Image Courtesy of Raising A Village Photo Gallery
By Mariah Solis
Raising A Village Foundation, a nonprofit providing academic support for communities in the District of Columbia, celebrated its fifth year of service with a welcome event for their newest members at the Emory Fellowship on Saturday.
The carnival themed event included games, lively music, food from local vendors, several training workshops, and a lapel pinning ceremony to welcome 82 of their Driven Student Corps members. Tutors and mentors were recruited as federal work study students from universities within the District of Columbia, creating a group of diverse educational backgrounds, according to media associate Marc Shapiro.
Founder and Executive Director Jaleesa Hall wanted the event to be an opportunity for the team to bond and feel excited for the work ahead of them.
“We can’t raise a village and be divided,” Hall said. “If we can find joy and community any chance we get, we need to grab it and enjoy it.”
The nonprofit has served over 2,000 elementary, middle, and high schoolers in underserved communities since 2017. Its Drive 2 Succeed program offers a summer acceleration program and provides tutoring during and after the school day, community service opportunities, as well as college and career readiness workshops.
Isa Dinsmore, who is now a site leader after two years of tutoring, was one of the many staff members present to offer words of encouragement and advice. The recent American University graduate emphasized that the program was an equally positive experience for her as it was for the students she tutored.
“Even though I’m from a political science background, I like education policy and working with kids,” Dinsmore said. “I’m dyslexic, so I really like being able to help kids in need, especially kids that have dyslexia or other special education needs.”
After three years of working with the nonprofit, Dinsmore emphasized how much she appreciates the nonprofit’s priority of underserved communities as a whole.
“Always having the school and the community that the students are a part of in mind is something that really stuck with me,” Dinsmore said. “The work I’m doing as a tutor extends beyond the classroom.”
In addition to site leaders, several professional development partners attended, including Susannah Tsien from City Bridge Education, Gina Burd from CityTutor DC, Kevin Cotaldo from Learn24, and Jeffrey Walker, who spoke about mentorship. They presented in breakout groups to better prepare the DSC members to excel and develop skills needed to mitigate the COVID-19 learning gap.
Staffers have noticed the continual effects that the COVID-19 shutdown had on the students, with many of students still at the learning and maturity stage of when distanced learning began for them.
“Education is important, but social emotional learning and character development has also become critical to the work we do now, because these kids are not just behind academically, but developmentally,” Hall said.
Hall was recently named a National Partnership for Student Success Champion by the Department of Education for supporting President Biden’s initiative to close the COVID-19 learning gap.
During the pandemic lockdown, the nonprofit raised funds for student laptops and hotspots to help students engage with their teacher and tutors. Additionally, grab-and-go breakfasts were offered for students, allowing for people to safely socialize at a distance to prevent student isolation.
Hall said that although the effects of COVID-19 are still apparent, the nonprofit has seen tremendous student growth. Up to 80% of students have raised their grade one to two letters and 92% of students are now completing assignments on time.
With the success of their current programs, Raising A Village plans to launch two more in 2024 to provide parenting resources, family bonding activities, and opportunities for students to engage with art and culture.
For more information about the organization’s programming and events, visit their website.