• How to Prepare Kids for a Great Summer Camp Experience

    Posted by Amanda Henderson on 5/7/2018 8:00:00 AM

    Child Around Campfire

    Summer camp is an awesome growing and learning experience for kids, but it can be pretty intimidating, too. Going to summer camp could be your child’s first time spending an extended period away from home and her first foray into outdoor adventures. That’s a lot of firsts for a young kid.

    The prospect of new experiences is no reason to skip summer camp. In fact, controlled risks like camp are great for fostering independence. However, your little one is likely nervous about what’s ahead. What will the other kids think? What if she embarrasses herself trying something new? These are just some of the worries running through your child’s mind, but you don’t have to leave him or her to stew in anxiety. As a parent, you have a big role to play in getting your kids ready and excited for summer camp.

    Safety is always the first lesson when it comes to the outdoors. Talk about what the environment is like at summer camp and what she needs to stay safe and comfortable. Is it a wooded area full of ticks, a high-elevation zone with harsh UV rays, or somewhere prone to quick changes in weather? While your kids may enjoy running around without jackets or shoes in your own backyard, it’s important to emphasize the importance of dressing appropriately for outdoor activities. That means good shoes, layered clothing, sunscreen and bug repellent and more water than you think you need.

    Children should also understand what to do if they get lost outdoors. Explain the importance of staying on trail and not wandering if you get turned around. Buy a whistle and use Outdoor Life’s guide to teach your child how to signal for help.

    Don’t forget to cover the things that are never safe to do outside. This includes climbing up tall rocks without safety equipment, getting into fast-moving water, approaching wildlife, eating wild plants, or littering.

    While it’s important to cover wilderness safety, you don’t want to give your kids the impression that summer camp is all about “don’ts.” Introducing your child to fun outdoor activities is a great way to prepare her for camp. Having some outdoor knowledge up her sleeve will give your child confidence in a new setting and conversation fodder for making friends. Plus, it’s a great bonding opportunity for you two! Here are a few skills that are easy and fun to practice at home:

    1. Tent Camping
    Your child may not be sleeping in a tent at summer camp, but a night of tent camping in your own backyard is a great way to get her comfortable with the sounds of nature at night. Practice pitching and packing up a tent, building a campfire, cooking dinner over a fire or camp stove, and snoozing in a sleeping bag. If noises keep your child up at night, identify the sounds of crickets, birds and other nocturnal animals so he or she knows it’s nothing to be afraid of.

    2. Stargazing
    Your backyard campout is the perfect opportunity for stargazing. Depending on light pollution in your area, backyard stargazing may be limited to the big constellations such as Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Orion. Thankfully, it won’t take extensive knowledge of the night sky for your kids to impress their new friends. Use this information from ZME Science to help you spot well-known constellations.

    3. Bird Watching
    Redfin recommends backyard bird watching with your kids. The real estate site notes, "There are all kinds of advantages to becoming a birder, both for your child and the pair of you. To start, it’s an opportunity to learn about your immediate environment: exactly what kinds of birds live there, the kinds of habitats they live in, why your area’s climate is ideal for them, and how different birds have adapted to human presence. "

    After learning about the birds in your backyard, collaborate on a pocket field guide to birds your child might see at camp.

    For many kids, summer camp marks the beginning of a lifelong love of the outdoors. However, without parental guidance and preparation, it could be more scary than fun. By following this advice, you’ll help your budding adventurer have a summer camp experience to remember.

    Image via Unsplash

    Thank you to contributing author Amanda Henderson from Safe Children. To request more information about Safe Children, click here

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  • The Future of Children in Poverty: 2 Lessons Learned from Dr. Ruby Payne

    Posted by Dr. CJ Huff on 3/26/2018 7:00:00 AM

    Child in Poverty

    In the last couple of years, I have had the great privilege of visiting with Dr. Ruby Payne on a number of occasions. I can think of no one who has had more influence on the national conversation around childhood poverty in America over the last two decades than Dr. Payne. Every time I hear her speak or am able to sit down and talk with her in person, I come away with a new nugget of wisdom.

    Even if you are not familiar with Dr. Payne’s work, I think we all understand the significant impact rising poverty rates are having on our children, our communities, and our nation. The implication of growing poverty rates across our country is the greatest threat to national security we face today. 

    Hope is just ONE factor in the Future of Children in Poverty

    "Hope" is a word that is often used to describe a pathway for children trying to lift themselves out of poverty. I have heard it said many times…"As long as they have hope, they have a chance.”

    I disagree. Not with the concept of hope, but with the belief that hope has the power to change our children's trajectory and turn dreams into reality. Hope is an ideal that comes from the heart. Although it is part of the equation, frankly, it’s not enough.

    There are two salient points in Dr. Payne’s work that resonate with me:

    Having a Future Story is just ONE factor in the Future of Children in Poverty

    First, as they face many challenges on their life journey, children in poverty need to have a “future story” in mind. Conversations, and many of them, must be had with kids about not just their hopes, but their dreams and aspirations. They need to talk, write, and draw about the things that are spurring them on toward a brighter future.

    An Integrated System of Support is just ONE factor in the Future of Children in Poverty

    The second point Dr. Payne makes is that children need to have an integrated system of support (ISS) built to help them make their future story a reality.  I would also add that system of support must be built on a foundation of love. It is at this juncture where the adults - parents, educators, and community members - play an incredibly important role. When loving adults take a coordinated and active part in the lives of children, the future stories of the hopes and dreams of those children can become a reality.

    If I were to mathematically express the variables that provide a pathway to success for a child, it would look like this…

    The conceptual equation for a child's success

    The multiplication function in this equation is important. Unlike addition, if any of the variables equates to zero, the product is zero. Furthermore, love is the foundation of the ISS that communities create. Without love, this equation, or expression if you will, has no meaning...the system is in error.

    The point is, instilling hope in our neediest children is not enough.

    To make hope a reality, more than anything, children need to know they will make it because they know 1) where they are going and 2) they aren’t walking the difficult path of life alone.

    To learn more about Dr. Huff, visit his website.

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  • These Bright Futures Affiliate Communities Threw in the...Sock???

    Posted by Melissa Doura on 3/22/2018 7:00:00 AM

    As a perk, this Bright Futures affiliate community likes to give out socks with the shoes they send out to meet immediate student needs.  Ashley Fulmer, Bright Futures Coordinator for West Fork School District, ​s​aid, “…we like to give our socks with the shoes because most of the students that didn’t have appropriate shoes also didn’t have socks.”

    One of the highest requested items for @BrightFuturesWestfork in 2017 was shoes.  The members of the Bright Futures West Fork (AR) Advisory Board began brainstorming ways to prepare for the anticipated needs for 2018. 

    Some of the members of the Advisory Board had seen a similar “Sock Toss” done during NBA games and brought the idea to the table. Fulmer​ went on to say, “We all agreed that it would be a fun, easy way to get {the} socks we needed, advertise our new Bright Futures initiative, and get the community involved.”  Bright Futures West Fork is a first year Bright Futures affiliate community, holding their official kick-off event this past June.

    As this community worked to set-up their local initiative, they worked closely with @BrightFuturesPraireGrove for guidance.  It seemed fitting that they would partner together for this epic “Tiger Sock Toss” at a basketball game where the two schools would be rivals! 

    “The toss was scheduled to take place in between the junior boys and senior high girls basketball games. The night of the toss, our Superintendent said a few words about Bright Futures and how it was helping our community.”  After he spoke, he took the honor of tossing the first pair of socks out onto the court!

    Cheerleaders Collecting Socks

    ​​Fulmer shared,​ “The cheerleaders stood by the tubs to help pick up socks that didn't make it into the tub and to cheer on participants tossing socks.  Anyone that brought socks had the opportunity to toss them onto the court.”

    After the game, the Advisory Board members counted the socks and found over 700 pairs!!  Simply amazing!  The two Bright Futures affiliate communities split the loot in half, so each took home 350 pairs! 

    The next day a need request came in for a student who had stepped in the mud and needed new socks. Need Covered! 

    Sock Toss

    #BrightFuturesStrong #BrightFuturesAffiliateWin #BrightFuturesInitiative  



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  • This School District’s Superintendent Traveled 420 Miles and 6 Hours in a Pick-Up Truck With an Attached Flatbed Trailer For…What???

    Posted by Melissa Doura on 3/9/2018 7:30:00 AM

    A notification went out from the State and Federal Surplus in Jefferson City, MO that caught the attention of this school district.  Jill LeCompte, Bright Futures Cassville Coordinator, said, “{These} updates usually provide updates on surplus property such as furniture and equipment.”  In this case, the update was notifying recipients about pallets of food available.

    Cassville Staff

    According to the Cassville R-IV School District website, the district secured “…six pallets of non-perishable food items for a reduced rate from the State and Federal Surplus in Jefferson City.”  Two of which were donated to local churches totaling over 1,700 meals. Both Churches help the community with basic food needs, both having food pantries. 

