Stemming the Slide: How Summer Presents Unique Challenges and Opportunities for Underrepresented Students

14 Apr 2014 Charlotte 1 hashatg

Below is a shortened version (you know I would never do a presentation without icebreakers, but I didn’t want to spoil it for any potential participants!) of a presentation I am giving at the National Partnership for Educational Access Conference on April 17, 2015. Hope you’ll join me in Philadelphia and see what it looks like live and with tons of activities!

Apply for the 2015 Excellence in Summer Learning Awards

7 Jan 2014 Charlotte 1 hashatg

Do you run a high-quality summer learning program that should be recognized nationally?

NSLA CMYK logoThe National Summer Learning Association’s (NSLA) Excellence in Summer Learning Award and the new Founder’s Award recognize summer programs or models that demonstrate excellence in accelerating academic achievement and promoting healthy development for young people.

Just by submitting an application for one of these awards, your program will receive a feedback summary from NSLA outlining its strengths and areas for improvement. There is no cost to apply.

Award winners and finalists receive even more detailed feedback, similar to having a full CASP (Comprehensive Assessment of Summer Programs) assessment and a consultation phone call with the NSLA Program Quality Team.

As a Summer Learning Excellence Award Winner, your program will receive:

  • Visibility at NSLA’s Summer Changes Everything™ national conference through general sessions presentations, and other speaking opportunities.
  • National exposure through a NSLA press release during the busy summer media season.
  • Peer learning opportunities through NSLA’s new affinity group structure.

Your program may even be featured in a future case study in NSLA presentations, publications, or reports that are widely distributed throughout the education field and staged on

The application deadline is Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Visit to learn more and apply today!

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Live Tweeting: The Summer Changes Everything National Conference on Summer Learning

20 Nov summer changes everything

I have been fortunate to work for the National Summer Learning Association since January, 2014. It is a wonderful organization not just in its mission and vision, but also in all my hardworking and passionate coworkers. Our annual conference, The Summer Changes Everything National Conference on Summer Learning was held from Monday, November 17th (the pre-conference) through Wednesday, November 19th in San Antonio, Texas. During the conference I was tasked with live tweeting the general sessions and workshops I attended, including my own!

Below is the social media roundup following the conference hashtag #SummerConf. If you see yourself below share the news that you’re a little bit internet famous after attending NSLA’s Summer Changes Eerything Conference. Tweet, Instagram, Tumblr, Reblog, Facebook… spread the word and use #SummerConf as a hashtag.

Pre-Conference and Opening Reception

Excited to see what is in store at the National Summer Learning Conference. #summerconf #hype4reading #hypefreedomschool

A photo posted by HYPE Freedom School, Inc. (@hypefs) on

Looking forward to presenting tomorrow #summerconf #punahousummer #pueoprogram @punahouschool

A photo posted by C Agena (@fenwayfan808) on

#jomdc we are here at the National Summer Learning Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Time to create quality summer dance programs #summerconf

A photo posted by Joy of Motion Dance Center (@joyofmotiondancecenter) on

Day 1

Day one of the National Conference on Summer Learning was very informative. Summer Changes Everything! #summerconf

A photo posted by HYPE Freedom School, Inc. (@hypefs) on

NSLA's pre-conference and first day of the #summerconf #flipagram made with @flipagram

A video posted by Dara, (@dara_laine) on

Wes Moore

Day 1, Continued

Thank you to the over 60 people that joined @goprojectnyc for our Falling in Love with data workshop! #summerconf

A photo posted by Olivia Nunez (@onunez513) on

@goprojectnyc is presenting soon. Excited to share our work & learn together. #summerconf

A photo posted by Olivia Nunez (@onunez513) on

Day 2

Summer Sparks – Youth Voice

Day 2, Continued

About the National Summer Learning Association: 

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. NSLA recognizes and disseminates what works, offers expertise and support for programs and communities, and advocates for summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education. NSLA’s work is driven by the belief that all children and youth deserve high-quality summer learning experiences that will help them succeed in college, career, and life. For more information, visit

Wes Moore on the Importance of Summer Learning in NSLA interview

6 Nov

The following interview is quoted in its entirety from the most recent Summer Times: Your Resource for Making the Most of Summer (a publication by the National Summer Learning Association). But first, learn a little bit more about Wes Moore.

