Welcome to the WIN Family Services Newsletter! In this issue, we will feature great news about our youth and their accomplishments, a re-cap of last spring's "Rock the Runway" event, news of recognition of awards in WIN Wins, a look into the recent trip our youth were able to take to Georgia at the Hip Hop Summit Event, and the inspiring story of our CEO's commitment to the youth and the community, as told by ABC2 News!
over 400 people attended the concert event which featured artists such as Doreen Vail and Micah Smith. Founded in 2008, The Dream4It Foundation raises funds to support numerous educational endeavors designed to provide youth with scholarships for higher education positioning them to realize their Dreams. To date, the Foundation has awarded nearly $40,000.00 in educational scholarships. We are so proud to be led by Mr. Laws, whose unwavering compassion support has helped thousands!
To learn more about Dream4It, Inc. visit: http://dream4it.net/
Congratulations to our Youth!
WIN Family Services, Inc. is proud to announce the successful high school graduation of six of our youth in Prince George’s County and 11 of our youth in Baltimore. This spring, many of our youth in Prince George’s County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City also graduated from elementary or middle school! In the weeks leading up to these momentous occasions in their lives, our youth have achieved notable success such as: making curfew, achieving straight A’s, and being a part of the Honor Roll for the entire year! Please find time to recognize and send our well wishes to these outstanding youth. Congratulations everyone, you’ve made us all proud!
DREAM Reaches New Levels
WIN Family services is excited to share news of a wonderful breakthrough with our youth in DREAM at our Prince George’s County office location! With the suggestion of one of our Family Services Coordinators, Tristan Meltzer, our youth wrote “Letters to our Younger Selves”. Mark Davis, our Director of Family Strengthening, took time to speak about the dynamic and fruitful experience, “We had the most powerful evening in DREAM PG since I’ve been here. The youth were engaged, empowered, inspired, and encouraged. Best of all, we have it all on tape!...Tonight was the largest attendance outside of DREAM in the Park that we’ve ever had. Let’s keep the momentum going!”
Tymera Wheeler, a Family Services Specialist at WIN, commended Mark and DREAM on a job well done:
“I want to congratulate you for one of the best D.R.E.A.M programs I have participated in. The energy was high, there was plenty of participation and the food was off the chain! Thank you for having the vision and conviction to continue to improve the format that provides our children the opportunity to show their God given talent. I was excited to attend and look forward to the next D.R.E.A.M".
Mark is looking forward to the next DREAM meeting to continue brainstorming great ideas on taking DREAM to the next level!
Youth Dazzle Audience At "Rock the Runway" Event
Mark Davis stood in front of the silent kids of the DREAM program. “So…who’s interested?” He prodded the teens again, hoping to get more of a response than the crickets that could be heard chirping from a distance. Mark, WIN Family Services’ Director of Family Strengthening had just finished proposing the idea of a fashion show event featuring DREAM participants. He was met with shifting glances from the kids, either to each other or just to their shoes – avoiding all eye contact.
WIN’s DREAM program (acronym for Destiny Realized Equals Achievement Maximized) was designed to help youth realize and hone their God-given talents and interests. As an arts and cultural enrichment program, DREAM participants utilize their inherent strengths as therapeutic approach to achieving life goals. Its main purpose is to help the children achieve the confidence that he or she needs to become what they have always aspired to be in life.
Shaquan, one of the older girls in the program, tugged at her faded t-shirt, “What am I supposed to wear?” In a world where they have experienced far too many transitions and disappointments, a glamorous and flashy event such as a fashion show seemed too far out of reach. To parade in front of an audience exhibiting the utmost confidence was unheard of. Many of the youth here had been taken from their homes and moved from place to place; their personal belongs dwindling to a few toiletries and basic articles of clothing – hardly the essentials to create a full-on fashion extravaganza. “I’m going to rock the runway?” Shaquan asked again.
In the upcoming weeks, the WIN Family Services staff and the DREAM participants worked around the clock, with the determination to pull off an amazing event. Most of the youth involved in the fashion show entered foster care with only the clothes on their back. This just would not do. Staff members visualized and created flashy clothing ensembles; old t-shirts were embellished with rhinestones, beads, and dye. Everyone was taught the ways of the catwalk, from walking with a confident swagger, to tips on hair and make-up. Slowly, a transformation seemed to come over the youth. With every step on practice runways, they seemed to hold their heads a little bit higher. From feeling as if they had nothing, all of a sudden they were America’s Next Top Model.
