• November 28, 2020

MOJO AVID creates warmth for students - Odessa American: Local News

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MOJO AVID creates warmth for students

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  • Wrapped Up

    Permian High School freshman Chaeha Kim cuts a blanket to a set dimension as her AVID class prepares blankets for an ECISD Blanket Drive on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2020 5:00 am

Always on the lookout for community service opportunities, Permian High School AVID Director Robyn Hernandez-Flores let her students decide what projects they wanted to work on.

There were three going on as of Nov. 19, including making fleece blankets for a blanket drive, constructing feral cat shelters and collecting books for Little Free Libraries around the district.

The Ector County ISD Development Office is conducting a blanket drive through Nov. 30. The blankets will go to students who are homeless and/or in foster care. Blankets can be dropped off at the development office at 619 W. 10th St. or arrangements can be made to pick them up by calling 432-456-7059.

“… We have unique circumstances this year,” Hernandez-Flores said. “There are several organizations that are not accepting volunteers face to face, but our students are so used to doing community service through our class and they get excited about it every year, so I try to look for opportunities where they could still continue to do their community service hours, do something to help their greater community …”

Making blankets also was a chance for students to use their hands after being in front of a computer for eight months.

Hernandez-Flores saw the posting about the blanket drive on social media and the donations would be given to ECISD students.

“… For me, that was a way of saying charity starts at home and that was a cause that we could get behind because we knew we could be making these blankets for some of our classmates that sit in class with us. …,” Hernandez-Flores said.

The students were unanimous in their interest. There are fewer students on campus due to COVID-19, but even virtual students dropped off fabric or blankets.

They had the option of purchasing blankets, but decided to make them from fleece instead.

As of early Thursday afternoon, in only two days, there were 20 blankets and students working on three others. The effort ended Friday. The goal was to make 50.

Adilenne Hernandez, a sophomore who will turn 16 next month, and Chaeha Kim, a 15-year-old freshman, were glad to be helping other people.

“I’m glad that I can help whoever needs help. That makes me happy,” Kim said.

Hernandez said the project has brought them together as an AVID family.

AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, helps prepare students for the postsecondary world by teaching organizational, time management and note taking skills among others.

Francisco Ayon, a 16-year-old junior, said he feels good giving to others.

“… It’s important to help your classmates or the people you know,” Ayon said.

Hernandez-Flores, the AVID director, said ninth through 12th grade students decided to collect books for the Little Free Libraries across ECISD and freshmen opted to make feral cat shelters out of buckets.

“We have quite a few that call Permian home and so we'd like to provide shelter for them for the winter months where they'll be able to find some warmth and they're in the process of making automatic feeders for them, as well,” Hernandez-Flores said.

On the Little Free Libraries, she said every school has one, including Permian.

“Because the holidays are coming up, we felt as if the students would be depending more on those Little Free Libraries to get some books that they would be able to take home. Literacy is so important and we know at the high school level that if they fall in love with reading in the elementary level, or prek, or whatever in the lower level then they are more likely to continue with that and you can do so much with a book in your hand. … Literacy opens doors to endless possibilities, so we want to make sure that the students are provided with every opportunity to enhance their literacy,” Hernandez-Flores said.

The Education Foundation, she said, does a wonderful job of keeping the Little Free Libraries stocked.

“However, everybody could use a little help and our students took the initiative on this one as well …,” Hernandez-Flores said.

Students decided to donate their own children’s books from home and others who didn’t have books went on Amazon with Hernandez-Flores and found books that were age-appropriate and culturally relevant to stock the libraries with.

Some students took children’s books they hadn’t read before home with them and brought them back.

Celeste Potter, director of the Development Office and the Education Foundation, said the Bookworms Literacy Program where community members went into schools to read to children has gone virtual.

The program is aimed at prekindergarten through first grade students.

“There’s about 7,000 kids in that cohort,” Potter said. “They each get a brand-new book every month that they get to take home and keep. Last year, we had members of the community going in and reading those stories, but we can't do that this year so ... I'm recording members of the community reading the story. In everyone's book, there's a QR code so the teachers and even the parents can scan that QR code and it takes them to a safe site through ECISD where they watch the member of the community reading the story. They can also download additional materials to go along with the story, whether it's a coloring sheet, a word search; whatever is age appropriate for the story ... We've also introduced a reading incentive, so kids in kindergarten through fifth grade through that program if they read eight books and then log them on the back of a bookmark and turn that back ... they get an incentive.”

“We’re just trying to find as many ways as we can to incentivize these students to read. We’ve also been able to with help from Complex Community Federal Credit Union to ensure that every elementary school has a Little Free Library. And as of today (Nov. 16), all but three of them are actually up and functioning. We’re in the process of getting them all mapped. I’ve been working with Ector County Library. They have a volunteer who's been going out to every location and mapping them on Google Maps. Then we're also working with littlefreelibrary.org to get them on their national registry, so that's another way for kids to have access to books especially if we have to do another shutdown and the library is closed,” Potter said.

She added that her department goes around every month to make sure the Little Free Libraries are clean, filled with the right kind of books and any debris is removed.

Potter said the schools take care of the libraries between Education Foundation visits.

Having undergone a strategic plan, Potter said the Education Foundation is looking for more ways to help with literacy.

“I actually have more volunteers than I have books to read. We just finished our book inventory this weekend (Nov. 14-15), so if I have some bonus books I'm actually looking to see what I can do with that. But I'm imagining for safety we may have to do this even through next year. Even if for whatever reason everything is sunshine and rainbows and we can go back in the schools, I really think I'll keep the virtual part as a component for when those kids come home,” she said. “What if a kid comes home and mom or dad can't read, or they can't read in English. This is another avenue for the kid to get some additional support while they're at home …,” Potter said.

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