About Wes Moore: 

Moore is a youth advocate, Army combat veteran, social entrepreneur, and host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network. His first book The Other Wes Moore became an instant New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Moore graduated Phi Theta Kappa in 1998 as a commissioned officer from Valley Forge Military College, and Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in 2001, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in International Relations. He then became a Rhodes Scholar, studying International Relations at Oxford University.

After his studies, Moore, a paratrooper and Captain in the United States Army, served a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division. Moore then served as a White House fellow to Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice.

He serves on the board of the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), The Johns Hopkins University, and founded an organization called STAND! that works with Baltimore youth involved in the criminal justice system.

Here’s the Interview:

NSLA asked Summer Changes Everything™ conference keynote speaker, Wes Moore about his summers, and why he feels summer is such a pivotal time for all youth. Check out his Q&A below:

Q: How did you spend your summers as a child?

A: When I was younger, my family never really did much over the the summer. We didn’t go on vacation or go to summer camps. We mostly just hung around the neighborhood. My mother was really creative and tried to use the resources of the neighborhood to keep us busy, but most my time was spent hanging with my friends in our neighborhood.

Q: Why do you feel summer learning is so important?

A: What happens over the summer or what doesn’t happen over the summer is putting us at a crucial disadvantage. Learning doesn’t stop over the summer. Students are still picking up information. The question becomes who are they picking up information from? Teachers and role models or friends on the street?

Q: How do we overcome the negative attitudes/perceptions about summer learning and what most think of as remedial summer school?

A: Learning should never have a negative stereotype and there is never a bad time to learn. In fact, some of our most privileged students spend their summers traveling and visiting other countries and sharing new experiences. This is certainly a type of learning, and it does not have a negative stereotype. We want to make sure that all students can realize learning over the summer doesn’t necessarily happen in a classroom, but academic experiences can be fun at any time.

Q: Tell us how summer learning providers are using your book, The Other Wes Moore in their programs?

We’re been fortunate enough to have our book used in a variety of learning environments. We’ve actually had many schools use it for summer reading to prepare for the upcoming year.

About the National Summer Learning Association: 

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. NSLA recognizes and disseminates what works, offers expertise and support for programs and communities, and advocates for summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education. NSLA’s work is driven by the belief that all children and youth deserve high-quality summer learning experiences that will help them succeed in college, career, and life. For more information, visit

Live Tweeting: Day 2 of the School’s Out Washington Bridge Conference

28 Oct

Today I had the great pleasure of attending and presenting at the 14th annual School’s Out Washington Bridge Conference. The people I met were passionate about working with young people and were engaged in every presentation.

About the Conference: The Bridge Conference brings together education and community leaders serving youth both in and out of school to come together to strengthen these partnerships between our formal education system and after-school and youth development (AYD) programs. This year’s conference theme was Making Learning Personal and emphasized how meaningful learning is ignited by personal passion, supports social-emotional learning all the while building competency in academics. We hope for a world in which all youth are accessing quality services both in and out of school that help them succeed in school and in life.

I had such a fun time live tweeting the plenary sessions and my two workshops. Below is the social media roundup of Day 2 of the conference.

Making Learning Personal at the 2014 Bridge Conference! #Bridge2014

A photo posted by Glen Reser (@glenreser) on

So ready for Day 2 of the Bridge Conference! #Bridge2014

A photo posted by Glen Reser (@glenreser) on

Equality vs. Equity Bridge Conference 2014 #Bridge2014

A photo posted by Greg G. (@gbgarcia74) on

Lunch! 2014 Bridge Conference! #SchoolsOut #Bridge2014

A photo posted by Glen Reser (@glenreser) on

UW's campus is absolutely beautiful 💜💛 #Bridge2014

A photo posted by Mrs. Nolen-Viducich (@cviducich) on

Live Tweeting: Art With a Story, a Just Kids Partnership project

23 Oct

Last night I had the great pleasure to live tweet an event at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, MD. The event, Art with a Story, was a multimedia fundraising event featuring visual and performance art to honor Youth Justice Awareness month. I was invited to the event by fellow Public Allies Maryland (and AmeriCorps) Alum, Shannon Daley.

