Briya student wins essay contest for Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

Briya student Maria Elena Van Maren came in first place in the ESL category of the DC Adult Education and Family Literacy Week essay contest. Another Briya student, Mayra Chavez, came in second in the category.

In their essays, the students responded to a prompt about barriers they face and overcome as adult learners.

As Van Maren wrote, barriers to getting her education started early: at age 11, she left school in her native Colombia to help her single mother provide for their family by cleaning houses. In her essay, she explained that she still faces many obstacles today, including balancing working, caring for her children and studying at Briya.

Briya teachers with award winning student and her daughter

“We are so proud of Maria Elena and Mayra for their participation and success in the AEFL essay contest,” said Elise Gorman and Judy Kittleson, the students’ instructors.

“Their positivity in the face of challenges is inspirational for all our adult learners, and it highlights the need for more funding for high-quality adult education programs like Briya across the city.”

Van Maren was recognized for her winning essay at an event organized by the DC Adult Education and Family Literacy Coalition, where she received a prize. Van Maren and adult learners from other DC programs also participated in a panel about the issues they face.

As part of the panel, Van Maren shared her dreams for the future.

“I have many, many goals,” she said. “I want my kids to be proud of me. I want to become a leader in my community. I want to work in international relations so I can help my country, Colombia.”

“I love to help people, and how to be able to help people is with my education,” she said.

Advanced I Job Fair

Family literacy students prepare for jobs and careers

How do I get a job in DC? After a recent job preparation unit, students in Briya’s Advanced I family literacy class are well-equipped to answer that question.

The students began by thinking about their skills and past experience to decide what types of jobs they’d like to pursue. In English class, students studied the vocabulary necessary for those jobs, which include teacher, waitress and housekeeper. They also learned about interviews and practiced interviewing skills.

In digital literacy class, students wrote, formatted and edited their resumes using Google Docs. They learned the importance of using action verbs on a resume, researched jobs, and practiced filling out online applications.

The group also visited the public library, where a librarian showed them online job databases they can access with their library card. The students then toured areas of the library that have career-related books and other resources.

Student at practice job fair.The unit ended with a practice job fair. Printed resumes in hand, the students interviewed with staff members posing as potential employers in their fields.

Some students were nervous about speaking English throughout an entire interview; others had never interviewed before. At the end of the job fair, staff gave students feedback on what they did well and what they could improve.

“The mock job fair helped students be more aware of how to prepare for the emotions that will come up in future job interviews,” said Grace Parker, digital literacy instructor. “Overall, I think it was most successful because the students supported each other as they faced their own questions, uncertainties and insecurities about finding a job.”

AEFL Week 2015

Briya student wins AEFL Week contest with letter to councilmember

Manuche Gonclaves, a student in Briya’s Advanced II family literacy class, is committed to her education in spite of obstacles that she faces as a student, parent and immigrant.

Gonclaves advocated for adult learners like herself in a letter to 4th Ward councilmember Brandon Todd, which won first place in the English Language Learner category of the Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) Week essay contest.

Essay contest entrants were prompted to write a letter to their councilmember explaining some of the obstacles they face in pursuing their education, taking care of their family, and/or getting or keeping a good job, and to propose ways for the council to address these issues.

Gonclaves, who came to the US from Brazil five years ago, has two daughters, one of whom is in Briya’s toddler class. She is working to earn her high school diploma through Briya’s National External Diploma Program and then plans to graduate from the school’s Medical Assistant Program.

Her long-term goal is to work and save money so she can go to college and become a social worker. “I love to help people,” she said. “It’s the one thing that I want to do.”

In her letter, Gonclaves explained difficulties that she and other adult learners face in her letter.

“My obstacles are money, time and family,” Gonclaves wrote. “First, I don’t have money for college and to pay a daycare for my kids. My whole family is in my country, I don’t have anybody to help me.”

Gonclaves proposed increasing free or inexpensive daycare options and having more college scholarship opportunities so parents can afford to get further education.

“If I have a daycare for my kids, I’ll be able to go to school every day without worries,” she wrote. “The scholarships will be a good help to get my college degree without having to work many hours.”

Gonclaves was honored at an event kicking off Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) Week at Busboys and Poets on September 21, where she read her letter and received a prize.

“I’m lucky to come to DC because I see in other places they don’t have this type of program like Briya,” Gonclaves said. “I’m so excited to be here.”

Read Gonclaves’ full letter here.

Brookings Institution Study

Brookings Institution study shows benefits of Briya and Mary’s Center’s partnership

Briya’s partnership with Mary’s Center is featured in a study by the Brookings Institution as a valuable example of how schools and clinics can work together to strengthen communities.

“The combination of a school and clinic that function together as a ‘hub’ to provide healthcare, social services and education shows promise as a way to help improve social mobility in low-income neighborhoods,” according to the study.

In addition to the co-location of education, health and social services, the study cites the provision of education for parents and children simultaneously as a key strategy that contributes to Briya/Mary’s Center’s success. Researchers conclude that the combination of a dual-generation school and a clinic could be a model for others to follow.

“Briya/Mary’s Center is an interesting case of how a school-clinic hub can impact the medical, social and educational health of a community, potentially laying the foundation for greater economic mobility in a neighborhood,” the study says.

Read the full study here.

