• Operation College Bound

    Posted by Melissa Winston, MSMFT, PLMFT, Bright Futures Coordinator, Joplin School District on 2/19/2015 5:00:00 PM

    Students in one Joplin area school are going to college, and they're not even out of elementary school!


    Joplin students are visiting college campuses early as part of the district’s Operation College Bound program. The purpose of the program is to get students looking ahead to their futures after high school and to inspire them to dream about what they'd like to accomplish in life. The end goal is for all students to believe they can and should attend college or trade school after high school.


    Through a variety of approaches including the visits to college campuses, rallies, career days and more, the program teaches children that a college education is a very valuable and achievable goal.


    The program will be the topic of a panel discussion at the Bright Futures Community Engagement Conference February 23 and 24. Presenters will talk about how they developed the program in Joplin, and share advice for starting similar programs in your own school districts.


    One of the most rewarding things we can do for our children is to instill a love of learning in their early years that takes them all the way through into their post-secondary careers successfully. Instilling the confidence and clarity of direction needed to achieve these goals is our responsibility.


    We hope you'll join us to learn what you can do to get your students shouting, “I'm going to college!”

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  • Accomplish more by sharing one Umbrella!

    Posted by Tracie Skaggs, Public Relations Director, Carl Junction School District on 2/18/2015 12:00:00 PM

    When your community partners want to help, good things happen. When your community partners work together, GREAT things can happen!


    That’s the focus of a Bright Future Community Engagement Conference entitled “Be Better Together – Using an Umbrella to Bring Everything Together.” Attendees will learn how much more your community can accomplish if everyone is working together.


    When we started our Bright Futures program at Carl Junction almost four years ago, we were very fortunate in that we already had an enormous amount of support from the community. It was important for us to maintain the philosophy that the Bright Futures program didn’t belong to the school, but to the whole community. We are all in the “kid business.”


    When we brought our community partners together to discuss what we wanted to accomplish, we discovered we could accomplish so much more by making sure all of our partners were communicating with each other and working together. Some of the agencies had resources we were not aware of and were more than willing to share.


    For example, we had one organization that was purchasing school supplies for students. Each year, they provided supplies for about 45 children because they were operating on their own. Now, with the support of several community partners, we are providing 300 students with school supplies. With our backpack program, one organization was providing about 60 backpacks for our weekend food program. With the support of additional community partners, we have tripled that amount.


    With the Bright Futures program, our partners now have a way of communicating with each other and working together for the good of the community and the students.


    Carl Junction Superintendent Dr. Philip Cook will share some of the insight we learned about how to best work with your community partners, how to communicate better, and how to keep your partners engaged in working toward the same goal.


    Come join us as we work together to bring everyone under the same umbrella. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can accomplish!

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  • What is Service-Learning Really?

    Posted by Jill White, Principal of Royal Heights Elementary School, Joplin Schools on 2/17/2015 6:00:00 PM

    Taking education outside the classroom can result in tremendous academic and personal benefits for your students, as well as your community.


    Are you considering adding a service-learning program to your curriculum or already have a program and want to expand it. A track of workshops at the Bright Futures Community Engagement Conference on February 23 and 24 will provide you with a wealth of information.


    Service-Learning is a teaching method designed to involve students in authentic and meaningful service to their communities. It makes connections between the classroom curriculum and the community, and is intended to instill a sense of civic responsibility in students.


    In a workshop entitled “What is Service-Learning Really?” we'll talk about the national standards for service-learning, the steps of putting together a service learning project and some basic project ideas.


    In more advanced workshops, we'll discuss how to evaluate your program and build further relationships in the community, and how to get your staff engaged in the process. We'll also hold a Q & A sessions with students who will discuss their personal experience with service learning and impact it has had on them.


    We hope you'll join us to learn the difference service-learning can make in your curriculum. I've personally seen the benefits at our school. It gives the students a connection with their community and they see themselves as useful and impactful community members. And, in turn, community members view them as useful, productive members of the community.

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  • Developing Advocates for your School

    Posted by Melissa Winston, Bright Futures Coordinator, Joplin Schools on 2/17/2015 12:00:00 PM

    Are you working to develop leaders in your community who can be advocates for your school district and for the most at-risk students in your schools? The benefits can be tremendous as you now have people in place who not only understand your school district, but will also work on the behalf of your school for you.


    Oftentimes, people view the school district through their own perceptions and what they’ve heard from others. Our goal is to provide them with accurate information so they can be true advocates for the school who understand what is actually happening, not just what they believe or hear is happening.


    In the workshop entitled “Bright Futures Leadership Academy” at the Bright Futures Community Engagement Conference, we’ll share with attendees what our model of the Leadership Academy looks like at Joplin Schools.


