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How do you say “Thank You” when thank you is not enough?

It goes without saying that without our army of volunteers at the Emily K Center, the terrific plans and strategies that our teacher/tutors create for each student could never be put into action. It’s our amazing volunteers, the students from Duke, North Carolina Central, UNC, School of Science and Math and a good number of community members, who work with students to make the magic happen. What’s more, the unwavering support of the students’ families, to get them here EVERY day of the school year, meet with us, stay on top of their children’s progress, lets the kids know that what they do here at EKC is important. So Friday was a notable time when we celebrated our volunteers with an Appreciation Event and held it on a Family Night here at EKC, when students and their families enjoy the gym and activities and join us for a light dinner. The gym was full of EKC students and siblings playing basketball and soccer, with parents and volunteers joining in the fun. Volunteer tutors, Tyler Lacy and Preston Cotnoir, enjoyed meeting the parents of some of the students they work with regularly. And most importantly…all of the cake was eaten, a sure sign that a good time was had by all!

Emily K High Schoolers Discover Career Options

How often do young people get asked by adults what they want to be when they grow up? Seems like a safe question, but it would be more than fair for the answer often to be, “How the heck do I know, I don’t know what my options are!”

And that answer would be entirely reasonable. Not only do young people have a limited vision of career choices based on their age and narrow experiences, but the arena of jobs to fill is changing all the time. A generation ago there were few gamers, bloggers or app developers.

So last week the entire Scholars to College student population at Emily K learned about some of the options out there during Career Exploration Night.  Thanks to local professionals and friends of Emily K, tables filled the gym and spilled out into the hallways with adults sharing the specifics about their work world. Along with attorneys, teachers, psychologists and detectives, there were social entrepreneurs, global brand managers, and process development engineers.

And no questions were off the table. If you eavesdropped you were just as likely to hear discussions about whether the adults liked their jobs or if they made enough money to take care of their families as you were to hear about day-to-day details. When the groups were signaled to move on to the next position, adults and students alike were reluctant to advance. “The students learned so much in such a very short amount of time,” said Ashlea Hitchcock, Programming and Partnerships Coordinator. “No doubt they expanded their horizons tonight!”

The adults felt they had a take away too. “I was impressed with their level of motivation and desire not only to further their education but to give back and make a difference in their community,” said Mandy Green, a nurse practitioner in the Duke Hospital system. The Career Exploration Night will be held twice a year with an emphasis on bringing in a large variety of people representing many different fields.

Emily K students and staff would like to thank all of the participants for their generous gift of time and talent including:

Courtney James Urban Durham Realty
Mark Cagle Durham Animal Hospital
Scott Kelly Startup High and Duke InCube
Brian Horne RTI
Benjamin Ingold Kennon Craver Attorneys at Law
Marissa Araujo Duke University Dept. of Physical Therapy
Shannon Taylor & Justin McKay Fidelity Investments
Dee McDougal Square 1 Bank
Alicia Carter Lab Corp
Jay Mebane Thundershirts
Billy Askey The Freelon Group
Matt King Burt’s Bees
Clarissa Parker Piedmont Investment Advisors
Valerie Hagan Rho, Inc.
Tom Place Cree, Inc.
Rosemary Nye Durham Academy
Dr. Kelly Anthony Triangle Center for Behavioral Health
Vivianne Valdes-Hurtado Duke University Hospital System

Emily K Volunteers Support Teachers’ Work with Students

Programming is in full swing at the Emily K Center and we’re fortunate to have a great number of talented volunteers working with our Pioneer Scholars students in grades 1-8. A grand total of  83 community members are on board, including 44 undergraduates from Duke, NC Central, and UNC Chapel Hill, a dozen more graduate students from Duke and UNC , and 13 students from the NC School of Science and Math. In addition, we have professionals with experience in fields ranging from law and education to professional horse training. We love having such a variety of positive role models working with our students every week, and they are a huge part of our students’ success!   Hear from one of our volunteers, Julie Doran, first hand……..

“I just began working with a group of second graders at the Emily K Center in September, and it has been a wonderful experience for me so far! I am an elementary education major at UNC Chapel Hill, and I heard about the Emily K Center from our program director. I was instantly interested in volunteering because the Center seemed to be a very unique resource, and I was excited to get involved with students at a center that is so incredibly dedicated to their success.

Even on my first day of volunteering, I was already impressed by the dedication of everyone working at Emily K. I worked with two students on a reading comprehension exercise, and they were incredibly enthusiastic about learning. For every question that I asked about the reading, both of their hands shot up in the air to answer. Even if they didn’t quite know the answer, they really wanted to try. They were so eager to learn and to engage in the material, which was very encouraging to see them so excited to learn and participate.

Volunteering at Emily K has already taught me the importance of creating a positive team-oriented environment for student learning. Everybody there is committed to student success; including parents

and family members, staff, volunteers, lead tutors, and especially the students themselves. Everyone is passionate about student learning and growth, which naturally leads the students to be hard working, focused, and motivated. I hope that I will one day be able to create this type of environment in my classroom, where everyone is excited to be involved in the learning process.

I am really looking forward to volunteering for the rest of the year, and I can’t wait to watch all of the students learn and grow at the Emily K Center!”

Thanks, Julie, and we are awfully glad you are here!

Girl Scout Silver Award Project brings Books (and Cookies) to the Center!

For the last few months the Center’s upstairs “mini-library” has gotten an upgrade thanks to the help of Mei Lander and the work she’s accomplished as part of her Girl Scout Silver Award.  Last week Mei celebrated the completion of the project by bringing homemade cookies as a special snack for our Pioneer Scholars students.  Here’s a write-up about her project and be sure to check out the beautiful reading area next time you’re at the Center!

“For my Girl Scout Silver Award, I worked at the Emily K Center. I met with Lauren who helped me to organize my project. I built a bookshelf, gathered books for middle school to college age and organized them. I put them on a spread sheet to keep track of them. I also made pillows and found a rug that matched to make the area more cozy.  A few nights I helped out with the orientations and with the little siblings that came so I got to put my counselor skills to work. I feel very happy that I got to help some kids at Emily K and wish I could have gone there myself.  I’d like to thank everyone at Emily K who helped me out and to give them recognition for helping me to finish my Silver Award.”

The 5 Reasons I Volunteer at The Emily K Center

1. The Students –
This first reason is a no-brainer for anyone who has interacted with the students at the Emily K Center. The enthusiasm and dedication that these students demonstrate is astounding, and make it an absolute pleasure to volunteer here twice a week.  Over the last year and a half, I have gotten to know two wonderful groups of fifth graders and several other individual students at the Emily K Center. Getting hugs from my former students in the lobby and seeing the progress that my current students are making in school are reasons enough to come back here week after week.
2. The Dedicated Educators
I also enjoy volunteering at the Emily K Center because of the remarkable staff who work here.  I have been very fortunate to work with the same teacher at the Emily K Center for the past year and a half, and I have enjoyed getting to know her better as we work together with our students.  I am interested in pursuing a career in education, so it is interesting and helpful to hear about the challenges and successes that she faces on a daily basis as a teacher in the Durham Public Schools.  Her commitment to the students at the Emily K Center is inspiring, particularly given the numerous other demands on her time.
3. The Valuable Programming –
I am particularly impressed with the structure and programming that the Emily K Center offers its students.  The high academic and behavioral standards combined with high levels of support are essential to helping students achieve success. As a student in education and public policy, I am very interested in the best practices in teaching and education, and I believe that the Emily K Center embodies these practices very effectively.  As a result, I know that my work here is part of a more continuous and enduring effort that is helping the students succeed in school and beyond.
4. The Meaningful Involvement in Durham
As a Duke student, I also feel very strongly that it is important to be involved in the community around the university. It can be easy to become wrapped up in the academic and social life at Duke, but coming to the Emily K Center gives me a chance to interact with the city of Durham in a meaningful way.  My involvement at the Emily K Center has allowed me to learn more about the schools and families in Durham, while helping me feel more connected to the community in which I will live for the better part of four years.
5. The Ability to Make a Difference
When all of my other reasons for being at the Emily K Center come together, the volunteers truly have a chance to make a difference here. I believe that the Emily K Center fills a very important need in the community, and to be a part of it is an incredibly rewarding experience.  After volunteering at the Emily K Center for close to two years, I genuinely believe that I have made a meaningful difference in the lives of the numerous children I have met here. I cannot think of a more gratifying way to spend my weekday afternoons.

