Many Hands: One Year Later

On May 13, 2016, we received a phone call from our friend, Carolyn. After an intensive process, culminating in the previous night’s final presentations, she told us that we had won the grand prize from Many Hands, a local, woman-run giving circle.

The prize: $100,000.

The gift was meant to be transformative. And, for Reach, it was. Below are ten things we have been able to accomplish in the 365 days since that call.

10. Reach’s Board of Directors approved a 5-year growth plan through which we will grow to serve 1,100 participants by the fall of 2021. When we applied for the Many Hands grant, Reach was serving 240 participants.

9. Two of our authors – now college students – traveled to Philadelphia to read to students and talk with teens about their work with Reach. Through our friends at Shout Mouse Press, two authors were also invited to speak at Denison University.

6A6A95228. We launched a new scholarship program, granting $9,000 in scholarship funds to five deserving seniors (left). The scholarship program was created by our teen-run Rales Leadership Council, which presented the idea to our Board of Directors for approval.

7. We saw a 20% increase in the number of teens served in our Summer Leadership Academy.

6. We supported our seniors in being accepted to colleges, including Delaware State, NC A&T, Penn State, South Carolina State, Temple, VCU, Virginia State, and UDC. One of our teens, Randy, even became the poster boy in a Washington Post article because of his 12 college acceptances!

5. Our work was featured in publications from Harvard and Duke.

4. We distributed 2,500 of our teen-authored books, for free, to local schools and organizations through our annual book grant process.

3. We released four new books, authored by 14 teens, at a November event that featured DC Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 4.50.15 PMCouncilmember David Grosso.

2.  Working with Shout Mouse Press, the DC Share Fund, and Inner City Inner Child (a local organization focused on early childhood education), we coordinated a sale of 3,000 copies of A to Z: The Real DC, one of our teen-authored books. These books will be distributed to young readers and early childhood educators across the city.

1. We launched three new program sites and grew a fourth, allowing us to serve an additional 110 participants this school year.

It’s been a busy year. But, thanks to Many Hands, we’re just getting started.

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2017 Book Grants

We are excited to announce our 2017 Book Grants! Due to the incredible financial support received during our end of year campaign, we are granting 2,500 of our teen-authored books to schools and organizations across DC.

A full list of grants is below. Through these grantee partners, we will place the stories created by our teen authors in the hands of the students who need them the most. Thank you for your support in making this possible!

School/Org Name, Applicant (# of books)
Aiton Elementary School, Kesha Lucas (80)
Bridges Public Charter School, Francine Sachetti (136)
Children’s Guild Public Charter School, Danielle Smith (67)
District of Columbia Public Schools, Kate Mester (316)
Drew Elementary School, Jennifer Johnson (140)
Eastern Senior High School, Dominic Dellorso (55)
E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, Jada-Marie Tucker (143)
Generation Hope, Caroline Short (52)
Imagine Hope, Lucy Watson (73)
Ketcham Elementary School, Jamilla Coleman (250)
Little Lights, Mary Park (85)
Marie Reed Elementary School, Jackie Anderson (100)
Orr Elementary School, Jaimee Trahan (119)
Payne Elementary School, Kesha Lucas (144)
Reading Partners (75)
Safe Shores (85)
Savoy Elementary School, Patrick Moran (160)
Simon Elementary School, Patrick Eibel (100)
Truesdell Education Campus, Betsy Hamm (34)
Turning The Page, Talia Crosby (100)
Two Rivers Public Charter School, Cassidy Weitman (68)
Walker Jones Education Campus, Julie Hursey (119)

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Tutor Profile: Abreona

By Elizabeth Spagnoletti

Abreona Curtis needed a job.  Despite having younger siblings, she felt no calling to work with elementary school students.  She had no passion to become a published author.  She was not actively searching for a community.  Abreona just wanted to earn some money.

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 11.17.03 PMAt Reach Incorporated, Abreona found the job, which means she spends her afterschool hours tutoring 2nd and 3rd graders at Payne Elementary.  At Reach Incorporated, she authored a children’s book called Spanky the Pup.  And, without meaning to, at Reach Incorporated, Abreona found a community of her peers and caring adults.

