La Cocina VA: Using Food as an Agent for Social and Economic Change

Caitlin Furey January 2018

La Cocina VA, located in Arlington, Virginia, offers immigrant adults the necessary tools and resources to overcome poverty and create a better, healthier future for themselves, their families, and future generations. Using a bilingual culinary training program, La Cocina VA trains, certifies and places low-income immigrants in meaningful jobs in the food service industry, while improving their English language skills. The nonprofit also incorporates food assistance for the hungry, greater accessibility to healthy affordable foods, and nutrition awareness to reduce obesity and improve health. To date, 84 individuals have graduated from the culinary training program, and in 2017, it achieved a 100% job placement rate.

In November, the Crimsonbridge Foundation and the Crimsonbridge Group awarded La Cocina VA a grant for $10,000 to launch an online tool which will provide customized vocabulary software for English language learners, integrating content from La Cocina’s curriculum in culinary arts, food safety, job readiness, financial intelligence, and nutrition. The tool will supplement and strengthen the existing English language curriculum, which was redeveloped in 2016 with the support of the Crimsonbridge Foundation. The 13-week in-class curriculum is extensive, but La Cocina found, through surveys and feedback obtained from graduates of the program and employer partners, that English proficiency continued to be an obstacle for career development. The new online tool will offer students at least 10 additional hours a week to tailored English content and will allow instructors to more efficiently manage the different English levels of their students, providing them with content according to their needs.

“La Cocina VA combats unemployment, poverty and a lack of entrepreneurship opportunities through programs that develop technical skills and English proficiency. We put students in contact with businesses that need qualified employees, building community through the strength and power of undiscovered workers, entrepreneurs, and leaders” says, Patricia Funegra, the Founder and CEO of La Cocina VA. “Thanks to Crimsonbridge we will be able to broaden our impact by providing students and graduates with remote access to additional learning hours using a new online tool that will help increase their English proficiency.”

Funegra has exciting plans for the future of the nonprofit: in 2019, expansion to a new facility will allow La Cocina to significantly increase the number of people served through its programs. The new space will feature Northern Virginia’s first Kitchen Incubator, which will empower minority entrepreneurs to launch and grow food-related businesses by providing shared commercial kitchen space, access to capital, English and business development classes.

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Ten Ways to Reach and Engage Hispanic Communities

October 2017

The Hispanic population has grown from 4.4 percent of the total population in 1970 to 17.6 percent in 2016. As the Latino population has grown, so has the number of Hispanic-serving nonprofit organizations. Many organizations have been successful in working with Latino communities, while others are learning how best to connect and engage with new communities. Fortunately, there are numerous strategies with proven results. Below we offer 10 tips for how organizations can improve and strengthen their communication strategies to effectively reach and engage with Hispanic communities.

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Selma Caal Joins Crimsonbridge as Director of Research and Program Development

September 2017

The Crimsonbridge Foundation is pleased to welcome Selma Caal as its Director of Research and Program Development. In this role, Selma will provide evidence-informed and evidence-based information for program improvement and program development across the Foundation’s initiatives.

Selma holds a doctoral degree in developmental psychology from George Mason University and has over 15 years of experience studying child/youth and family well-being. She has extensive experience with qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, including measure development, data quality assurance, data management, and analysis. Her research has focused on factors associated with socioemotional and educational outcomes of diverse children/youth, and community engagement of Latino and immigrant parents.

Previously, as a Research Scientist at Child Trends, Selma conducted program evaluations examining impact and implementation data. Selma served as the lead researcher for an implementation evaluation across a number of school readiness programs serving low-income parents and preschoolers of diverse backgrounds. She also led and collaborated in a number of measure development projects for program performance management, program evaluation, and research studies, including the development of a tool to measure students’ social and emotional skills. Selma has also conducted a number of literature reviews, including a review of school models that offer wrap-around services to support students’ educational opportunities.

Selma is an expert in translating study findings into recommendations for stakeholders, program implementation and development. She has presented at congressional briefings and has briefed senior federal officials regarding issues affecting children’s educational outcomes. In addition to her research and evaluation experience, Selma has over 20 years of experience in applied settings in schools and as a family counselor across the United States. Currently, Selma serves on the board of directors of Wonders, a nonprofit early learning and extended day care provider located in Bethesda,MD.

“I believe that education, whether it is formal education or professional development, is the key to improving the wellbeing of our nation’s communities.” Says Caal, “The Crimsonbridge foundation is committed to investing in programs that provide these educational opportunities for youth, families, and community leaders and I am so honored to be part of it.”

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Supporting the Development of Washington D.C. Region Nonprofit Leaders

September 2017

Renewing its partnership with Georgetown University’s Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership, the Crimsonbridge Foundation supported nine nonprofit leaders in the Washington, DC region to attend the Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program in 2017.

“The Center’s mission is to develop nonprofit leaders who can tackle the problems facing our communities, and to provide innovative, lasting solutions,” according to Director Kathy Kretman. “Our partnership with the Crimsonbridge Foundation provides an opportunity for us to tap the leadership talent of even more people of color who lead our nonprofits and serve our community.”

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Girl Scouts Launches Second Stage of its Spanish Language Website

September 2017

We are excited to share that the Girl Scouts of the National Capital Region has initiated the second phase of their Spanish language website project. Girls Scouts is reaching out to the Hispanic community by providing information on its programs and volunteer opportunities through their website new pages and videos.

