Category Archives: In the News

ReadySteps from ReadyKids, An Important Partner at Friendship Court and Beyond

Piedmont Housing Alliance partners with several area nonprofits to bring enriching support to our client families. ReadyKids is one of those partners, providing services to children who live in Piedmont Housing Alliance supported housing, such as Friendship Court. We asked Shannon Banks, program manager for ReadySteps to share information with us about the program, and what ReadyKids provides the children at Friendship Court.

The ReadySteps Program at ReadyKids
By Shannon Banks, ReadySteps Program Manager

Every Tuesday morning, kids ages zero to five and their parents bounce into the Friendship Court Community Center ready for two hours of fun with the ReadySteps program at ReadyKids. The ReadySteps program takes a family-centered, holistic approach to school readiness, and supports the entire family to be ready for school. We support kids to develop the skills they need to enter school ready to learn, and we empower parents by equipping them with the skills and knowledge to support their child’s growth and development. In addition, we work to connect families to the resources they need to reach their goals, and help them to identify and address concerns.

How does ReadySteps Help Kids?

When our kids aren’t ready with the tools they need to succeed, they fail or fall behind. When our parents aren’t ready with the tools they need to succeed, it is much more difficult for them to support their children. We know that kids who participate in high quality early childhood education programs enter school better prepared and are more successful than their peers who have not had those opportunities. We know that having a primary caregiver with whom they have a strong, positive and nurturing relationship is critical to kids’ optimal growth and development. And we also know that when caregivers are supported to understand how their child is growing and developing, build relationships with neighbors, and are able to access to community resources, they are better equipped to make choices and decisions that help propel their kids to success.

What happens during a ReadySteps Playgroup?

Through play kids learn about how the world and its people work. Jen Fenerty (Group Leader), Margot Pleasants (Educator), and Laura Somel (Family Coordinator), design and facilitate activities aimed at supporting child and adult growth in all areas of their life. Circle time offers the opportunity to come together and work as a group, and to practice taking turns and following directions. Stations with different educational activities allow kids the opportunity to make a choice, and decide what they want to do and how they want to do it, within the established limits and boundaries of playgroup.  They also provide parents the opportunity to follow their child’s lead, and become engrossed in play. Activities such as these, and many more, provide the foundation for learning basic math and literacy skills, such as counting and letter recognition.

How does ReadySteps Help Parents?

Our parent support and education activities give parents the opportunity to shine as the expert on their kids, learn new skills, and give feedback on the program. We collaborate with other programs and agencies including the Healthy Families Program, Women’s Initiative, PB&J Fund, Infant and Toddler Connection of the Blue Ridge, Charlottesville City Schools, and CHiP to provide information and services to empower parents. We also host a monthly Parent Advisory Committee, complete developmental screenings, and share helpful parenting information and ways to extend the playgroup learning experience at home. Kids do not come with an instruction manual, and everyone needs someone to support and encourage them.  ReadySteps works to do just that.

How do I get involved?

The ReadySteps program is free, and all parents or caregivers and their kids ages birth to age 5 years are welcome to join us. Our next playgroup is Tuesday, April 10 at 10:00 a.m.!

Girls at Friendship Court Benefit from Girls’ Mentoring Program

Mentoring

Each week, approximately eight to 10 girls from the Friendship Court community come together at the community center for an after-school mentoring program taught by Community Center Coordinator, Jessica Eldridge. Jessica, the founder of Impact My Life Mentoring, LLC says, “I believe even the slightest positive influence has the potential to change a child’s life.”

Starting in the fall of 2017 Jessica has led the girls in empowering activities and discussions about what it means to have self-confidence and self-esteem. During one of their discussions, the girls talked about how to distinguish between a friend and a frenemy (someone who acts as a friend, but when not around you, they do unfriendly things behind your back).

Girls mentoring

During another activity, the girls went outside and took five pictures of themselves, or five selfies, to create a group selfie art gallery. Then the girls wrote down a compliment about themselves on each picture. This small gesture allowed them time to think about who they are and how they are important, finding something to celebrate about themselves and share with others. On Diamond Keyes’ picture she wrote, “I like myself because I have a good personality and I am pretty, and I won’t think differently.”

Galentine's 4

Galentine's 1In January, the girls focused on New Year’s resolutions and what they hope to accomplish in the New Year.  Many of them talked about how they hope to do well in their next quarter of school and how they want to work towards getting good grades.  Then, in February, they celebrated “Galentine’s Day,” an unofficial holiday held on the day before Valentine’s Day in which ladies, young and old, celebrate themselves and others. In that session, they discussed the importance of making and having good friends as well as what types of characteristics they like to find in a good friend. They discussed positive qualities about themselves and how it felt when they looked in the mirror. Then the girls designed their own personal mirrors with paint, glitter, and stickers and enjoyed a meal together.

