The District of Columbia Housing Authority, TeamTakeOver AAU, STEM NOLA, Dolls & Dreamz, Lasting Impressions, HopeFinders, Haden Sports and other community partners hosted SpringFest 2018, a week of sports and STEM activities, for 100 DCHA youth.

This Beyond the Voucher initiative ran from Monday, March 26 through 30, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and featured basketball clinics, life skills workshops, and STEM activities. During each morning session, TweenMEntoring, Etiquette training and Anti-bullying seminars were available to girls while Boys-2-Men and Omega Psi Phi seminars were available to boys, for example. In the afternoon there were basketball clinics and STEM DC seminars.

“Making sure our youth are inspired and engaged in the world around them is so important,” said DCHA Executive Director Tyrone Garrett. “SpringFest 2018 is just one more way DCHA works to encourage young people to be all that they can be. With the help of these great community partners, we hope they see themselves having bright futures.”

SpringFest 2018, held at the Community Building at Capitol Riverfront, located at 1000 5th Street, S.E., took place during the D.C. Public School system’s spring break. The community partners said their participation was a labor of love.

“It’s our duty to inspire the youth and the next generation,” said Mark Sesay, an Omega Psi Phi, who facilitated a daily class that aimed to teach the youth about African American identity, give them inspiration for their future goals, and to encourage creativity. “As I continue to ascend in my personal career, I love to give back, talk to them, and give them a chance…I remember what some of these programs did for me.”

Sesay’s program also included practical skills like how to tie a tie and writing. He also had guest speakers and scholars, to aspiring rappers, to journalists, speak to the youth. He also incorporated the recent hit film “Black Panther” into several of his lessons.

“The kids love it. The kids have been eager to show me their talent. After I rapped my creative piece, one kid wrote his own rap and showed me,” said Sesay, who created a custom handshake with the youth.

Another partner, Lasting Impressions, focused on modern etiquette and dining skills for the young girls that aims to build confidence and self-esteem in the process, said its creator Jackie Collins.

Collins directed the youth through workshops where they learned manners, how to properly shake hands, use their “leadership voice,” and positive body language.

“Social skills are not typically taught in public and private schools. Although these skills can be taught in the home, students tend to grasp the skills taught in my workshops because they are interactive with the primary focus on increasing confidence, self-esteem, and kindness,” Collins said.

She said the youth that participated in her daily sessions had fun using “The Wheel of Etiquette” and learning the “do’s” of dining. Collins said she also noticed that each day upon arrival, the youth would show off their new skills, greeting her and the other facilitators, using please and thank you, and trying to practice their handshakes.

Another workshop session, entitled Dolls and Dreamz, is a mentoring program for girls who have suffered traumatic experiences. The program also works to give these young girls a voice in their community and connect them with other girls in a support network.  At SpringFest 2018, the message and lessons centered around an anti-bullying campaign.  The campaign incorporated bling and bows in an effort to teach girls the that they can be leaders and to “stand up” when they witness another youth being bullied. 

“Our anti-bullying campaign is for the young girls to recognize to choose whether to have positive or negative impacts on each other, to take ownership of their word choices, and to create an atmosphere of respect,” said Remy Henderson of Dolls and Dreamz. “We did a pre-test in the beginning and at the end we did a post-test regarding bullying to get an idea and understanding of what the girls knew about bullying and to see what they had gained from the program.”

Each day there was a different workshop and an associated activity around making healthy friends, taking an anti-bullying pledge, and taking a stand against bullying, she said. There was artwork—including rhinestones—to go with each activity.   

For example, the girls participated in an activity about gossip. The youth used glitter as the gossip example. They stood in a circle and passed the glitter to each other, as they would a piece of gossip.

“Once you release your words you can’t take them back. Passing the glitter is like spreading rumors,” Henderson said. “Some piece is going to be left out.”

Henderson added, “The entire Dolls and Dreamz team really enjoyed working with that population during the SpringFest 2018.”


Last modified: 4/26/2018 12:00:18 PM