Our shining stars here at Cloud & Fire are in a lot of ways our ESL (English as a Second Language) students. They come in with various levels of ability in writing and speaking English, yet they take all of the same classes as our other students.
On Thursdays during Enrichment hour, one of our many clubs is tailored towards our ESL students. Anywhere from 3-5 of them join staff and volunteer led lessons to help improve their vocabulary and sentence structure skills. They have a lot of fun participating in activities like “Make the Most Words,” “Name Ten,” and “The A-Z Game”. We also buckle down a bit harder and have them do sentence writing drills on the board often asking them to fix each other’s work.
The best part about being involved in the ESL Club is seeing the student’s progress. If they are having trouble with a word or phrase one day, when it comes up again a few weeks later, they regularly have got it down. Each student has improved tremendously over the year! Many thanks go to Mr. Larry and Ms. Christina as well who stayed after school a few days every week to help them with their English. There has been a tremendous team effort all school year with fellow students giving tips to their peers all the time, never with judgement, but always encouraging and lifting them up.
For this year’s week of service, Cloud & Fire students decided to partner with a special organization in the San Fernando Valley, as well as invest their own community of Van Nuys. Half of their week was spent at Hope Gardens Family Center, assisting in almost every area of the shelter. Some students served in the preschool offered to mothers with toddlers, some hauled tree branches and pulled weeds in order to clean up the grounds, and some had the chance to help organize the kitchens and its food supply. Back in Van Nuys, students took to the streets to pick up trash and beautify their local neighborhood. Many were shocked at the ridiculous amount of litter they found but felt extremely satisfied after the day’s work. Many students developed a new understanding of the consequences of their littering and other behavior that affects their environment. We hope the service week in general was an eye-opening and thought-provoking time for the students, a week that reminded them of the power they have to better the lives of those around them through service.
Cloud & Fire is looking for three AmeriCorps VISTA members for the coming 2017-2018 school year. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a national program in which individuals commit to a year-long term of full-time service at a nonprofit organization. VISTAs are dedicated to building an organization’s capacity to serve the community by creating new systems or improving existing ones. The member receives biweekly stipends and an education award to be used toward paying off student loans or furthering their education. If the education award isn’t desired, the VISTA will receive a cash stipend at the end of their service year. Are you interested in applying or do you know someone who would be? Learn how to apply here.
See what one of our current VISTAs has to say about her time serving at Cloud & Fire:
“I have had many impactful moments during my service from seeing an event that was built from scratch come together as a major success to hearing positive feedback from students and staff impacted by my work. So far, I’ve helped upgrade several curriculum or general systems that teachers use in their classrooms, so it brings me great joy every time I hear a student or staff exclaim how something they used to find difficult has been simplified with my help. It’s a small thing, but it reminds me of how I have helped so far and motivates me to keep serving.”
– Lindsey, current VISTA member.
Interested in becoming a VISTA? Here’s how to apply:
Click the links below to review the position that you would like to apply for and submit your application:
This week was National Volunteer Week, and, as a nonprofit, Cloud & Fire knows the value of those who serve, especially at organizations like our own. While we recognize and appreciate all the individuals we consider part of our volunteer base, we also want to highlight those within our student body who have stepped up as servant leaders. One student that always comes to mind whenever teachers or staff are in need of assistance is Emerson Martinez. Since his arrival last September, Emerson has been extremely involved with student affairs, from being a member of YouthBuild Policy Council to being a supporting member of new groups at Cloud & Fire like the College Prep Club. But more than that, he has stepped up on numerous occasions to help with anything and everything, from manual tasks like setting up and tearing down events to taking younger students under his wing.
Before coming to Cloud & Fire, Emerson never had much volunteer experience. He has always loved to “just be helpful.” He says the difference between being a student volunteer and a member of policy council is the freedom in getting to just focus on the acts of service, as opposed to having some end goal in mind. He particularly enjoyed helping at Race it Forward, Cloud & Fire’s charity run, where he was stationed along the runner’s track to direct racers and pass out water cups. Emerson’s favorite form of volunteering is directly serving other people; his ideal role would be to come back after graduating from Cloud & Fire and be a mentor and tutor to the younger students. Even now, he has taken the opportunity to start connecting with some of the teenage students (twenty-three years old himself) and knows other older students who would be good mentors as well.
Since growing as a student volunteer, Emerson has put more thought into other service opportunities around him. He’s noticed the elderly home up the street from his home, and has wondered about how he could serve there. Once he has more time, he would like to help out with after school programs like LA’s Best, and definitely return to support students at Cloud & Fire. When it comes to encouraging our current students to get more involved, Emerson says “they need to be motivated by knowing the difference their volunteering can make.” We discussed how it really comes down to a change in mindset; genuine volunteering cannot be done solely for credit or in search of a reward. Emerson’s new understanding of service definitely came only after his time at Cloud & Fire: “I feel like I do make a difference at this school…I do get noticed and when people need help they come to me, and I like that.” Emerson reminds us that students might not realize they are making a difference unless our organization recognizes and encourages them to keep growing, thereby continuing the cycle of their service. Since volunteering is a sacrifice, there will be plenty of barriers for our students, whether that means limited time or family responsibilities. Having time to volunteer is often a luxury, and Emerson understands what a privilege it is to have such time. But Cloud & Fire is extremely grateful that he chooses to spend it here with us.