    Through our academy, community leaders are given an opportunity to meet and speak with school leadership and tour our facilities. They learn about poverty and the impact it has on the brain and the child’s ability to learn and develop. They are also provided information about the demographics of the community and how poverty affects truancy, grades and disciplinary action. We give clarity about the mission, vision, and strategies of the District. We also talk about how to develop opportunities for at-risk children so they can succeed and discuss programs our district has developed to tackle these challenges. Attendees have an opportunity to spend a “day in the life of a teacher,” where they can see first-hand the challenges and joys of this enormous task.


    We’ve had great success with The Leadership Academy at Joplin Schools. It has opened the door for people to not only understand the school district and our students, but also gives them an opportunity to become a part of solutions. The vast majority of the people who attend BFLA end up getting involved in helping the school district in one capacity or another. We find that other leaders who were previously serving in schools leave the Academy empowered as an informed voice for the school district.


    We hope you will join us for this workshop and learn about the benefits of developing a Bright Futures Leadership Academy in your district. Engaging the leaders among you to be partners and advocates for change in your community helps make the dream come to life!

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  • Untapped Resources

    Posted by Jesse DeGonia, Bright Futures Coordinator, Webb City Schools on 2/16/2015 12:00:00 PM

    In my four years as a coordinator for the Bright Future program for the Webb City School District, I have had opportunities to speak with other school districts about the Bright Futures program and how it might benefit their school and its students. I'm often met with the same comment, “We're doing a good job at meeting those needs now.”


    Before starting the Bright Futures program at Webb City, we thought we were doing a pretty good job too. We were able to meet the immediate, critical needs of our students, but until we started this program, we had no idea how much more we could have been doing. Many times it was myself trying to locate a partner agency to help meet the need, but the beauty with Bright Futures is that you are building relationship in your own community where now resources are brought to you. Instead of seeking out who might be able to help, you now have the whole community at the same table willing to help as soon as a need arises. There is no need for a staff member to feel that they have to just meet a need themselves, because the community wants to know the needs and is helping to meet those needs immediately.


    After starting our program, we learned there was an abundance of untapped resources in our community and that there were so many more needs that we could take care of with the support of our community partners. There were resources in the community and people who wanted to help, but they didn’t know how to get plugged in. Others had offered help in the past, but there wasn't a structured program in place to accept their assistance. Bright Futures created that structure to ensure our students success.


    Now, with the Bright Futures program, we have a process in place to let our community partners know of the needs. Teachers are more aware that they have a place to go to get help for their students. It's working and we're seeing every day the fruits of the program in our students, our families and our staff.


    If you are considering starting a Bright Futures program in your community or have made the decision to become an affiliate and are wondering what steps to take next, we hope you will join us for the Bright Futures Community Engagement Conference February 23 and 24. You’ll learn how the Bright Futures program can benefit your school and community, and I'll be teaching a workshop discussing what it takes to get a program off the ground.


    In “What’s our Investment?” I'll talk about the role of the Bright Futures coordinator, how many people are initially needed to get the program running smoothly, and how to recruit and engage your community partners. We'll also discuss activities that will make a difference in the success of your program in the early stages and talk about some of the challenges and roadblocks you'll meet along the way.


    When we started our Bright Futures program in Webb City four years ago, we were one of the first communities to affiliate. At that time, there was very little structure in place. We learned a lot during those early years and tailored a program that met the needs of our school, students and community partners. It was definitely challenging, but we found success and now want to share our best practices with others to ensure they are successful too.


    Through Bright Futures, our community partners are now very active in supporting and mentoring the future leaders of our community. They were always very supportive of the school, but now they are in the school on a daily basis – volunteering, attending meetings and mentoring. When we tapped those resources in our community, we discovered we had a whole network of support waiting for us. I hope you’ll do the same for your community.


    Join us for the Bright Futures Community Engagement Conference! I’m looking forward to sharing my own experiences about the impact a Bright Futures program can have on the students you serve.

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  • Aligning the Vision among Churches, Schools, and Businesses

    Posted by Steve Patterson on 2/14/2015 5:00:00 PM

    As followers of Christ, we are called to love one another. I can’t think of any better way to show our love to others than to help those who are in need. The Bright Futures program offers a way for churches to follow this calling from God and truly make a difference in the communities in which we serve.


    With our Community Engagement Conference quickly approaching, I'd like to invite you to discover how to awake our faith-based partners and get them engaged to help your program succeed. In the workshop “Awakening the Sleeping Giant,” we’ll discuss ways to work with faith-based organizations in your own communities and awaken them to the possibilities of serving God through service to others.


    Another challenge we will tackle is the best way to get businesses, schools, social services, and faith-based groups aligned behind the vision to give a Bright Future to the students in your community! Each of these groups have a different vision regarding what their support looks like for their individual organization. But, much can be accomplished if we align our visions and work together toward the same goals.


