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Apply for the 2015 Excellence in Summer Learning Awards

7 Jan

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

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

Day 1

Wes Moore

Day 1, Continued

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: 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:


What to do when you don’t get the job

13 Jul

You sent in your application complete with a beautifully formatted and results driven resume, stunning cover letter, and glowing recommendations. You nailed the interview, connecting with the current employees and showcasing how you would be a great fit for the position and organization. You sent a hand written thank-you note to emphasize your commitment to the organization and why you’re the perfect fit!

Then, you get an email.

It was a pleasure to meet and interview you for this position.  We received a strong response and had many wonderful candidates.  Ultimately, we did select another candidate for this position.  This was difficult choice and I appreciate the chance to get to know you…

There’s no other way to put this: getting passed over for a job sucks. So now what? What do you do when you don’t get the job?

  1. Respond This is not the time to ignore an email, no matter how tempting it may be. Whether it’s a phone call, email, or letter: respond! You always want the last memory or interaction a potential employer has of you to be a good one.
  2. Be Polite… Friendly Even! When you respond, be friendly and polite. Thank them for their time and consideration, even if you’ve already done that in a thank you note. You always want your last interaction with a potential employer to be a good one.
  3. Reinforce that Bridge Let them know that if there are any new opportunities with their company or organization in the future, you would love to be considered. Instead of burning that bridge you’ve already built with a place you’d love to work, make it stronger. You never know, the person they pick over you may not last more than two weeks and you’ll be the first person on their mind!

These tips may seem like common sense, but trust me, if you’ve ever been turned down for a job you’ve wanted, your gut reaction may be to do the exact opposite.

What have you done when you didn’t get the job? Share your stories with me in the comments!


How an Idealistic Veterinary Receptionist became the Assistant Director of a Nonproft

22 Nov

As you may have read yesterday, I am officially a featured blogger on the Public Allies blog project called The Ally Snapshot Blog! I was lucky enough to be featured first and I wanted to share some of my first post with you today. Check out the full post at the Snapshot Blog (also listed in my blogroll) and subscribe to my feed on that blog here: Dara’s Ally Snapshot Feed.

During my term of service with Public Allies Maryland and to prepare for the 20th anniversary of Public Allies I’m participating in a blog project called “Ally Snapshots.” Here is my latest post!

All my life I’ve wanted to change the world. People have told me that goal is too “idealistic” and that if I want to be taken seriously, I need to set “realistic” goals. Public Allies taught me what those people didn’t know: changing the world is realistic; you just do it in small ways, every day.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. As you may have read in my bio, my parents raised me to value equality—to see similarities in people rather than differences. This could be because they were theater majors in college, or it could be because they’re just awesome like that. Regardless, something in their lives made them realize that they needed to teach their children how to treat people with kindness and compassion no matter what.

I learned at a young age that equality sometimes needed to be fought for and always needed to be defended, and I took this to heart.  During High School I was very active in creating and running my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.  We created it because my close friend was unable to take his boyfriend to prom. After that I took every opportunity I could to advocate for LGBT rights, traveling all over New Jersey and New York. I even served on the board of the Central New Jersey chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). I was certain that I wanted to be a Political Science major and that I would use that to change the world.

However, even the best-laid plans can change. During my time at Drew University I realized that I liked working with people more than I liked working with policies and I cared more about leadership, empowerment, and movements from the ground up. The problem was that I graduated at a time where jobs were scarce, especially in the nonprofit sector. I started to feel like it didn’t matter if I wanted to change the world and had faith in my ability to do it when no one would give me a chance. That’s when I found Public Allies and my life changed forever.

Public Allies saw my passion for service-learning and youth development, and my dedication to changing the world from the ground up and believed in me. Throughout my first year they helped me hone my leadership skills, introduced me to my first true mentor, and gave me the opportunity to work as the Assistant Director of a nonprofit in Baltimore. Being accepted to Public Allies Maryland is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. My time with Public Allies was so amazing, in fact, that I had to stay for another year!

To read the full post please check out the Ally Snapshot Blog! Check out the other amazing Allies while you’re at it!

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