My role here at Cloud & Fire has been Education and Postsecondary Education Success VISTA, which means I mostly support the Career and College Pathways coach in enriching our students’ educational experience and providing them with support for their future endeavors. Part of my role has been to build up the academic culture at Cloud & Fire through helping develop new and existing programs and events, like The Watering Hole, our student-run cafe and music night. I also have helped to reinforce a college culture, my recent project being our up and coming College Club, where students have a space to explore post secondary education options as well as become accustomed to the differences of a college classroom.
In my life up until now, I’ve always been very focused on myself and my immediate community, whether that meant focusing on my studies or only serving others when it happened to be my job. I felt it was about time to give back, and not just to the community I grew up in, but those particularly under resourced. Being a VISTA was the perfect opportunity to partner with an organization who not only needed me but also shared my desire to resource students in the San Fernando Valley.
I have had many impactful moments during my service from seeing an event that was built from scratch come together as a major success to hearing positive feedback from students and staff impacted by my work. So far, I’ve helped upgrade several curriculum or general systems that teachers use in their classrooms, so it brings me great joy every time I hear a student or staff exclaim how something they used to find difficult has been simplified with my help. It’s a small thing, but it reminds me of how I have helped so far and motivates me to keep serving.
However, it is my own worldview that has been impacted the most. I’ve become more fully aware of the true magnitude of our students’ needs from educators as well as their community, and the disparity between what resources they are given and what they truly need. I’ve also learned that though I’m young, I am more capable of supporting students and families than I thought; any life experience can be used to teach or at least encourage those around you.
My title at Cloud & Fire is Education and Resource Development VISTA, meaning I wear many hats. One hat is being the lead on our next big fundraising event: Race it Forward, a 5K/10K at Hansen Dam April 22nd to raise awareness and support for our organization. I’m excited about the responsibility of being the point person and coordinating all that goes into this annual event. Another hat that I get to wear is the coordinator of outside volunteers, student volunteers and guest speakers. A third is community outreach and partnership building. One more hat, among others, is creating sustainable materials for recruitment, retention, and resource development. It all culminates to a diverse day to day work life. There’s never a dull moment.
I decided to become a VISTA because God called me to the position and I was intrigued by the service aspect. I love that I get to serve my community while being a part of a huge network all across the nation of others who are doing the same. One of the most impactful moments of my service was working tirelessly on our Holiday Dreams Winter Festival with the core event team. In December, we put in countless hours to make the day go very smoothly with zero framework to start with. The four of us came up with everything including the seven group names, like “Jingle Bells” and “Candy Canes,” each full of students, their kids, and parents who went around to the various stations, like “The North Pole” and “Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen.” We also formulated how to manage and assign roles to our 30 SoCalGas Company volunteers. It was quite the feat. Thankfully, the hard work paid off when all commenced without a hitch.
AmeriCorps VISTA service has taught me invaluable information about what goes on behind the scenes at a non-profit. I’ve had the privilege of participating in all that it takes to make one of these things run day to day. You need certain roles filled including Executive Director, Administration Assistant, Graphic Designer, Communication and Marketing Coordinator, and Social Media Director, by amazing, well qualified, determined individuals. The entire staff team needs to be on the same page with the vision and in providing the overall atmosphere that the Executive Director desires. There is so much more that I could say, but ultimately I’ve learned that nonprofits are no joke and each has an incredible team behind it to keep the mission thriving.
Cloud & Fire is looking for two AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members for the coming 2016-2017 school year. VISTA is a national program in which individuals commit to a year-long term of full-time service at a nonprofit organization. VISTAs are dedicated to building an organization’s capacity to serve the community by creating new systems or improving existing ones. The member receives biweekly stipends and an education award at the end of their service year to be used toward paying off student loans or furthering their education.
See what our current and previous VISTAs have to say about their time serving at Cloud & Fire:
” Serving at Cloud & Fire has allowed me to come out of my shell and be more outspoken. They gave me the tools to go out and explore, learn, and succeed! Because of C&F, I gained a new perspective on my community and my role in its advancement. It’s never been more apparent to me that we are a generation of creators, builders, and doers. It’s been especially inspiring to see our young people achieve their goals and move on to brighter futures.”-Lindsey, past VISTA member.
“It has been inspiring to witness so many young lives impacted by Cloud & Fire. Serving at Cloud & Fire has allowed me to be a part of something greater than myself; working alongside people of different backgrounds all coming together for the greater good of the community we serve. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we allow our differences to unite us instead of tearing us apart.”-Sarah, current VISTA member.
Interested in becoming a VISTA? Here’s how to apply:
Review the VISTA Assignment Description that you would like to apply for: