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Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® on Tour for a Second Stop in Arkansas

November 9th, 2016

As Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar has made its first tour across the country engaging youth in both classroom and after-school settings, creators Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor couldn’t be more pleased with the response and look forward to seeing Brain Boosters in even more places where the activities can interact with youth groups and bring energy and fun brain development!

Here’s a review from a “tour” stop in Little Rock, Arkansas with Our House:

“The youth and adults, who facilitated the activity, preferred the 20 second challenges because they were quick and simple. In addition, the youth enjoyed the Show Me Your Moves cards because they were able to improvise and “think on their feet.”
“The instructions were simple, therefore it took very little time to explain the instructions to the youth. Please note that we tested this on youth K – 8th grade.

“The youth said the following:

  • It was fun!
  • It got us moving!
  • We had to think fast!
  • It required us to work as a team!
  • We had to use our brain
  • We were able to get some energy out

“Most of the students liked acting out the various scenarios but some youth felt extremely uncomfortable because they do not like being the center of attention. (editor’s note:  the activities do include the right to “pass”).  Our group did not like the activities that required additional time (5 – 10 minutes). We passed over all of the cards that required an extensive amount of time.

“We would recommend this to other programs – It is an easy way to get the kids moving, thinking, and working together.”

- Desirae Holmes, Our House

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  Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

  Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

A Horse, of Course!

July 15th, 2016

Look around. In your youth group are there any teens with disabilities? More likely, not, for two reasons:

  • Only 5–7% of young persons, ages 5–17, have special needs. Although seemingly small, it’s definitely a significant number.
  • All too often a disability leads to social isolation, especially in the teenage years. Those youth become increasingly “invisible.”

In church we talk the talk about being inclusive, about accepting others; but we expect people to come to us. You are in a position to help your youth walk the walk, to reach out to young persons who are otherwise marginalized.

You have a surprising helper—horses!

Hershey Here!

Hershey, Here! is a book about Saddle Up!, a therapeutic riding center that serves children, ages 2–19, who have disabilities. Hershey is one of the horses. He’s the main storyteller, but, of course, since he is a horse he needs a little help.

Look around! In your area there may well be another “Saddle Up!” Across the world there are more than 850 similar centers. Some serve adults and some, “wounded warriors,” as well. Here’s a link to see where in your area such programs may be: http://www.pathintl.org/path-intl-centers/find-center.

You might begin a conversation with your youth group about ways to connect with persons of all ages, but especially other teens, who have special needs, by introducing the group to Hershey, Here! or to one of the programs in your area.

Many youth admire horses; some are passionate about them. Let the horses open your youth to

  • becoming more aware of persons with special needs;
  • being more willing to reach out and include those teens;
  • looking for ways to serve such individuals either now or later in their lives;
  • embracing opportunities to be advocates for people on the margins.

 

—Crys Zinkiewicz, today’s guest blogger, is the author of Hershey, Here! and is also Hershey’s Pony Pal, one of her various volunteer jobs at Saddle Up! Crys’ career was as an editor of resources for youth ministry. To contact Crys or to order the book, visit hersheyhere.org.

Helping Youth Find Their Sparks

June 20th, 2016

What are you doing when you lose all sense of time and are surprised to see how much has gone by? What gives you energy? What’s your day like when you get to DO the thing you love to do most in the world? What’s your day like when you DON’T get to do it?

This was the kick-off of our training yesterday with youth directors.  We spent time together looking for clues to our inner fire and how we can help the youth we serve find theirs.

Passion. Energy. Meaning. Purpose. Sparks. It goes by different names but it is at its root that “thing” that gets us up in the morning excited about the day. The idea of it is universal. It’s what every human being wants in life – that “thing” that makes us feel alive, is energizing and gives our lives personal meaning and value.

For many, this journey to discover their spark is done in solitude, can take a lifetime, or may be discovered by happy accident. The work of discovery is rarely done in community or out loud with intention. It’s just not normal dinnertime conversation in restaurants or homes. When we meet people, we ask “what do you do?” and conversations tend then to move into ones on the “doing” tasks of our lives. Seldom do we ask, “What do you live for? What makes your eyes light up?” or “What is your bliss?

Beginning the Sparky Journey

In our training, we focused on how to change that paradigm and to begin those crucial conversations and offer deliberate activities to provide opportunities for youth to discover their own unique inner passions.

A first step is to simply have conversations with youth about what matters to them, and to really listen to what they have to say and clarify. Ask questions. Don’t assume you know where they’re going. Let them tell you. And, make the conversation two-way. In telling YOUR story of what you love, they may find clues to follow for themselves.