STARS Awards 2015

Briya students shine at charter schools STARS Tribute

Two Briya students, Yanira Umaña and Anabel Cruz, were honored at the 2015 STARS Tribute, an annual event that celebrates the best students, parents and school leaders in DC public charter schools. The tribute is organized by the DC Association for Chartered Public Schools.

Yanira Umaña with her daughter after receiving the award

Umaña was a finalist in the category of Outstanding Adult Student. She began in Briya’s Basic II ESL/family literacy class in 2012 and has since progressed to Intermediate II. Her son, Moises Rios, has been in Briya’s Early Childhood program since infancy, and she is also mother to eight-year-old Emily.

“Yanira is a leader in the classroom and participates in our parenting components with both enthusiasm and creativity,” said Cristin Reeder, Umaña’s teacher. “She is also an active member in her community and is involved in various local organizations.”

Anabel Cruz, a current Advanced II student who began in the Intermediate I class in 2006, was awarded Most Outstanding Parent at the tribute.

“I have seen Anabel incorporating the ideas she has learned in child development class into her own parenting,” said Mark Faloni, Cruz’s teacher. “In this field of adult education, she epitomizes what we at Briya have been working at for a long time—creating lifelong learners who make life better for themselves and their families.”

In addition to advancing in Briya’s family literacy program, Cruz received her high school diploma through Briya’s NEDP program, completed a six-year term as a Briya board member, and graduated from Briya’s Medical Assistant program. She is currently the PTA president at Mundo Verde PCS, where her three children attend.Both students with their children and teachers

“Anabel quickly builds a trusting and caring rapport with her children’s teachers,” said Elizabeth Barriga, teacher of two of Cruz’s children at Mundo Verde. “She is proactive in finding out ways to support their learning while clearly and kindly communicating her expectations and insights to teachers.”

“I tell my children that if I can do it, you can too,” Cruz said. “If you keep studying hard, one day you will realize your dreams.”

Briya Sweet Dreamzzz Training

Good night and Sweet Dreamzzz: Briya students learn about sleep

Following his teacher’s lead, Samuel gently places his teddy bear in its cardboard bed, tucks the yellow blanket under its chin and whispers, “Good night.”

Samuel and his fellow Briya prekindergarten students were practicing bedtime routines as part of sleep education training provided by Sweet Dreamzzz, Inc., a nonprofit that educates at-risk children and their families on the importance of sleep in order to improve children’s health, well-being and academic performance.

The training began with a workshop for Briya adult students in which they learned a variety of sleep-related information, including recommended hours of sleep for different age groups, benefits of sleep (which include improved school performance) and how to create a bedtime routine for their children.

In a separate session, the organization trained Briya teachers in leading these parent workshops, equipping them to teach sleep education to future students.

After the parent workshop, Briya pre-kindergarteners spent two weeks learning about sleep in their classrooms. Teachers used materials provided by Sweet Dreamzzz to teach good sleep habits and the parts of a bedtime routine, such as eating a healthy snack and doing a relaxing activity like reading.

Teacher reading to student laying down to go to bedEach pre-k student received their own teddy bear, along with a cardboard box bed and a blanket for the bear. Students named their bear and decorated its bed and blanket.

Children then used their bears to practice the sleep skills they were learning in class. They read stories to their bears and put the bears to bed, covering them with the blanket. They also brought their bears to sleep with them during nap time every day.

On final day of the two-week period, pre-k students took their teddy bears home, well prepared for good sleep and school success!

Bowser Visit

Bowser visits Briya student council meeting

Mayor Elect Muriel Bowser visited Briya’s student council meeting this fall, where students asked her to continue to support Briya’s family literacy model. Bowser listened to students’ thoughts on how adult education benefits families and helps students integrate into their community. Students also expressed the need for more a new building so that more families can benefit from Briya’s services.

 

Mayor Bowser gives thumbs up to the student council members

We Are Briya!

Briya students practice English and computer skills by developing how-to videos

This summer, Briya’s Advanced English and Digital Literacy classes participated in a video project designed to help students improve their English and technology skills through videos that teach fellow students how to act in real-world situations. The completed videos can be found here.

In their English classes, the students learned about character development, story arc and writing scripts. Then they selected topics—such as how to interview for a job, how to open a bank account and how to be safe in the street—relevant to other students. They wrote their scripts using Google Docs, filmed their videos on iPads and edited their videos using YouTube editor.

“Editing our movie was my favorite part,” said student Aleykutty Holley. “My teammates and I felt very creative being able to design the look of our movie with YouTube Editor. It was a good experience, and I will definitely use this program in the future!”

On the final day of class, students and their children participated in a film festival where they enjoyed snacks, viewed their class’s films and voted for awards including Best Acting, Best Costumes and Props, Best Story and Best Editing.

Teachers found the project to be a worthwhile experience for their students. “I enjoyed helping the students build their confidence in skills and tasks they’d never encountered before,” said Brittany Pope, a Digital Literacy instructor. “It was a tall order for them to write, film and produce their own movies, but their persistence and teamwork was inspiring.”

The project was inspired by the We Are New York television series, which aims to help viewers learn English through episodes about practical issues.

    Briya student filming a kitchen sceneBriya students editing a filmBriya students watching the film festival in class