Jefferson Area CHIP has been partnering with the group as well. Their mission is to partner with families to create nurturing home environments and promote the health and well-being of children in our community.  Jessica says the girls have been enjoying their insight into their discussions and it also allows them room to interact with different people whom they’ve never met before – adults and young girls alike.

Jessica says, “The goal in teaching this program is for the girls to create a space that is all their own where they are free to express themselves in the way that they want without judgement from other people.”

She added that she has had some very proud moments so far with the girls and that she hopes to keep up the mentoring sessions for the foreseeable future.

 

 

ACAC Coordinates Holiday Gift Drive for Friendship Court Families

Thanks to the ACAC Downtown team and community, families at Friendship Court received gifts through a special drive organized by the neighboring athletic center to help bring joy to the neighborhood children. “ACAC has been a wonderful community partner in making sure many of the children and families who live at Friendship Court are able to enjoy Christmas in a special way,” said Claudette Grant, Friendship Court community organizer.

As one mother said, “ACAC outdid themselves this year. My children received so many amazing gifts. We are set for several months because of the generosity of this community.”  The gifts are much appreciated. For many of the Friendship Court families, Christmas would be difficult without the generosity and support of ACAC Downtown. The staff and patrons of ACAC not only give so freely of their time to make sure this event happens every Christmas, but they take the act of giving to a higher level. On several occasions, members of the athletic center checked in with staff to make sure families in need received the items requested or would have enough assistance to put together certain toys. “It is nice to know we have so many angels in our community who make sure Christmas is joyous for several happy little ones,” said Claudette.

Thanks to Paul Kyriacopoulos, assistant general manager, who with his team, organize and deliver hundreds of gifts for Friendship Court residents each December. Thanks ACAC community!

 

Fall Festival at Friendship Court

festival-2

On Saturday, October 7, Friendship Court residents gathered for a Fall Festival and enjoyed spending time together and with surrounding neighbors.  Kids played, got their faces painted, and jumped in the bounce house while adults enjoyed music, raffles, and a variety of foods.

festival-4 festival-12Piedmont Housing Alliance staff engaged with residents, asking for their preferred way to receive information and updates and to communicate opinions and ideas, as planning for redevelopment continues. Good Neighbor Appreciation nominations were received from residents, and these people will be recognized in the upcoming Friendship Court newsletter. Residents got to speak with Piedmont Housing Alliance staff about programs and activities at the community center, including programming for children and youth, financial education sessions, and employment opportunities. Residents also got to speak with Velvet Coleman from the City of Charlottesville who is excited about her new role as Parent Connections for Preschool through 2nd grades for the elementary schools of Charlottesville. Velvet provided kids with fun school supplies.festival-21

A delicious dinner was provided by Afghan Kabob and Mel’s Cafe. Thanks to all the other partners who helped make this possible, including Cindy Pollard of Transformations (face painting), Superfun Attractions with the Yanceys (bounce house), Coria RVA (DJ), the Party Starts Here, Virginia Tent Rental, Eze Amos (photography) and Charlottesville City Schools.  A special thanks to the residents who provide ongoing guidance and leadership in the community on the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, the Youth Leadership Team, and in other roles.

Project Manager Beth Kennan said, “It was great to see so many families enjoying the Fall Festival with their neighbors. We are so fortunate to be working with this wonderful community towards improved housing and economic opportunities.”
festival-13

Piedmont Housing Alliance sponsors community dinners and events several times each year, in addition to ongoing programs and activities at the community center.  To stay connected to happenings in the community, see the monthly newsletters on the Friendship Court website at www.friendshipcourtapartments.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FriendshipCourt/.

Happy Fall!

Unity in the Friendship Court CommUNITY Anti-Bullying Event

Anti bully eventThe Love No Ego Group, LLC, in collaboration with Piedmont Housing Alliance, Friendship Court Community, Portico Church, Impact My Life Mentoring, LLC, and the Bridge Ministry came together on Friday, September 15 to present a much-needed motivational speaker event called Unity in Friendship Court CommUNITY.  Kids and several adults packed into the community center to hear two speakers, Freddy Jackson and Jay James share their own inspirational life experiences.

30% of U.S. students in grades six through ten are involved in moderate or frequent bullying as bullies, victims, or both, according to the results of the first national school bullying statistics and cyberbullying statistics survey. “This topic is important, very timely for the community”, said Friendship Court Community Organizer, Claudette Grant.

