Stapp Inspires Spotlight- A Hope for Longmont

My car said 56 degrees when I arrived at the warehouse. It was mid-December and we hadn’t experienced “winter” yet, but the tell tale winds from the Northwest was a sure sign that this was going to be the first cold night of the winter. It’s late afternoon and when most people are getting ready to go home, this group was getting ready to start their work.

This month we are pleased to start our Stapp Inspires Spotlight of HOPE for Longmont. Throughout the year we will be sharing the stories of the different people involved with this organization. We will introduce you to Lisa, the director of HOPE for Longmont. We will give a glimpse at what happens at the shelter every night. We will look at the different volunteer opportunities. And share the stories of the volunteers who are reaching out to the most vulnerable in our community.

Check out this short video with Lisa Searchinger, Executive Director, for HOPE. Take a look as she gives a little background on the organization.

So what is HOPE for Longmont? HOPE stands for: Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement – H.O.P.E. – supports people experiencing, and at-risk of, homelessness in Longmont, while offering programs and referrals that encourage movement toward self-sufficiency. This fall Boulder county launched the Coordinated Entry System. This system streamlines the process of providing people with the information and support that they need to continue on their journey of self-sufficiency.  In the past help has been spread out amongst different agencies and providers. The new model improves coordination and better aligns resources to those who need it most. With their new coordinated entry program, H.O.P.E strives to break down the barriers in getting the appropriate support and help people need. The ultimate goal has and will always be their clients attaining and sustaining affordable housing.

 

But that does not capture the heart of the people behind the scenes that give of their time and effort to ensure that everyone in our community has a safe place to stay each night. The genuine care and concern was evident in everyone that I met. I walked in the warehouse and Lisa whispers me a “Hello”, she is on the phone explaining the new Coordinated Entry program. I’m then greeted by Sarah, the Program Manager for HOPE, we go on a little tour of their warehouse. The generosity of the community is on full display. The warehouse has blankets, warm clothes, shoes and toiletries. These items will be taken to the shelter or Search and Save in the evening.

Side note: Search and Save is where HOPE volunteers go out each night to look for clients who either do not know about the services available or have barriers accessing the new coordinated system.

We move on to where the Soup Angels will be arriving shortly to drop off hot meals for the evening. Soup Angels volunteer once a month to provide a hot evening meal. Typically two or three different families, or groups volunteer on a single night. Tonight’s volunteers include a lady who has been providing meals for several years and a family that moved to Longmont 3 months ago and wanted to start giving back to their community. As I watch the Soup Angels pack up their meals in the coolers that will go out to the shelter, a few more volunteers arrive. Susie and Scott are teaming up tonight for the Search and Save part of HOPE’s outreach. Both have been volunteering with HOPE for a number of years now. Susie signed up to volunteer this particular evening because Scott had already signed up. Scott didn’t know who was going out with him until he arrived at HOPE and was thrilled when he learned Susie was going out with him. We will be highlighting these two a little later on, you won’t want to miss that.

I chat a little bit with both Susie and Scott as they get the van loaded up for the evening. They pack up the coolers filled with the meals from the Soup Angels and a few extra paper bags of food to hand out while they are out on the streets. Their first stop will be at the shelter to drop off the coolers of food the Soup Angels provided.

The sun has set and night is upon us. It’s time for me to head over to the shelter. The night time shelter rotates between 4 churches in Longmont. Heart of Longmont, United Church of Christ, Faith Baptist and the Journey Church have all partnered with HOPE to provide a warm and safe place for people to sleep for the evening. Tonight’s shelter is being held at the Journey. Once I arrive I find a line of people waiting to check in. People are able to check in two at a time. A volunteer looks to see if a client has been processed through coordinated entry, if not a worker from the county is on site to start the process. Once in clients are asked if they need a shower or a wake up call. Then it is off to find a spot to stay for the evening.

Alice, the HOPE shelter coordinator, offers clients the chance to secure their personal belongings. Due to space restrictions, large backpacks are put in a separate room for safe keeping. After most people have been checked in Alice announces that the meals are here and are ready to be served. I go back to help pass out meals and am struck by the thankfulness of everyone I serve and soon everyone is sitting down to a hot meal.