Welcome message from CEO, Lidia Soto-Harmon:

Testimonial by Girl Scout Ambassador Gabriela:

Crimsonbridge is proud to have facilitated this terrific development.

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Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers – Crimsonbridge Foundation Helps All Children Achieve Their Full Potential

August 2017

The Crimsonbridge Foundation is featured in Washington Life Magazine.

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The CTTL Draws 150 Teachers and School Leaders to the First Science of Teaching and School Leadership Academy

Danielle M. Reyes August 2017

More than 150 teachers and school leaders from 20 states and five countries traveled to CTTL at St. Andrew’s to discover how they could bring neuroscience research to their classrooms and schools at the first Science of Teaching and School Leadership Academy.

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The Latino Enrollment Institute Helps Schools Reach Hispanic Students

Caitlin Furey July 2017

In 2009, the University of Notre Dame launched the Catholic School Advantage (CSA) campaign, with the mission to improve educational opportunities for Latino children. Latinos who attend Catholic schools are 42% more likely to graduate high school and two and a half times more likely to graduate from college. At the same time, Latinos—who comprise two-thirds of practicing Catholics under the age of 35 in the United States—are woefully under-represented in the very institutions that have such dramatic success, as only 3% of school-aged Latino children attend Catholic schools. The mission of the CSA directly aligns with the Hispanic Education Imperative, a program of the Crimsonbridge Foundation that strives to improve educational outcomes for Hispanic children and youth.

One vital component of the CSA campaign is the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI), an initiative with two distinct objectives: to promote the unique value of Catholic schools to Latino communities and to help schools respond effectively to the unique needs of their Latino families. Since 2012, the LEI has worked with 163 Catholic schools from across the United States, and helped add 2,852 Latino students to those schools.

Earlier this month, the Crimsonbridge Foundation had the benefit of joining over 90 principals, pastors, school staff, and diocesan employees, representing 33 schools from 25 dioceses at the sixth LEI hosted at the University of Notre Dame. Over the course of 4 days, participants discussed the importance of welcoming Latino students into our nation’s Catholic schools, and learned practical strategies for increasing Latino enrollment. Presenters included LEI staff as well as principals who participated in the LEI in previous years and have since catalyzed transformation in their school community by increasing Latino enrollment.

VIDEO: Principals, some of whom will serve as mentors for the schools that attended this year’s LEI, shared inspiring stories of hope and resiliency, and emphasized that there is no “one size fits all” model in this work. However, one common theme throughout the conference was the importance of relationships: between principal and pastor; between principal and school staff; and perhaps most importantly, between principal and the Latino community.

To make this national program available to local school leaders and pastors, the Crimsonbridge Foundation and the Archdiocese of Washington have partnered to bring the Latino Enrollment Institute to Washington, DC in April 2018 with plans to engage more than 50 schools interested in improving outreach to the Hispanic community. More details to come!

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Our Partner, The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, Launches Innovative, Pioneering Science of Teaching and School Leadership Academy, July 23-27

June 2017

More than 150 public, public-charter and private school teachers and leaders from 20 states and five countries will gather at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Md. from July 23 to 27 for the Science of Teaching and School Leadership Academy. At the Academy, teachers and school leaders will experience a five-day deep dive into research and strategies in how the brain learns, works, and thrives. “These educators each recognize that Mind, Brain, and Education Science represents the most promising research being applied to closing the achievement and teacher quality gap that continues to plague schools around the world,” said Glenn Whitman, Director of The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (CTTL) at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. “St. Andrew’s is the only pre- collegiate school in the United States that houses an internationally recognized Mind, Brain, and Education Science research center and we are honored to host the Academy.”

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The Finish Line is Just the Beginning

June 2017

At the Crimsonbridge Foundation, I have the privilege of working with transformational nonprofit organizations that work tirelessly to have a positive impact on the lives of youth in our community. One of those inspiring organizations is Girls on the Run of Montgomery County, where for eight seasons I have also had the opportunity to serve as a volunteer running coach.

As a coach, I have learned that it can be difficult to keep twenty 3rd-5th grade girls motivated as they prepare for the 5K that takes place at the end of each ten-week season. Every season, inevitably, one of the girls on the team asks me some variation of this question, “Why do we have to run?” To all of the girls who have asked that question, I would offer one simple word in response: empowerment.

Aligned with the goals of the Crimsonbridge Foundation, Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. It is much more than a running program. At each practice, coaches lead their team through a lesson such as “Attitude of Gratitude,” “Real Beauty,” and “Putting an End to Gossip.” The girls learn to recognize their inner strengths, and to celebrate what makes them unique. They learn about the importance of giving back to the community, and are empowered to make a difference in the world by designing and completing a community impact project as a team.

These lessons are more important now than ever before. Studies show that by adolescence, girls’ confidence drops about twice as much as boys’. Exacerbated by social media and celebrity culture, girls can feel pressured to conform to certain images and stereotypes. Girls on the Run challenges these false ideals, and inspires girls to respect themselves and others. The girls’ completion of the end of season 5K gives them a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment, as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals.

In Montgomery County, each fall and spring, 2,500 girls from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds come together to achieve the goal they have been working towards all season. Girls run, walk, skip, and jump across the 5K finish line, and in that moment, they are empowered. They raise their arms in victory, they high-five teammates, they dance, they smile.

At a final practice, I asked each girl to share one thing she had learned at Girls on the Run. I smiled as a 4th grader, announced, “I learned that I can do anything!” Such a simple, but powerful, lesson. The finish line really is just the beginning. #Community @GOTRMoCo

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