Freddy Jackson is the founder and president of The Love No Ego Group, LLC, an organization empowering youth through motivational speaking. It focuses on the suppression of all egotistical behaviors, while recognizing and uplifting the greatness within, and promoting honest and genuine self-reflection that allows positive and effective communication to happen. “Every person is meant to be awesome, especially our youth. That’s where it all starts. And my job is to get them to do a bit of self-reflection, and have them realize on their own exactly where they are living and operating from. Is it from a place of love or is it from a place of ego?” Freddy said.

Jay James anti bully eventJay James, assistant director of The Bridge Ministry, discussed the power of forgiving and explained how negative things happen in life, but that they should never stop you from living the best life possible. Jay encouraged the youth to do the same because he said, “there will be a time in their lives when something will not go as they would like it to, but they have to choose to make good out of a bad situation.” The Bridge Ministry works to transform the lives of troubled men and their families through a faith-based program grounded in Christianity, providing mentoring, skills, and relationships to “bridge” the gap from bondage to productive community and family life.  As Jay concluded his talk, he encouraged the kids to use a positive mantra for themselves, something like the famous lyrics of musical artist DJ Khaled, “Nothing can stop me! I’m all the way up!”

Break dancers

Some of the children recited poetry and displayed artwork focused on anti-bullying and the group enjoyed a breakdance presentation, thanks to dancers from Portico Church. Pastor Desmond Glenn from Portico Church collaborated in the organization of the event to help make it an inspirational evening.

Anti bully event reciting

 

Portico Church and Piedmont Housing Alliance Sponsor 3rd Annual Love the Court Event at Friendship Court

Kids and adults came out for the 3rd Annual “Love the Court” community event at Friendship Court on Wednesday, August 9. The successful event, sponsored by Portico Church and Piedmont Housing Alliance, is a way to bring together people from the community to enjoy a night of fun before kids get ready to go back to school.Studio 360

Several partners like the City of Charlottesville and PVCC’s adult career and education center were there to spread the word about programs in the community with the residents of Friendship Court. Several local barbershops, like Studio 360 and A Cut Above the Rest, were on site to offer free haircuts to kids. Leslie Brown of LLC Hair Studios was also on hand to provide styling services.  Food was flowing and kids were bouncing from the dunking station, to the face painting, back to the basketball court, and to the bounce house. Desmond and ClaudetteBig KahunaDesmond Glenn, Pastor of Community & Discipleship at Portico, said their goal is to keep bringing people together.  “It’s all about creating relationships and loving our neighbors. We also try to make sure we are proactively seeking racial reconciliation,” Desmond says.

Each year, the event seems to bring more and more people together.  Multi cultural photo

 

For more information, see www.porticocville.org. Coverage by CBS19 news

 

Friendship Court Youth Participate in PVCC’s Summer KidsCollege

Musahar Ali enjoys sculpting during the Sculpey Clay Creations workshop

During summer break, kids and parents look for ways kids to keep busy and their minds stimulated.  That is why PVCC offers KidsCollege, with over 100 enriching, fun, and educational hands-on morning and afternoon STEM and arts workshops.  This July, several fourth- and fifth- graders from Friendship Court stayed busy participating in three different week-long Summer Academies offered by PVCC called Minecraft Designers Academy, Sculpey Clay Creations Academy, and Drones: Flying, Exploration, & Competition Academy.

Zanijsha Rodgers having fun designing games

Edwin Perkins participates in the Drones: Flying, Exploration, & Competition Academy

All of the classes ran the week of July 24th from 1:00-4:15 p.m. each day. Jessica Eldridge, Friendship Court community center coordinator said, “It’s wonderful that PVCC has created this great opportunity for community students. The academies have taught the kids to build drones, design Minecraft worlds, and to sculpt clay into figures from their imagination. Not only does it teach them about the different sides of science by allowing them the hands-on experience, but it also gives them visual insight into the world of post-secondary education. I think that is very important to experience as a young person. This program is of great benefit to the lives of our students, and I hope KidsCollege@PVCC will continue to grow.”

Adam Glymph is one of the instructors of Minecraft Designers Academy

This Academy was the result of an ongoing partnership between Piedmont Housing Alliance and PVCC KidsCollege, with funding support from Verizon. During the past few years, dozens of Friendship Court students have been able to take advantage of this PVCC program that offers unique, high-quality educational experiences.