    We understand that the Superintendent of the District, Dr. Richard Asbill, personally drove to pick up the pallets, which were over 420 miles away.  As if the distance of the trip wasn't enough, he drove a pick-up truck with a flatbed trailer attached. 

    The District’s article quoted Kristie Preddy, Guidance Counselor at Eunice Thomas Elementary, “He sacrificed his personal time to ensure our students have food to eat on the weekends. It says a lot about our district when the leadership is concerned about the well-being of our students and not just test scores.”

    When the notification came in for the food pallets, LeCompte reported that Asbill, “…checked with our Back-pack Program Coordinator, Elementary, and Intermediate Principals to determine a need and then decided it would be a good opportunity for our students and went.” 

    The Cassville school district currently sends home 90 backpacks a week.  LeCompte estimates that the four pallets that stayed with the district will last the remainder of the school year as they mix the items in with other food donations. 

    For more about this project, click here.


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  • Looking For Volunteers? Parents Have What You Need

    Posted by Amanda Henderson on 2/26/2018 7:00:00 AM

    Volunteer Hands Graphic Parents are the bedrock of American society. Not only are they raising tomorrow's leaders, but more often than not, they're stable, hard-working, and community minded. All these qualities make them ideal volunteers. Of course, the average parent is also a very busy person. So how do you inspire these good people to lend their time and talents to your organization? For that matter, how do you inspire their children to pitch in as well? Here are some helpful tips.

    Start by Giving Them What They Want

    You might think that private businesses already know how to motivate their employees. After all, isn't money why people show up for work in the first place? Not entirely, according to the human resources experts at Inc. Here are some other incentives that get people moving:

    • Recognition. All of us want to stand out in a positive way, so recognize the people that help you out. You can post their pictures on your website, throw them an annual volunteer banquet, or simply say, "Thanks for your help. We appreciate it more than you can know." There's no better way to build lasting loyalty.
    • Communication. Simply throwing out a call for volunteers is less effective than recruiting people for specific tasks. For example, rather than saying, "We could use your help at the animal shelter," you might say, "We need someone to walk the dogs and change bedding for three or four hours on Friday mornings." People are sometimes intimidated unless they know exactly what they're getting into, so fill them in.
    • Fulfillment. Play up the positive differences your organization makes. For example, you might say, "Last year we found homes for more than 1,000 stray cats and dogs." People are more likely to volunteer when they can visualize the results of their efforts, and realize that they’ll change and even save lives. This method is especially effective for recruiting young people, who are often more idealistic than older persons.
    • Life lessons. Every decent parent wants her child to develop qualities like compassion and public spiritedness, so explain how volunteer work is a great way to nurture these traits in her child's character. While you're at it, you might mention that the best way to teach is by example, so mom and dad should pitch in from time to time as well.


    Sending Out the Call

    Knowing how to approach parents and families is one thing. Knowing where to find them is another. Here are some effective ways to make your volunteer opportunities known:

    • Use the internet. Word spreads faster in cyberspace than anywhere else. This is why your organization needs not only a good website but a strong social media presence.
    • Advertise. Does your organization have a newsletter or mailing list? Use these resources as a platform to spread the word. People can't respond unless they know a need exists.
    • Ask your existing volunteers if they know anyone who would be interested in helping out. People tend to associate with others who share their values and priorities.


    Once You've Got Them, Keep Them

    Bringing people on board will do you little good unless they stick around. Here's how to keep their interest strong:

    • Build a community. Encourage your volunteers to get to know each other. This will not only foster team spirit, but it can provide a valuable social outlet for people looking to connect with others.
    • Respect their limits. If someone tells you they can only spare an hour a week, then never pressure them to stay longer.
    • Give your most devoted people a tangible sign of your appreciation. A framed certificate or ribbon costs almost nothing to create, yet can mean the world to a devoted volunteer.

    Making the world a better place requires not only good intentions but a dose of people skills as well. Let the tips in this post help you put together your own personal dream team. You'll find that a tiny investment of time and effort can reap huge results.

    Thank you to contributing author Amanda Henderson from Safe Children. To request more information about Safe Children, click here


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  • The Broader, BOLDER Approach to Education - A Case Study of Bright Futures in Joplin, Missouri

    Posted by Jonathan Hollingshead on 12/22/2016 5:00:00 PM

    In the realm of education, it's results that count.  Progress indicators range from graduation rates to overall attendence to reportable discipline incidents to test scores.  When administrators look to implement new programs or systems, they want to know what kind of results they can expect from the time and financial investments that will go into them.  While the Bright Futures Framework is dedicated to not only the academic success of children, but also their overall health and happiness, our affiliate communities have seen significant gains in various progress indicators.