Next, build in activities in your youth program that lets them think about what they love, dislike or are indifferent about trying or doing. Remember the game Take a Hike? We rewrote that old game into Sparks Walk for our upcoming book, Groups, Troops, Clubs & Teams: The Essential Handbook for Youth Leaders. When someone is in the middle of the circle, she calls out “take a hike if you love to . . . (play basketball, build engines, go to the beach, listen to others)” and everyone who loves that “thing” scrambles for a new spot in the circle and not to be the person caught in the middle.

Simple games like that provide a way to think about sparks in an interactive setting. And you, the youth director, can listen for activities mentioned and note which ones you can offer as part of the program, or talk about further with your youth.

Offer a variety of things. Pique their interests. Look for sparks to emerge.  Look for where they perk up with a sudden smile, or by straightening up or leaning forward. Watch for facial and body language that shows they are engaged.

In deliberately taking these steps, you are helping youth begin a crucial part of their journey, the journey to discover their inner fire, the “thing” that fuels them, their sparky selves. And they’ll know they’re not alone. You’re there to support them and help them in their discovery.

“Each of us has a fire in our heart for something.  It’s our goal in life to find it and to keep it lit.” – Mary Lou Retton

Service-Learning Grant Application Available from State Farm

March 3rd, 2016
State Farm® Youth Advisory Board (YAB) service-learning grant applications are available from February 29 th until April 29th.  The grants range from $25,000 – $100,000 and are designed to create sustainable change in local communities across the United States.
Public K-12, charter, higher education institutions, and non-profit organizations are eligible if they are able to demonstrate how they plan to impact student achievement within the public K-12 curriculum.  All applicants must have a youth contact and adult administrator, as the programs must be youth-driven and youth-led.
Each grant request must fall under one of these issue areas, chosen by the board itself:
 

 

  • Community Safety and Justice
  • Environmental Responsibility
  • Economic Inclusion and Financial Literacy
  • Access to Higher Education
  • Health and Wellness
  • Arts and Culture

 

As of August 2015, nine years after the initial launch of the YAB, the board has awarded more than $36 million in grants to organizations in the U.S. and Canada and impacted approximately 21 million lives.
Find out more at www.sfyab.com. You can also check out the YAB on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
With a passion for education and service, our youth can make a difference! Thank you for helping us spread the word.

 

MLK Spoken Word Contest

November 4th, 2015

The Metro Human Relations Commission (Nashville, TN)  is co-sponsoring the first annual Youth Spoken Word Competition for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  There are cash scholarship prizes.  Please pass this on to your staff so they may share it with churches, synagogues, mosques, and civic and community groups they are involved with.

High school and college students (or people between the ages of 14 and 22) are invited to start creating and uploading their videos. They can submit their videos now until December 1st. Participants can win cash prizes based on different categories as individuals or in groups.

The MHRC would like to give a big thank you to Neal & Harwell Law Firm and Meharry Medical Center for sponsoring the scholarships.

Find more information about the competition here: http://mlkdaynashville.com/video-contest/

The videos will be posted on the MLK Day YouTube page.

Making Asset Building a Mindful Practice, Part 2

August 8th, 2013

There are lots of ways to start building your own mindful influence and practice to more intentionally and thoughtfully feed into young people’s lives.

You can start by committing to saying hi to every young person you see within each day. You can try beginning your youth program with relationship check-ins to see how everyone is, nip discouragement and self-degradation when you hear it with words of encouragement and sincere compliments, or by making an effort to speak to each youth personally at least once during the course of the program. At home, you can try having dinner together as a family at least twice a week, play board games together or find ways to spend time together offline.

There is no one right way to build your asset practice. Picking an asset practice that draws from who you are, your interests and strengths, what you find most enjoyable- and most effective to connect in a meaningful way with youth. Do you have hobbies you can share? Are you good at listening? Can you mentor or tutor in a subject? Throw a ball? Cook?

Today, determine to be consciously aware of your interactions and to act mindfully on your intentions to feed into the lives of young people who show up in your life.

Each day as you focus on your intention and deliberately take on one mindful action – just one, you will begin to develop a practice that works for you. That practice will become a habit. The mindfulness of focusing on one thing only daily will allow you the space and time to learn from your actions and how you might need to adjust. Learn from it. Play with it. Perfect it. Become more natural with it. Listen to what your inner voice of wisdom tells you as you focus in on one way you can practice mindful connection with youth.

Then add another technique after this becomes second nature.

Be patient with yourself. The idea is not to check it off a “to do” list or to enforce an asset with thoughtless automation, but to consciously, mindfully be aware of the youth around you and let your personal practice gently feed into their lives. Grow and experiment with whatever is natural to you and serves them best. Share your energy! Share the love you have within you.

Reflect:  What did adults around you do to help feed into your well-being as a child? If you could only pick one thing to do daily to connect with youth, what would it be? Why is that chose important? How can it make a difference?