About the Just Kids Partnership: Just Kids is a campaign working to change the way youth charged as adults are treated in the Maryland justice system through policy change, community organizing and public education.

Their goals are threefold: (1) reduce the number of youth who are charged and tried as adults; (2) advocate for policies that transfer fewer youth to the adult criminal justice system; and (3) increase the number of safe and effective community-based programs and practices that serve youth who are accused of serious offenses.

Here’s the social media roundup from the event:

For more information check out these links:

Personal Branding 101 – The 2014 Update

22 Oct

Today I presented the 2014 update to my original Personal Branding 101 workshop. The interactive workshop is set for two hours and involves participants completing a workbook filled with materials and additional resources about branding tailored specifically for the audience. If you’re interested in bringing this to your conference, organization, or AmeriCorps program, contact me!

Follow along with the hashtag #PAMDbrand

Using Instagram to Grow Your Blog or Personal Brand

1 Oct


Thinking a lot about how to use instagram to build my personal brand, this post is great!

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

Some of you may not use Instagram as actively as others, but even if you’re not an addict of the app, it might offer a new outlet to build your blog and personal brand. After all, your blog is just one aspect of you — if you’re on Instagram, perhaps you can find ways to bridge these two networks and grow your online presence.

View original 625 more words

Transition Announcement: Graduated from Hopkins, Working at National Summer Learning Association

18 Aug
Though some may already be aware, I’m writing to let you know that after two wonderful and challenging years I’ve graduated from The Institute of Health and Social Policy at Johns Hopkins University with a Master’s in Public Policy. My time at Hopkins was a truly fantastic experience, thank you to everyone I had the pleasure of working and learning with.
Immediately following my graduation from Hopkins I accepted the position of Program Quality and Evaluation Manager at The National Summer Learning Association. In this position I lead NSLA’s work on formative evaluations and assessments and support all the major program quality initiatives across the US. This summer I’ve traveled all over the country from New York to Kentucky to California working to build high quality summer learning programs. I love seeing amazing programs on the ground, without having to be the one responsible for running the program itself. It’s definitely a change from my days managing volunteers and running after-school programs, but my evaluation work allows me to stay connected to young people while making a larger impact on education (specifically the achievement gap and summer learning loss) at the national level. It’s truly a win-win for me! 
I am also happy to announce that after my wedding this summer, I will now be using my married name Dara Murray. You can keep in touch via LinkedIn ( or Twitter ( 
Thanks for you continued support. I hope to hear from you soon!

My 8 Year List

30 Jul

Try to practice yoga regularly (defined as twice a week)

Start a new book every time I finish one

Visit the Grand Canyon

Hike! (once a month, when the weather is nice)

Visit Colorado to do Colorado-y things

Actually fix that knee and run a half marathon

Say yes to everything for a day and maybe say yes to doing it again

Work no more than 40 hours a week

Try to transition to working one day at home a week


Visit with Mom & Dad once a month

Go to Tibet

Drive Across the Country

Ride an Elephant

Visit San Francisco

Be in the audience of The Price is Right

Reach my ideal weight without sacrificing my love for food

Swim with a whale

Swim with a manatee

Swim with a sea lion

Climb a legit mountain

Ride in a hot air balloon

See the Northern Lights

Hike the Appalachian Trail

Go on a meditation vacation… and figure out fully what that means

Try the sensory deprivation chamber

Audition for community theater

Hike the Inca Trail and Visit Machu Picchu

Take Andy to the number one place he wants to go and create the perfect vacation for him and don’t complain once

Climb a tree

Stay somewhere other than Baltimore for a few months

Visit Thailand/Cambodia/Vietnam/Laos once that area gets it together

Buy a new car

Spend New Year with no one but Andy in a foreign place

Try skiing (and don’t get hurt!)

Live in a place where I can plant things in the ground

See the Great Wall of China

See a salt flat

Float in the dead sea

Go in a natural hot spring

Go somewhere cold during winter

Go somewhere warm during winter

Take a vacation with my family and Andy’s family

Join a CSA (even a half!)

Visit Bali

Unplug for 24 hours

Unplug for 48 hours

Unplug for 1 week

(to be continued)


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