***Aliya Pilchen is a Junior at Duke University and has been volunteering with the Pioneer Scholars program since Fall 2010 ***

K to College Model students Salute Mr. Rosenfeld for Winning Prestigious Award

Lawrence Rosenfeld has been volunteering with the fourth grade Pioneer Scholars here at EKC for two years now and his students always gave him rave reviews. Little did they know that across town at UNC’s school of Communications Studies where he is a Professor, his college-aged students felt the same way.

Rosenfeld was nominated by the undergraduates and was then named this year’s recipient of the prestigious 2012 William C. Friday Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award recognizes members of the UNC faculty who have exemplified excellence in inspirational teaching and have had an exceptionally positive impact on the intellectual growth of students. We could not have said it better ourselves!

Thank you, Mr. Rosenfeld, for using your free time and your, obviously, exceptional talents to benefit EKC.

“A truly special teacher is very wise, and sees tomorrow in every child’s eyes.” –


Emily K Star Michele White Celebrates Her Birthday in Style!

Today marks another exciting milestone in the life of the Emily K Center as Communications Coordinator Michele White celebrates her birthday. Staff gathered in the Board room to share a few laughs and a “spot of tea” with the birthday girl.

When asked what she liked most about Michele, 2nd grader Arianna said, “I liked doing reading with Ms.Michele. She’s very nice and I hope she has a great birthday!”

2nd grader Kevin added his wishes too.  “Merry Christmas… I mean Happy Birthday!  I would like to give you something special – that could be something like earrings or maybe a shirt but I can’t because I don’t have a car to go get them.  I liked being your student!  You’re exciting!”

Happy Birthday to a very special member of our Emily K Center Team!

***Michele White is the author of 99% of our blog posts so we decided that on her birthday she should get to enjoy a break from writing and instead be the “star” of a post!  She enjoyed it and we hope you do too!***

Celebrating our Volunteers!

Students and Staff at the Emily K Center would like to recognize our amazing volunteers today, December 5th, International Volunteer Day.  Designated by the United Nations in 1985 as a day of international observance, we too celebrate the contribution volunteers make to society.

At Emily K our volunteers are a wonderfully diverse group. They are university students, having come from (depending on their semester and their schedule) Duke, UNC, NCCU and NC State. They are community members, some who have lived in Durham all their lives and view their work at EKC as a continued investment of time and commitment to their city and their neighbor families. Others have just moved to the area and hear that great work is being done at the Center. They want to put down roots and we are a great place to do just that.

Some of our volunteers work with the students every single week. Others helps with our events or our administrative endeavors. Still others offer their expertise in a particular skill area such as theater, technology, drama or sport.

Over the past five years we have had more than 700 volunteers gift us with their time at the Center. It is wonderful that a particular day has been set aside for recongititon, but at the Emily K Center, we don’t need to be reminded of how integral our volunteers are to our effort. We celebrate you each and every day. Thank you. The Emily K Students and Staff.

Emily K Students 903 For Coach K!

Emily K students took time out from the work at hand to share in the congratulations of Coach K’s 903 win. Taking up a good part of the 2001 Final Four floor that serves as our gym, almost 70 students and staff members stood in the formation of a 903. Volunteer Marissa Streyle offered her photography services and showed first class patience as we worked to clearly become a 9, a zero and a 3 from a distance.

Lesson Learned #1 – the number nine was the easiest for some reason.

Lesson Learned #2 –Emily K Scholars are unmatched in terms of study skills but we need a bit of work on parade formation.

Congratulations Coach K. If we work as hard in the classroom as you do in your preparation we will become championship winners too!

Famous Jazz Musician to Give Educational Workshop at Emily K

John Brown is coming! That’s the word on the street. The famous jazz musician will make a much-anticipated visit to the Emily K Center for a program that will be part mini-concert, part workshop and all fun.

John is a bassist, a composer and an educator. He’s been performing professionally since his teens in the U.S. and abroad with artists like Wynton Marsalis and Diahann Carroll, as well as giving performances with the North Carolina Symphony. John constantly seeks opportunities to work with students and to study himself. He’s attended the Lincoln Center Institute in New York City and is now a certified instructor using their model of music instruction.

John has been selected by the North Carolina Arts Council to assemble performing groups connecting arts and education, so children are exposed to and have the opportunity to make music. The program is expected to be lively, interactive and a fitting end to a successful first semester of programming at EKC. Can’t wait for your visit John!

Academics. Character. Leadership.

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