 

Keeping Kids Fed All Summer Long

One in six kids in Virginia struggles with hunger. During the summer, kids who rely on school-provided meals may not have access to food during the day. That’s why, at Friendship Court, where all kids qualify for free and reduced lunch programs at school, we’re providing breakfast, lunch and a snack to residents aged two to 18. In addition, thanks to the generosity, of Myrtle Houchens, a community leader and former Friendship Court resident,  for three weeks of the summer, an evening meal is available Monday through Thursday. For several years, Ms. Houchens has been preparing meals during a portion of the summer to help bridge the gap for nutritious meals during the summer. We are grateful for Ms. Houchens’ commitment and dedication to the children in Friendship Court and for the resources given by Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

Myrtle Houchens

“Growing kids are always hungry,” said Claudette Grant, Friendship Court community organizer. It’s great to be able to provide programs at the community center to keep them busy and the nutritious meals keep them fueled.

Resources for some of the meals are provided through USDA and the Virginia Department of Health, along with generous donations from our local community. Your donation can help fill the gap so no kid goes hungry during the summer, or at any time during the school year. Give today, and help us feed the kids of Friendship Court.

Friendship Court Resident Angela Brooks Becomes Newest Member of the Advisory Committee

Angela Brooks

Angela Brooks is a young mom with two teenaged sons. Friendship Court has been her home for more than fifteen years, and she’s seen a lot of changes in that time. “It’s definitely gotten better,” she says, “but there’s room for improvement.” That’s why Angela joined two committees focused on staying informed and providing input throughout redevelopment. An active member of the Residents’ Association, Angela volunteered to join the Advisory Committee as well. “I want to see what’s going on and stay informed. I want all the residents to be treated equally. I can help reassure other people in the neighborhood if I’m getting information firsthand instead of second- or third-hand.”

Angela works as a teacher of two-and-a-half to three-year-old children at Park Street Christian Preschool by day and cleans office buildings at night, leaving her little free time. It is noteworthy, then, that Angela chooses to spend some of that time attending meetings and making connections with community stakeholders involved in Friendship Court’s redevelopment.

“I think redevelopment is going to help the community be a friendlier, calmer place and a good place to call home. I’m looking forward to all the improvements to the apartments,” she said.

We’re delighted to have another long-term Friendship Court resident contributing to the redevelopment conversation. Welcome, Angela!

Youth Leadership Team Tours the Architecture School at UVa and Makes Their Own 3-D Models

YLT Group picture at Architecture school

This past spring, the Youth Leadership Team was invited by the National Organization of Minority Architects local chapter to tour UVa’s School of Architecture. Professor Elgin Cleckley organized and led the tour with several of his students. Elgin is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Design Thinking at the University of Virginia, School of Architecture and teaches Design Thinking studios and foundation courses at the School of Architecture, with appointment in the Curry School of Education and the School of Nursing.

Tyquan and Elgin working on model

YLT tours A School

One of Professor Cleckley’s architecture school students began the tour with an introduction and overview of the school and its programs, providing the youth with insight into the work that goes on there.  Once inside, they were led through the current art exhibit of UVa alumnus, Carlton Abbott, viewing a collection of drawings that were created during his career which has spanned over fifty years.  The drawings depicted a range of subjects from housing to large urban projects.  Then, the youth explored downstairs starting with a tour of the wood shop. With lots of end of the year projects being completed, they were able to see some students’ work being finalized in time for May’s graduation.  Then, the students were introduced to printing and toured the CNC Lab where they learned the different ways one can print using a CNC machine. There, they saw how 3-D models really begin to take shape.  These fabrication facilities are called the SARC Shops which are in a consortium with the Arts Grounds Shops that include the Scene Shops at the Drama Department and the Shops at McIntire Department of Art. The students learned they are laboratories for thinking through making both in the analog and the digital realm.

3-D printing YLT

After a quick view of one of the computer facilities, the final part of the tour took the youth through the architecture school studios.  At UVa’s School of Architecture this place is located on and encompasses most of the third and fourth floors of Campbell Hall.  It consists of very open and collaborative spaces where students can discuss ideas together and help formulate the ultimate design work they produce.  Several architecture students shared their projects with the youth and explained their 3-D modelling systems.  The youth leaders showed much interest in these 3-D models and just a few short weeks later, were invited back by Professor Cleckley and his students to enjoy a more hands-on experience.  During that second visit, the Friendship Court youth members put their creative minds to work, creating their very own 3-D models working together in the studios and getting a glimpse into the life of a UVA architecture student. They all seemed to really enjoy the hands-on experience of getting to use tools and create their own models.

Thank you to Professor Barbara Brown Wilson for her support and commitment in making sure the tour and hands-on experience happened for the youth leaders.

PHA YLT models collage