APS Staff Named 2016 Connect With Kids Champions The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families announced (APCYF) its 2016 Spring Connect with Kids Champions who make it a priority to build relationships with young people. Each fall and spring, APCYF invites the community to nominate individuals, groups, businesses and nonprofit organizations as Champions because of the relationships they’ve built with young people. Four Arlington Public School Employees, and one volunteer, are among the Spring 2016 Champions. They include: Kenmore Extended Day Team At a time when most middle schoolers want to go home, the participants of Kenmore’s Check In Extended Day program are happily engaged in service projects, entrepreneurship and building community. That is in large part because of the relationships that Milagros Martinez, Maria Small and Walter Mendoza have built with them. With the trust, support, and guidance of the small staff team, students take the lead in preparing lunches for ASPAN, fundraising for a trip, or mentoring students at nearby Carlin Springs Elementary School. The staff models and teaches the importance of relationships with Check In participants, but also across the entire Kenmore community, organizing a community cookout for sports teams, clubs, and other after school programs. Custodians manned the grills, PTA parents served food and all students danced and celebrated. One student exclaimed, “I wish I was in the Check In Program. They have done so many cool things this year!” Tim McLean What started as a father helping his son connect with other kids at Oakridge Elementary Schools Extended Day Program has become much more. McLean approached the Extended Day staff to see how he could help his son, who has a learning disability, build friendships with other children. He started volunteering, helping with activities and facilitating play between his son and other kids. Along the way he built relationships with other children, reaching some of the quieter ones in the program. He sits and colors with them in the mornings, but most important he listens to what they have to say. He makes it a daily priority to connect with every child. Margaret Jones, the Extended Day supervisor is touched by what she’s seen. “When he walks in the room children start running from everywhere yelling ‘MR.TIM!’ giving him high fives and hugging him,” she shared. “I don’t think he knows how much of a difference he makes in their day.” Christina Smith-Gajadhar Smith teaches High Intensity Language Training (HILT) classes at Yorktown High School. Most HILT students struggle with much more than the language: new culture, the need to work to support the family, difficult home situations. Knowing this, Smith makes herself available to students when they need her – during free periods throughout the day, and long after school ends. She often continues the supportive relationships long after graduation. As a way to connect further with students, she sponsors the International Club, so students can also connect to others and celebrate their culture and heritage. This welcoming environment lessens culture shock. She clearly made an impact on many students: more than 22 students signed onto the nomination. As Jenisha Chudal, a senior at Yorktown, puts it, “She is a role model for what teachers should be like. Everyone deserves someone like her at their school.” Since the awards were created, 103 individuals or teams have been named as Connect With Kids Champions. The Kenmore Extended Day staff, McLean, and Smith-Gajadhar were recognized at the May 19 School Board meeting. To learn more about how you can make connections with young people in Arlington, or to find out how to nominate someone as a Connect With Kids Champion, contact Michael Swisher, Assets Liaison for APCYF at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-228-1671.