through college as well as success in a professional career. The conference targets middle school girls in an effort to influence their decisions about college education and careers.

To develop this program, Baker recruited Latina educators, professional women, community activists, and many talented members from local AAUW branches, including the AAUW Lombard (IL) Branch, the AAUW Wheaton-Glen Ellyn (IL) Branch, and the AAUW Downers Grove (IL) Branch. Thanks to the support of these branches and other organizations, Baker and the Dare to Dream conference were awarded a 2008–10 AAUW Community Action Grant.

Featured in AAUW’s 2010 annual report, Dare to Dream is preparing for yet another successful event. The conference is now at capacity, with 500 girls and their mothers, 18 schools, and 100 volunteers participating. Dare to Dream is an opportunity to focus on mothers’ education as well as their roles in their daughters’ education. Students and their mothers attend workshops on topics ranging from careers, campus life, and navigating the American school system to mothers as mentors and college preparation.

The conference encompasses many levels of education and also includes a college fair. This year, the Elmhurst College admissions office has helped recruit seven colleges and universities to participate. Many of these universities bring Latino or Latina admissions counselors to further the cultural connection the girls can make with higher education.

During the panel discussions, girls engage with high school and college women, many of whom previously attended the conference, as well as professional Latina women, including police officers, doctors, and businesswomen. This year’s keynote speaker, Jackie Camacho-Ruiz, is a successful entrepreneur and author who will speak about her personal experiences and overcoming obstacles and hardships — such as arriving in the United States when she was about the same age as the conference participants. Kate Skegg, media contact for Dare to Dream and an AAUW member, perfectly sums up the conference as “a day of inspiration” for both mothers and daughters.

Although the conference lasts only a day, the experience leaves a lasting impression on the girls’ lives. Last year’s attendees were given silicone rubber bracelets inscribed with “Dare to Dream: Get Educated! Atrévete a Soñar ¡Edúcate!” Skegg spoke recently to one participant, who said, “Every time I look at my Dare to Dream bracelet, I feel inspired!”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

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As the youngest of four, my kitchen assignment was usually putting away the dishes. My cooking experience had been short-lived as I would forget to put the water in with whatever frozen vegetable I was supposed to cook and the smell of burning would ultimately spoil the entire meal.

It was at the hands of a volunteer that I was able to face my then ingrained cooking fears and actually made an edible meal.  A group of moms had volunteered to teach our Brownie troop how to make a meal from start to finish and this one act of kindness helped boost my self-confidence. We went on to help make meals for a homeless shelter and the sense of wellbeing that came from helping others became an addiction.

I consider myself lucky to have had the ability to work in non-profits my entire professional life. When I came to work at AAUW, I soon became awed to experience firsthand what I had only read about before – the power of 100,000+ volunteers in action. As I met our members, I often heard the stories of their considerable accomplishments in communities, on college campuses, in state capitals, in front of the Supreme Court, on the Hill and even in the West Wing with numerous presidents over the years. Wow!

January 16th is this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, part of the United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. I love the positive media coverage honoring volunteers around the country and give a special shout-out to our fabulous AAUW members who continue to carry out a 130 year tradition of helping others.

In case you are still looking for take action on behalf of others this Monday, January 16th, here are a few links to suggestions from the AAUW family.

I still think there is nothing better than giving of your time and resources for a good cause. However, in the fairness of full disclosure, I do have to mention that I have never totally overcome my dislike of cooking…so my service tends to be pitching in to help clean our environment or loving the fact I work at AAUW, who’s members and donors volunteer almost daily to help break through barriers on behalf of women and girls.

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Margaret Conover, a 1978–79 AAUW American Fellow, a 2000–01 AAUW Community Action Grantee, and a Fulbright Scholar, has had an exciting career as a researcher, botanist, science educator, and advocate for small museums. She found this path during her AAUW fellowship year in Australia, where she studied 13 rare plant species. During her stay, she also traveled to New Zealand, New Guinea, and Malaysia, collecting living species and bringing them back to a greenhouse.

