Thursday, November 19, 2015

Introducing our Louisiana Delta Service Corps Members

Louisiana Delta Service Corps (LDSC) is an AmeriCorps program and is one of over 400 AmeriCorps National Service programs. Known as the “Peace Corps of the Delta,” LDSC creates opportunities for AmeriCorps members across the Louisiana Delta region to perform vital services in neighborhoods and communities. The LDSC partners with nonprofits, community and faith based organizations, public schools, and government agencies to help build safer, smarter, and healthier communities.

We at FirstLine Schools are proud to be a partner organization of LDSC, and have a number of their members working for us at our Network and in our schools. They are an instrumental part of our FirstLine Family, and we want to introduce you to them!

Shelby Akins- Volunteer Coordinator
Shelby is originally from Richmond, Virginia. She graduated from James Madison University in 2014 and moved to Baton Rouge at the end of that summer for City Year, hoping to fulfill a goal of living in New Orleans. She then applied to LDSC and after a long summer of couch-surfing & keeping her fingers crossed, she was offered the Volunteer Coordinator position! She got to NOLA by driving all 1,000 miles between her hometown and Louisiana! At FirstLine, her responsibilities include documenting and tracking the parents, college students, and community members serving as volunteers in our schools, working with school admin/staff to figure out what volunteer opportunities are available in each school and how to best meet their needs, and observing afterschool programs and events to collect feedback from volunteers, helping improve their experience. Shelby enjoys building relationships with and meeting people across New Orleans who all share an understanding of the importance mentorship and extracurricular activities play in a student’s development and education.

Fun Fact: Shelby's car, Huey, is named after the delightful 80s band Huey Lewis & the News, probably best known for their appearance on the soundtrack to Back to the Future, her personal favorite movie of all-time.

Charlotte Steele- Garden Program Development Coordinator at Phillis Wheatley Community School
Charlotte is originally from New Jersey, and went to school in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She moved to New Orleans when one of her best friends decided to move here to work on her writing. Charlotte wanted to go somewhere new, so she asked if she could come along, and now here she is! Before applying to the LDSC position, she was a Garden Education Intern for Edible Schoolyard New Orleans. Wheatley is our newest ESYNOLA site at FirstLine, so Charlotte's LDSC project includes helping to build out the garden area, assisting with classes, starting a composting program, and designing a harvest program for families to take home produce. Her favorite part of the job is working with the students. She says, "It feels so good to be hugged every day, high fived in the hallway, and called out to, 'Hi Ms. Charlotte!' Sometimes I feel like a movie star! The student's love feels unconditional. And the love I have for them is, too!"

Fun Fact: Charlotte used to ice skate competitively and did so in college for two years. It has been a huge part of her life, but moving to New Orleans pretty much stopped it entirely. However, Charlotte recently figured out how to get her skating fix in the south: by joining the "Big Easy Roller Girls" Roller Derby team! Every week she has a new bruise or injury, giving her a new saying: "People always say 'it never hurts to try something new'...but in Roller Derby it totally does."

Hannah J. Mills- Garden Program Development Coordinator at Arthur Ashe Charter School
Hannah is originally from Central New Jersey, and graduated from Eastern University outside of Philadelphia. After school, she joined the Presbyterian service corps called the Young Adult Volunteer Program, which brought her to New Orleans. After serving two years in the program, she is excited to be spending her third year in the city with FirstLine and Edible Schoolyard New Orleans. Her responsibilities at Ashe include teaching garden classes and helping to tend the garden, but her LDSC project aims to build capacity for the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans program by producing an archive of visuals for special events, school beautification, and our garden and kitchen spaces. Hannah is most excited about FirstLine's commitment to teaching students about the importance and beauty of growing and cooking your own food. She says, "Knowing that the body, mind, and soul need to be nourished in order to be our best selves is an important lesson. I'm thrilled to have the privilege to bring joy and hope to our students by partaking in and teaching this lesson through FirstLine."

Fun Fact: Hannah is learning to play the djembe and aspires to do nonprofit work in India.

Mallory Naquin, RDN, LDN- Teaching Kitchen Program Development Coordinator at Samuel J. Green Charter School
Mallory was born and raised here in Louisiana, right outside of New Orleans in Cajun Country. She graduated with her undergraduate degree in Dietetics from Nicholls State University, completed her Dietetic Internship at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in June 2015, and became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in July 2015. Her responsibilities include teaching nutrition and culinary education, and her LDSC project focuses on documentation of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans' garden and culinary education curriculum, which will result in a digital archive that can be shared with other garden education programs. She is most excited to be able to share her passion for food, health, and farming with future generations, enhancing the quality of life of our students, their families, and our community.