    In another workshop, “Aligning the Vision among Churches, Schools and Businesses,” we’ll discuss ways to find direction which will lead to success for your community.


    Finally, we will look at the aspects of boundaries, qualities of clear communications, and how to engage volunteers in a big way in “Addressing Boundaries, Embracing a Friend.” It’s natural for each of us to set boundaries and expectations regarding how we deal with others, but sometimes those boundaries can stand in the way of us reaching out to help others.


    I will teach in the Faith-Based track and from my personal experience with the Bright Futures program in Joplin. We’ve accomplished much, but there is still so much more to do and so many lives waiting to be touched.


    I hope you'll join me February 23-24 at Missouri Southern State University, Joplin, Missouri. See you there!

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  • The Secret to Social Media is That There is No Secret

    Posted by Mark Quinn on 1/28/2015 5:00:00 PM

    I have been working in the marketing space for about 25 years but in the last 5, this business discipline has changed DRAMATICALLY. I have friends that are engineers, doctors, farmers, CEO's, you name it and none of them are working in a field that is changing as fast as the marketing space is. The question is how in the heck do you keep up with it all and figure out a way to make your ideas stand out.


    Social media is a big part of any marketing program today and can make a significant impact on your group. Make sure you read that last sentence right, I didn't say the impact is going to be good, as a matter of fact, I think there are more people out there doing it wrong than right. People jump in to the social world without earning their way, learning their way, or respecting it at the most basic level. Not only are their rules about engagement, but there are decisions that have to be made about what the right social tool is for you. People that tell me they want to start a Pinterest account to promote their business, when Pinterest is the last thing they should be doing, make me want to pull what little hair I have left out of my head.


    So what is the solution to all of this? Read some blogs and books on the subject, experiment on your own, look for best practice examples of things that work IN YOUR FIELD, and build your strategy carefully ONLY after you have invested this time. Also beware of the guys out there claiming that they are experts in the field because there are a lot of pretenders that think they have the answers but are taking people down the wrong path. There is absolutely NO canned answer that can help you. It is going to take your investment of time and attention.


    Come to my session on social media at the Bright Futures USA conference and I promise to do the following:

    1. Embarrass myself in some way. I don't try at this, it just happens on its own.
    2. Discuss how to build your strategy so that you have the right road map to get you where you want to be.
    3. We will talk about metrics and how critical they are when attacking a project.
    4. We will discuss finding the right tool or platform for your job. In other words, Facebook is not the right community for everything.
    5. We will explore omni channel communication and how important it is to say things in stereo.
    6. We will talk about how each of you and your organizations need to become media companies in order to lead and influence the right people.
    7. We will laugh. At least a little.

    I am a servant on this earth and want to help you so a large part of my time will be left open for you to ask questions to very specific questions. Hopefully I will have some answers.


    Editor's Note: Mark's workshop, "Social Media: It's the New Everything", is available at CEC2015 on Monday, February 23, 10:45am-12:15pm.

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  • Bright Futures: What is it and Where Did it Come From?

    Posted by Kim Vann on 12/10/2014 7:00:00 PM

    What would you do if one out of every four students in your community dropped out of school prior to reaching graduation? What about one out of every two? Looking back to 1996, Joplin Schools graduation rate was a shocking 54%. By 2008, great gains had been made and the graduation rate had risen to 73.5% but that was still below the state average and was certainly not acceptable. The graduation rate had been an Achilles heel in our community for decades. Change needed to take place but the school district couldn’t do it alone.


    One of the first items on Dr. CJ Huff’s 100 day entry plan as the new Superintendent of the Joplin School District in 2008 was to engage the community in an in depth strategic planning process. Over 200 community members from diverse backgrounds participated. Engaging the community with our schools through partnerships with businesses, faith- based organizations, and human service agencies were three of many action plans developed as a result of this process. No one could have imagined that action plans 4, 5, and 6 would be the catalyst for the dynamic community engagement effort that has became known as Bright Futures.

    On April 8, 2010, a community breakfast was held and over 150 community decision makers were in attendance. These attendees heard the stories of our children. They heard about teachers who started their days by acting as a mother figure, a father figure, or a social worker. They learned that some children arrived at school without having eaten breakfast, sometimes without having had dinner the night before either.

    They heard stories about elementary aged children who had never had the privilege of sleeping on a bed, only on a hard floor or maybe the soft cushions of a couch if they were lucky. Then there were the children who wore shoes held together by duct tape so that the shoes wouldn’t fall off of their feet.