I watch Alice touch base with all the clients she is serving. Like everyone else I have encountered, the genuine concern for those at the shelter and still on the streets was real.

We are so honored to partner with HOPE for Longmont and help support them in their mission. If you want to learn more about this inspiring organization or would like to get involved please visit http://www.hopeforlongmont.org We hope that you will continue to check back in as we continue to highlight HOPE for Longmont!

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Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight- An Agent of Change

Welcome back to Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight! This month we are proud to introduce you to Alex Armstrong, International Baccalaureate Coordinator for Sunset Middle School.

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Alex has been a part of St. Vrain Valley Schools for the last 17 years. She started at Prairie Ridge Elementary School and has been at Sunset Middle School for the last 13 years. We decided that a coffee house would be a fantastic place to meet and talk about Alex’s role as the school’s IB Coordinator.

I had heard of the International Baccalaureate (or IB) program before, but didn’t know much else about it. It is a rigorous academic program that focuses on preparing students to be agents of change. Helping students see themselves in this light begins with the Primary Years Programme (PYP). Each of the subsequent programs build on the foundation that students need to be both active and serving in the community. In the PYP, students have the opportunity to present a capstone project. The Middle Years Programme continues on that foundation with Community Projects as well as preparing students for high school. When a student enters the Diploma Programme in high school, the idea of being  strong, active global citizens is firmly established. The Diploma Programme also requires students to submit an Extended Essay project. This helps ensure that students who graduate from the Diploma Programme are college ready. St. Vrain Valley Schools is fortunate to be able to offer the IB program between kindergarten and twelfth grade. Alpine and Central Elementary are the IB elementary schools in the district with Sunset Middle School and Niwot High School rounding out the program.

Part of the IB program is to develop the 10 attributes of the Learner profile. This is applied to every student in an IB program, no matter where they may be going to school. Alex explains that every subject is balanced and interconnected and the projects are supported by the academics. This allows students to see how what they are learning in math, science or language arts is connected to each other and to the real world. By taking this approach students are given the opportunity to see how they can make real-world impacts on their community.

This is what drives Alex, to encourage her students and team of teachers (she still teaches part time in addition to being the IB coordinator) to figure out how they can make a positive impact on the world around them. She told me that the coolest part of her job was watching her student’s growth and the gains in confidence. She loves talking to her students about what their plans are and how they are going to execute them. She is the calm, quiet cheerleader in the back inspiring her students to push themselves beyond what they thought that they could do.

She is dedicated to the teachers who are journeying along side her. She helps coach her fellow teachers in what the IB program is, how to write unit plans that make the lessons relevant to the students, and what they are learning in other classes. Alex never hesitates to praise her co-workers saying, “They are the most incredible group of teachers. Everything they do is for the students. We come up with really innovative ideas on how to make learning relevant to the students.”  Alex is trying to get her students more tied into the community and make the classroom more real for her students. She wants her students to leave knowing how to inquire about the world around them.

I had one question for Alex I had meant to ask in the beginning. I knew in high school being a part of IB was an option. I asked if that was the case for middle school as well. She said that in middle and elementary schools it was “wall-to-wall”, meaning everyone was a part of the IB program if they attended the school. As with any school in the district, they accommodate all students. Alex spoke of a student with an IEP who was shy and quiet. During this student’s eighth grade research night, they were able to share, and answer questions about their project proudly and confidently. Alex said watching this student’s growth was an encouragement to the entire staff. She hoped that she had been able to make a positive impact on this student and that they continued to push themselves when they went to high school.

As our time wrapped up, I asked Alex a question. If she could tell her eighth grade students one last thing before they went to high school, what would it be. She laughed and said I should have sent that question over before we met. She reflects on the question and answers, “You each can change the world.”

Alex, thank you so much for all the effort you are pouring into each student who enters Sunset Middle School. Thank you for encouraging your students that they can change the world at a young age, they don’t need to wait until they are grown. We wish you the best!