Fan Fact: Mallory spends her free time learning about nutrition and agriculture by exploring local farmer's markets, "pick-your-own" farms, and tending her own garden at home, collecting ingredients to create new recipes or improve old favorites!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dinner After the Bell, presented by FirstLine Schools and Dinner Lab

FirstLine Schools and Dinner Lab brought their talents together on the night of Wednesday, October 14th, to present #DinnerAfterTheBell, an intimate dinner held in the garden at Samuel J. Green Charter School. Proceeds from the event will support FirstLine's signature programs, such as NOLA Tech, Summer Camp X and Personalized Learning Project (just to name a few).

Guests were treated to a cocktail hour that featured a signature cocktail called "The Green Thumb". The menu, created by Chef Stephen McCary, was inspired by his grandfather's garden. Some of the ingredients used in the meal and cocktail were harvested from the very garden the event was held in, and prepared expertly by Dinner Lab's Chefs working just feet away. Assisting with the meal preparation and presentation were two of our very own students from Clark Prep. Hannah and Damar are culinary arts students in the NOLA Tech program. They did such an awesome job in the kitchen, that Dinner Lab extended them the opportunity to become culinary interns!

NOLA Tech students join the kitchen staff as Chef Stephen McCary reviews the night's menu.
#DinnerAfterTheBell, which was sponsored by Circular Consulting, will become a staple FirstLine event for years to come. To find out more ways you can support our efforts, contact Ericka Windon.

For more pictures of #DinnerAftertheBell, visit our Facebook album.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer Camp X Rounds Out a Great Season

Summer Camp X just finished up a great summer season at Ashe Charter School! Our FirstLine Students participated in a wide variety of activities; from biking, to graphic design, to dance, to running, to yoga, and even running a restaurant!

Besides being a great way to spend time during the summer, all of our classes at Summer Camp X aim to foster our students' mind, body, and spirit. Whether they are learning to set goals, or learning the skills necessary to run a restaurant, they are spending their school break in a constructive and valuable way.

For more info on Summer Camp X, click HERE. We hope to see your FirstLine student there next summer!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Restaurant Impossible at Summer Camp X

Restaurant Impossible, just one of the many courses at Summer Camp X, celebrated their final days of camp by opening a student-designed, built, and run restaurant! Only open for two days during lunch, Restaurant Impossible was a show stopper.

One of our kind patrons gave us five stars and wrote the below review:
I will admit, I was skeptical, as I've experienced mixed results eating lunch in school cafeterias in the past. However, Restaurant Impossible blew away its cafeteria competitors.
My party was seated by two polite and undoubtedly-brilliant hostesses, and we each promptly received a bowl of seasoned popcorn and a cold glass of ice water from our waiter, Danté. The popcorn was delicious, and every person in my party of four ate every kernel. Danté (rising 7th grader) and Caitlyn (rising 2nd-grader) took care of all of us throughout the meal, promptly refilling our water glasses with some of the finest and freshest water offered in New Orleans. An impeccably-dressed manager in a salmon-colored shirt and khaki vest (with matching square) roamed the floor, ensuring that all guests were satisfied.
The food came out shortly after we ordered. The chicken tenders were just that--tender. The breading was perfectly crunchy, giving me the satisfaction of fried food without the grease. The mac-n-cheese portions were Cheesecake Factorian, and the presentation was
One of my colleagues ordered the veggie tacos, which included a healthy scoop of guacamole and locally-sourced eggplant. Both the tacos and the guac looked outstanding--take notes, all other purveyors of Mexican food in New Orleans.
Another colleague of mine ordered the chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. This colleague exists on a diet that is at least 75% chicken wings, so she has a very discerning palette when it comes to fried bird arms. Well, guess what? The chefs at Restaurant Impossible knocked her socks off, and she refused to share. The mozzarella sticks she did share was one of the most delightful fried cheese experiences you could ever hope to have.
My final colleague was in a rush, so she only ordered the chips and homemade grape-tomato salsa. (You read that right.) Guess what? The innovators at Restaurant Impossible knocked this one out of the park, too, and left me wondering how a team of middle- and elementary-schoolers can be more creative in the kitchen than a 30 year-old who once received an A in his 'Making Meals for Others' class in 8th grade. Absolument magnifique.
My only regrets for the meal were that A) I didn't try the smoothies, and B) I didn't pay the $5 extra to sit in the VIP room. (I tried. My colleagues were skeptical, and soon regretted not purchasing the status.) All in all, I give Restaurant Impossible a 100/100.