Conover has spent most of her career in museum administration and science education. She started the Long Island Science Center, which served as an outlet for her creative and nurturing talents, and served as a director for leadership for smaller science centers under the Association of Science Centers. With her AAUW Community Action Grant, Conover helped form E-Girls — a collaboration between AAUW of New York and the science and technology museums of New York — to develop education programs and activities for girls. The grant bridged her passion for botany, science education, and science and technology museums.

Outside of her role at the Long Island Science Center, Conover spent time exploring different avenues in her botany career. Her passion in botany emerged after reading Chia: The Lost Plant of the Aztecs. Over the past few years, she has developed a body of knowledge on the plant and has used what she learned as an education tool for children. She designed experiments with chia, such as growing the plants in sponges, providing students opportunities to interact with plants and learn about botany. As a mentor to volunteers and children, Conover did much more than research could have afforded her. She helped them find their callings at the museum.

Conover has written articles such as “Ch-ch-ch-Chia Seeds for Inquiry” for Science Scope and “Cha-cha-cha-Chia! An Ancient American Herb” for The Herbarist, and she has contributed experiments to the magazine of the National Science Teachers Association. Fully immersed in her passion for chia, Conover also writes a blog that is both entertaining and educational — she calls herself the “Johnny Appleseed of chia.” Her blog features recipes ranging from chia energy chews to a strawberry, basil, and chia seed mojito as well as book reviews, the historical background of chia plants, and various videos. Now retired, Conover spends her time collecting old botany textbooks, and she recently took a course on the history of science education to gain more knowledge about these books.

Conover, a modest woman, claims she has not “made it” in the botany research realm but attests that she has always followed her interests. Her interest in botany originated with her family’s background in farming, and today she shares her professional connection with her daughter, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago. Conover encourages her daughter to make career decisions based on a personal mission statement of strengths, her own interests, and what she can contribute. Conover believes that knowing your abilities and talents is key. “Be careful not to be too idealist[ic], and work hard. Things will follow naturally,” she says.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

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AAUW holds a special place in my heart. I received an American Fellowship during the last year of my pursuit of my doctorate, and I was awarded a Community Action Grant to help SisterMentors, the nonprofit program that I founded.

I started SisterMentors in 1997 because I wanted to be in the company of women of color working on their dissertations for their doctorates. I grew up in a small village in Trinidad and Tobago where people knew each other and cared about each other’s well-being. I also grew up in the company of women since I had three sisters, and their women friends visited often. So I knew the power of community and the power of women helping each other, and I wanted to recreate that community to help me complete the daunting dissertation.

About three years after SisterMentors began, the women started mentoring girls, and I began to make the connection between what had happened to me when I was a young girl. I went to the first school in my village when I was 8 years old. That school profoundly changed my life. It was there that I met a young teacher named Dora. Dora took me under her wing and pushed me to do all kinds of things I thought I couldn’t do, including participating in sports and singing in the choir. My self-confidence soared, and I began to excel in academics. Dora lit a fire under me, and I took off and never turned back.

Today, SisterMentors is on the road to its 15th anniversary next year, and we are kicking off the celebration with a breakfast fundraiser on Wednesday, November 9,2011 — SisterMentors Discovered: Building the Dream. I am very excited that SisterMentors has been around for so many years and am very grateful to AAUW for its support.

SisterMentors changes the lives of disadvantaged girls and women of color through mentoring, promoting education, and transforming communities. The organization mentors girls of color in elementary, middle, and high school who are from low-income families in the Washington, D.C., area. The girls are mentored by women of color doctoral students, whom SisterMentors helps to complete their dissertations.

SisterMentors has helped 18 girls to go to college and 40 women of color to earn their doctorates. Two of the young women we helped send to college graduated this May, including Megan Tuck, who graduated from Duke University. Tuck is the first in her immediate and extended family to graduate from college.

I invite AAUW members to come to our breakfast fundraiser on Wednesday, November 9, 2011, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Conference Center in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of D.C. We will be premiering a short film on SisterMentors! Please RSVP to me by Friday, October 21, at 202/778-6424 or director@sistermentors.org. I would love to see you there!

This blog was written by 1993–94 American Fellow and 2001–02 Community Action Grantee Shireen Lewis.

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