    Recently, The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education examined the impact of the Bright Futures Framework on the students and community in Joplin, Missouri, our founding community.  They take a comprehensive approach to their analysis of Bright Futures Joplin, including both the measurable successes as well as the challenges faced in implementing the framework.

    What they found is that Joplin's ACT scores increased 14% from 2008 to 2012, high school graduation rates increased 13% from 77% to 87% between 2012 and 2015, and cohort dropout rate fell from 6.4% to 2.8% over the same years.  In addition to the measurable academic gains, the study found that volunteerism is up 700% from 2008 to 2012, with community partnerships up 850% over the same period.

    To find out more about the successes and challenges faced by Bright Futures Joplin, head over to The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education and read the full case study, Bright Futures in Joplin, Missouri.

    Read More

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  • Poverty Stinks

    Posted by Mark Quinn on 11/13/2015 1:00:00 PM
    Child in Poverty

    Poverty stinks. No matter how you look at it, no matter how people got trapped in poverty, it is a horrible life to live. Some people make decisions that land them in the pit, and others end up there because they were dealt a bad hand, but slice that up any way you like, it’s still a bad way to live for anyone. You can look at the behavior of some adults and justify that they deserve where they are because of how they live their life so they need to suck it up, own their circumstances, and put themselves on a better path. But you can’t really say that about the kids that are truly victims in the matter.

    Kids didn't ask to be born into a life of poverty

    When you look into the eyes of a kid that is wearing clothes that haven’t been washed in days, and know that they are going home on Friday to a home that more than likely isn’t going to have any food on the table for most of the weekend, it is hard not to have compassion for that kid. It doesn’t matter how the parents wound up in a state of poverty, the kid did NOTHING to deserve that life and because of being in that environment, their chance to succeed in life drops drastically. It doesn’t have to be that way and thanks to Bright Futures it isn’t for many.

    I sit on the board of Bright Futures USA because I know what is happening in the communities where the faith groups get together with educators and local businesses to rally around kids that need help. If someone is willing to give a kid time and work with them on their reading or writing, or make up a back pack for these kids to take home so that they have food in their bellies over the weekend, then we are giving these kids a chance. A chance to live a different life and a chance to become a better version of themselves. 

    Taking action

    I can’t be with every kid that needs help, but I can do my part in helping this organization grow. It’s simple really, the more communities that join the Bright Futures program, the more kids that are going to get help. The kind of help that can absolutely change the trajectory of their life. Many of these kids don’t have anyone telling them that they love them or showing them that they matter. Bright Futures reaches out and makes the kind of impact that can take these kids who haven’t done anything to deserve a life of poverty, and gives them something special to hold on to.

    Our kids are worth it

    People made fun of me at the last Bright Futures USA conference because I was the emcee and could barely get through it. Every time I started a new part of the program, I was so choked up I could barely read. Hearing the stories of these kids really opened my eyes. I can’t begin to tell what it was like to meet the heroes in our program that go way above and beyond to make a positive impact on these kids. The educators on the front line and in the classroom. The volunteers in the churches and the people from the local businesses doing everything they could to help this program grow. I was humbled and grateful to be a small part of what is happening and to be in the presence of these people. There is no one more deserving of a fair chance in life than our kids and this organization has a heart for them and their future. Let’s make sure it is a BRIGHT one.

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  • From Cradle to College...Bright Futures Joplin

    Posted by Dr. CJ Huff on 10/22/2015 2:00:00 PM

    Kids at Operation College Bound When I came to Joplin in 2008, it wasn't long before I got a call from one of Joplin's caring teachers who wanted to visit with me about the reality of the children in Joplin. She shared with me a number of heart wrenching stories about the kids she worked with in her classroom. Kids from impoverished situations lacking food, clothing, and other basic needs that most of us take for granted. Kids that, due to circumstances out of their control, came to school every day with worries on their mind that made learning a secondary issue in their lives. I remember at the time telling her we would figure something out.

    Not long after, the community came together to help us solve that particular challenge. The end result of that effort was a framework of support that helps to ensure that no child in Joplin goes without. I am very proud to say Bright Futures was born in Joplin, Missouri and even more proud of the partnerships and relationships that have developed in our community to sustain the work long term.