If you weren't able to make it to Restaurant Impossible, we have some pictures to ease the pain. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Educator of the Year: Ms. Caitlin Meehan-Draper

A graduate from Eckerd College, Caitlin joined Teach for America in 2010. During this time she taught 10th, 11th, and 12th graders at Greensboro High School in Alabama. In her first year teaching Ms. Meehan-Draper decided to teach Night by Elie Wiesel. This lesson was inspired by her time at Eckerd College, where Wiesel taught. Each year Wiesel gave a speech to the Freshman class. This initial interaction with Wiesel and his beliefs about our moral compass, sparked an everlasting relationship between Night and Ms. Meehan-Draper's students.

The first time Caitlin taught the book to her class it was a challenge for both her and her students. However, each time Ms. Meehan-Draper taught the book it got better and better. Her students were soon able to analyze contemporary issues through the themes and lessons of Night.  Students wrote papers about the innocence or guilt of German citizens, the impact of silence on violence, along with a multitude of other concepts. In the 2011-2012 school year Ms. Meehan-Draper fundraised nearly $10,000 to take a group of students to hear Wiesel's address the Eckerd freshman class. 

After two years at Greensboro High School, Ms. Meehan-Draper joined our family at Samuel J. Green Charter School. Since joining the Green family, Ms. Meehan-Draper has taught Night every year. 

Caitlin's work in the classroom and the impact of her lessons did not go unnoticed. Ms. Meehan-Draper was nominated by Green Charter School Director Ava Lee and Middle School Principal Andrew Sullivan for the Holocaust Educator of the Year Award. Shortly following her nomination, the Jewish Community Center interviewed Ms. Meehan-Draper. During the interview Ms. Meehan-Draper was able to share letters from past students who wrote about how holocaust studies have changed their lives. Caitlin also showed the JCC an article she wrote for Southern Jewish Life about her trip to Eckerd to hear Wiesel speak. 

On April 12th the JCC held the Yom HaShoa ceremony which remembers the victims of the Holocaust and their families. It was during this ceremony that Ms. Meehan-Draper was honored for her incredible work. Other events included prayers, stories from Holocaust survivors and liberators, and a reading from Alex Zapruder. 

Caitlin said, "it was a beautiful night because my parents, co workers, school leaders, and students came to support me. This award validated a lof the work I have done to teach the transformative lessons of the Holocaust. I look forward to many more years of teaching Holocaust units and I hope to get better and better at it."

Monday, June 1, 2015

Green Charter wins the WWII Museum's robotics challenge music video contest!

On May 9, nearly 40 teams, including Samuel J. Green Charter School, participated in the World War II Museum's robotics challenge. 

Each team was tasked with completing a variety of robotics missions and producing a two-minute music video about one or more important innovations or inventions from WWII.

Samuel J. Green Charter School's robotics club built a robot that was able to successfully complete several missions and earn points for the team. Building a robot is no easy task, so this accomplishment was impressive in itself! 

We are excited to announce that Samuel J. Green Charter took first place in the music video portion of the challenge! Students created a music video, set to the tune of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes." The short video reviews a number of important inventions from the time period with a series of clever rhymes. 

Check it out below!

Also, Samuel J. Green Charter School would like to give a shout out to the Phillis Wheatley Community School (formerly John Dibert) team that competed.  They graciously shared their practice table, mat, and mission models with their fellow FirstLiners. Go Team FirstLine!  

Monday, May 4, 2015

Check out Chartwells' new NutriSlice website and app!

The way we access our school menus is changing in an exciting new way! FirstLine Schools, in partnership with Chartwells, is now using Nutrislice to publish the school menus to a new interactive website and a free smartphone app! Now our school community can access our menus anywhere, anytime!

New easy-to-use features include:
* More information about menu items, including a photo and description
* Filter for common food allergens like nuts, wheat and dairy
* A translation feature to translate your menus into a number of different languages
* Access to nutrition information like carb counts and calories with just a few clicks!

The new site and mobile app is now available and information will continue to be posted on the Chartwells' website. Be on the lookout for the launch of our new site and feel free to direct any questions to Tom Gandolfo, 504-914-8461