    The crowd was shocked and saddened. People who sat in that audience realized they might not be able to teach math facts to an elementary aged child effectively but they knew they had to do something. They realized they could provide food, clothing, and shoes for these children, which would free teachers up to teach. On that morning, something powerful took place in Joplin, MO. Awareness had been created among those that could affect change and the Bright Futures initiative was born.

    There are three main components to the Bright Futures framework: meeting any child’s basic needs within a 24 hour period, building leadership capacity in the community, and teaching children how to give back to the community that supports them.

    Engaging the community to meet any child’s basic needs within a 24-hour period:

    The Bright Futures framework was developed for the purpose of creating a rapid-response system to meet any child’s basic need within a 24-hour period. A core belief of this effort is that every community possesses the resources necessary to meet any need that may arise. The challenge is identifying those resources and connecting those resources to the need. Because of this a three-tiered system of support was developed to ensure the resources that exist are fully utilized. Each tier in the model involves engaging the community and leveraging of resources through what we refer to as time, talent and treasure.

    Tier 1 - Existing Community Resources Tier 1 is a value-added approach that supports existing efforts within the community to meet the needs of children and families. Relationships have been established with businesses, faith-based organizations, and human service agencies to ensure a deep understanding of existing resources that allows us to fill needs quickly while at the same time supporting agencies’ efforts to fulfill their organizational mission.

    Tier 2 – Facebook In the event Tier 1 resources cannot meet the 24-hour goal, specific needs are posted on our Bright Futures Joplin Facebook page. With over 6,300 fans, both typical and atypical needs are met quickly and a broader based level of community engagement is achieved. In short, posting of these needs continues to allow us the opportunity to maintain the sense of urgency needed for cultural change to occur and provides individuals the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children.

    Tier 3 – Eagle Angel Fund Although seldom utilized, a high-needs fund we refer to as the Eagle Angel Fund was created to purchase unique items not available through either Tier 1 or Tier 2. When it is utilized, it is usually to address very difficult issues around homelessness by providing gap funding to support living costs and other expenses while students/families go through the application process with community agencies. Community partners seeking an opportunity to provide financial support often donate to this fund.

    Building leadership capacity:

    To ensure the long-term stability and longevity of any organization, building leadership capacity is essential. To grow future leaders with a vested interest in continuing the work, having a deep understanding of the system is essential. An early challenge in our program was that most people’s knowledge of school came directly from their own personal experience or that of their children or grandchildren. Times have changed and things have become more complicated. School today is not the same as it was twenty years ago.

    We created what we referred to as the Bright Futures Leadership Academy (BFLA) that had a narrow focus...developing future leaders and training them about “all things school related.” Class participants consist of a diverse subset of the community that comes together from local businesses, faith-based organizations, human service agencies, and parents. The series consists of six 3-hour sessions over the course of the program and the goal is to provide participants with a deeper understanding of our school system and the children we serve.

    Teaching children to give back:

    Fostering the idea of service before self and servant leadership is vital to helping create great neighbors, quality employees, and future leaders.

    Through the Bright Futures framework, we give children the opportunity to give back through service learning. Most recently students from a local elementary school helped raise awareness about a curbside recycling initiative that was taking place in the community. Another elementary school raised funds and collected books for the children of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, OK in an effort to pay forward the kindness they had received after the storm in Joplin. At the high school level, students developed the Color Estes project. They worked with a local nonprofit agency to collect art supplies and deliver them to students in the flood-ravaged town of Estes Park, CO. Through each of these projects, we saw children applying lessons they had learned in the classroom while serving others in a meaningful manner.

    The Joplin School District has opened the doors of our schools to our community and welcomed them in with open arms. They have done this by engaging our businesses, faith-based leaders, human service agencies, and parents in the life of our schools at the district, building, and classroom level. We’ve learned that everyone has something to give; they just need to be afforded the opportunity to do so.

    Today, through the Bright Futures framework, community resources are quickly connected to the needs of the kids. When a teacher identifies a student with duct tape holding his/her shoes together, no longer is the only solution to pass the hat in the teachers’ lounge to buy a new pair of shoes. Within less than 24 hours, the student has new shoes thanks to a caring community member or engaged community organization.

    This past year, Joplin Schools celebrated a graduation rate of 86.6%. They are still working to hit 100% but in the meantime, they are seeing

    progress. They are seeing increased attendance and decreased discipline referrals. Every child needs a champion and in Joplin, we’ve found a way to make that happen through the Bright Futures initiative!

    We hope you will be able to join us at this year's Bright Futures Community Engagement Conference on February 23 - 24, 2015 at Missouri Southern State University.  In the meantime, learn more about Bright Futures at www.brightfuturesusa.org.

    Until next time,


    Kim is the Executive Director of Bright Futures USA.  You can contact Kim at kim@brightfuturesusa.org.

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