    Today, what started in Joplin, now impacts children in 37 communities in 7 states supporting the education and well-being of nearly 180,000 children...and growing. It has become a shining example of what happens when good people come together to sit at the same table to do what's right by our kids for the right reasons.

    Kids at Operation College Bound It did my heart good today to see how far we have come. The attached pictures are of our Joplin Schools' elementary kids at the second annual district-wide kick off of "Operation College Bound" this morning at Missouri Southern State University...one of our many great community partners. I remember a time when our conversations were mostly around high school graduation. Today a high school diploma is an expectation we have for our kids, and the conversation has shifted to setting goals beyond high school. I'm so thankful for Joplin teachers Libbie Burd and Jennifer Statler who developed the concept and brought it to Columbia Elementary School as well as the dozens of Bright Futures Joplin partners who stepped up to make this great program possible just a few years ago. You continue to build doors for so many of our kids who before could only look out windows. THANK YOU!!!!

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  • Knowing the Difference And Making a Difference

    Posted by Steve Patterson on 9/25/2015 12:00:00 PM

    When Bright Futures began in 2010, we started as a way to address the dismal graduation rate in Joplin, Missouri. It soon became apparent that many of the problems could be traced back to poverty related issues and lack of community engagement with the students. Within three years the graduation rate went from 74% to 85% and community engagement was 10 times what it was before. Early success caught the attention of surrounding communities. We explained our framework and helped them pilot a program in their communities. As the needs grew for community support in yet more communities, Bright Futures USA was born.

    The purpose of Bright Futures USA was to support the work of all of the Bright Futures communities NOT to directly engage students or address needs. That is the job of each local affiliate community. Therefore, any funds raised for Bright Futures USA is and has been used to accomplish the following purposes:

    ·      Promote and educate people about the Bright Futures Framework in an effort to add to our network of affiliate communities

    ·      Provide training and structure to new affiliate communities so they are able to create self-sustaining local programs

    ·      Provide personalized marketing packages for each individual community

    ·      Support affiliate communities as they utilize and navigate ever-changing social media channels for the purpose of meeting any student’s basic needs

    ·      Plan and host a National Community Engagement Conference yearly

    ·      Foster an environment of open communication with all affiliate communities through email, website, and newsletters

    ·      Facilitate networking opportunities for affiliate communities which provide settings to share best practices

    These services are not free and personnel drive it all. People are all we have.  When there are concerns about the fact that we are not meeting students needs with the money raised by Bright Futures USA, it is important to understand that was not the purpose of those funds. We are indeed working hard to raise funds in order to keep moving forward so that we can ultimately impact more communities who are able to directly serve children. We do not want to compete for funds in your local community. With that in mind, our board entered into a contractual agreement with Dr. CJ Huff for four things: grant writing, national corporate fundraising, recruiting new affiliate communities, and training. A grant writer alone, with the experience level and knowledge base needed of our organization, was in the $80,000 a year range. We have contracted with Dr. Huff for all four things for $30,000 for a six month time period, renewable if it proves beneficial. He is currently in between jobs, doesn’t have to earn a full salary, has a heart for the work of this organization, and he is the originator of Bright Futures. The Board of Directors carefully considered the skills and connections that Dr. Huff could bring to the table, coupled with the aforementioned circumstances, and agreed that it seemed like a good time to take advantage of his brief time of availability.

    The exciting thing to me is to see communities become engaged with their school children. A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to travel to Poplar Bluff, Missouri to speak at their kickoff breakfast. That community is knocking it out of the park.

    Last week I had the joy of attending the kickoff breakfast in Miami, Oklahoma where I was invited to speak. That is my wife’s hometown and her Grandmother and her Father had both retired as teachers from that system. Megan and Heather (co-chairs) are doing an outstanding job. Kim (our Executive Director) will likely highlight some of the initiatives they have rolled out in the near future. Suffice it to say, the creativeness and innovation which is shared across our network is sheer corporate genius.

    Being a part of the Bright Futures family is exciting and from my perspective very rewarding. You see I grew up in the home of two teachers. I remember times when we would do without some things we wanted because some other student was in greater need. Teachers are an amazing group and I want to bring whole communities to their aid. Everyone loves kids and Bright Futures is the Difference Maker for tens of thousands now in seven states. YOU make the difference! We simply stand back and applaud your efforts. The staff and Board of Directors of Bright Futures USA stand ready to help you fulfill your mission to connect needs with resources where you live.

    Every child needs a Champion. I’m thankful to champion the needs of children. We are your support team but YOU MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!


    Steve Patterson, Chairman of the Board of Directors





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