On Friday, April 26th at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, a hush fell over the audience as people began to take their seats one by one. The band stood in the background, prepping for their debut performance. Flowers made of recycled soda cans and bottles adorned the stage and twinkled in the light. A proud banner hung from the wall announcing this exciting event, “Rock the Runway”. The band played their first notes, indicating the beginning of WIN Family Services DREAM program’s first ever, and fashion show event. It was gearing up to be a hectic and exciting event!
One by one, the models took to the stage, some smiling and some laughing. Some were even keeping the fashionable pouts that models today notoriously use. The stage that was set up in The Great Blacks and Wax Museum in Baltimore became the runway of Milan during fashion week. The kids’ social workers, foster parents, and family members were seeing them in an element they rarely see– full of life, pride, and confidence.
As the fashion show came to a close, enthusiastic audience members rushed up to the stage to congratulate the models and performers – no one beaming as bright as the young girl who thought she had nothing to offer for this event, “It’s like Cinderella,” Shaquan smiled, showing off her outfit to all those near. In that moment, it all became clear: All these kids needed were a dose of self-assurance to be able to accomplish anything they could dream.
WIN plans to host Rock the Runway events every other month. Not only did staff request to hold the event, the success of this inaugural event and all future events are for the youth who gained so much more than new clothes – they discovered a new attitude and self-confidence to carry them through the rest of their lives.
WIN Family Services, Inc. received the GuideStar Exchange Gold level logo, a leading symbol of transparency and accountability provided by GuideStar USA, Inc., the premier source of nonprofit information. The logo demonstrates WIN’s deep commitment to nonprofit transparency and accountability.
In order to be awarded the GuideStar Exchange logo, WIN Family Services had to thoroughly complete a report of our nonprofit organization on www.guidestar.org for the Gold level of participation.
We hope you will check us out and tell us what you think: http://www.guidestar.org/organizations/52-2054536/win-family-services.aspx
DREAM at the Hip Hop Summit Event
On July 26, 2013, 11 members of the DREAM program traveled to Columbus, Georgia to attend the National Hip Hop Summit. Performers and music lovers of all ages, from all over the United States, gathered at the Liberty Theatre to share in their common admiration of musical art. This was a wonderful opportunity for our youth to express themselves freely through their talents and music, as well as meet others from different states who shared their love of music and entertainment. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer was on site to cover the event and took time to speak with our Director of Family Strengthening, Mark Davis.
To read more on the event, visit: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2013/07/27/2603180/hip-hop-summit-attracts-young.html
ABC2 News "2 Good 2 Be True"
WIN Family Services was recently featured on WMAR-ABC2 News’ segment, “2 Good 2 Be True” on Friday, September 13, 2013. The segment highlighted WIN’s Chief Executive Officer, Alford Laws Jr. and his call from a life of exploring the universe as aeronautical engineer to a life committed to strengthening youth and families. The news clip told the story of Mr. Laws’ change of calling and how it has impacted thousands of youth in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. “2 Good 2 Be True” also featured one of WIN’s former youth who rose from a life of delinquent acts to obtaining his bachelors degree.
To watch the news clip, visit http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/news/region/baltimore_city/al-laws-2-good-2-be-true#ixzz2fqDWy7v
WIN would like to take a moment to highlight a true act of compassion and support that one of our amazing foster parents did for two siblings who WIN has been working with for 5 years. This incredible woman truly exemplifies the mission of WIN.
This past August, Ms. Joyce Marshall took two brothers on a visit to see their biological mother in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Ms. Marshall had been a former foster parent to both young men. Although she is not currently hosting either youth, she has remained a steadfast source of emotional support and love for the brothers, keeping contact with both throughout the years. This was truly an emotional trip as the brothers experienced some anxiety at the idea of reuniting with their mother whom they have not seen in over 10 years. However, Ms. Marshall remained encouraging and understanding.
To Ms. Marshall, WIN would like to give a big THANK YOU for the gift you gave to the brothers. You truly have a servant’s heart and God will reward you for this in heaven!