The Eastern Senior High School student is in her second year with the program.  As a reading tutor, staff members at Reach describe Abreona’s style as “straightforward” and “not typical,” which actually enhances Abreona’s impact as a role model for younger students.  Abreona acknowledges her struggles with tutoring certain students in the past and credits Reach staff with supporting her.  “They taught me how to hold my temper when [a student] wasn’t listening,” she says, then notes, “I have a student this year who’s a much better listener.”

Inside and outside the classroom, Abreona is known to Reach staff as being mature, self-aware, and thoughtful.  In turn, Abreona describes the staff as “calm” and “chill,” observing that their own tempers never flare in front of students.  In fact, one of Abreona’s favorite memories at Reach was from a training session.  When a staff member caught Abreona and a group of her peers paying too much attention to their phones, he placed them carefully in the center of the table with the volume turned up so they could hear every missed text message and notification.

Abreona trusts and genuinely likes the staff at Reach, so even this disciplinary measure she remembers fondly.  It made her laugh, and it got the point across.  The importance of the relationships and trust between Abreona and the staff is obvious.  Abreona does not reach out to staff when she is in need; they always reach out to her first.  For this, she is very grateful.  “They’re always there,” Abreona says.

Before joining Reach, college was not one of Abreona’s goals.  “High school is so much work,” she says, “and IAbreona I Am knew college was just going to be even harder.”  As a result of Reach’s Summer Leadership Academy, Abreona’s goal now is to attend a college like Morgan State University, which they visited in 2016.  After college, Abreona hopes to open her own dance studio.  She thinks college is the best path to pursuing this dream so she can learn how to run a business properly.

Abreona is not only focused on her own future.  She believes in the future of Reach.  As the organization grows, she believes the aspect that should never change isn’t one that can be written into the curriculum.  It’s the relationships.  “It takes time to get to know people, so they need to make sure to always put in the effort to get to know the kids.”

The impact of the value Reach places on relationship-building is clear. Of Reach’s program associate, Kim Davis, Abreona simply says, “I wish she were my sister.”

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With each year, the number of Program Instructors working with our young people grows. These exceptionally talented people are our front line. They train our tutors, supervise tutoring sessions, support our young people during hard times, and celebrate them when things go well.

This year, we had 12 incredible instructors, and we thank them for their tremendous service to our tutors and their students.

At Anacostia, Mr. Chibundu’s loud laugh and sense of humor were matched with Ms. Shekinah’s intense concern and curiosity. For the second year in a row, Ms. Quilla ran things solo at Beacon House, and we’re so proud of her decision to pursue graduate studies in Social Work. Ms. Stacy and Mr. Vincent created a true family with the Ballou cohort working at King. And, our other group of Ballou tutors, working at Simon, were lead by Ms. Sully’s high energy with Mr. John calmly shaking his head nearby.

Ms. Paiyal and Mr. James were the perfect pair to launch our program at Dunbar. The kids loved them, and they clearly enjoyed each other as well. Though we have lost instructors mid-year before, it never pained anyone like it pained Mr. James. That showed us how much it mattered to him. We were incredibly appreciative of the work Ms. Sisi did stepping in and stepping up at the end of the year.

And, finally, there was Eastern. Ms. Courtney brought a new energy to Eastern’s team of tutors. When conflict emerged, Ms. Courtney always felt comfortable steering into it and having conversations that may make others uncomfortable.

Every one of these instructors made this year work. Our participants love Reach. You can feel it on the last day when you see both tutors and students crying. When teens pull away, not wanting to say goodbye. When people linger, knowing there’s not a next session. This work is hard. Very hard. And we appreciate all you do to support, celebrate, and instruct the young people we serve.

And, of course, there is one person missing from the list above: Mr. Headen. Jeremiah started as a Program Instructor five years ago. As he moves on from Eastern, and from our work, we are immensely grateful for all he gave to Reach. His first cohort of tutors now includes both a Morehouse man and a Marine. His Reach kids are high school graduates and they will forever smile when his name is mentioned. Thank you for all your work, Mr. Headen.

Our work simply would not be possible without the caring and consistent commitment demonstrated by this group. We hope you’ll join us in thanking them for their work this year.

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Thank you, Jusna.

Dear Jusna,

“The first follower is actually an underestimated form of leadership in itself. It takes guts to stand out like that.” – Derek Sivers, How To Start A Movement

Looking back, it’s almost comical. You applied for a job with an organization that barely existed. There was no staff. There was no office.  On your first day, you actually helped pick up the desks we would be moving into our new office. You carried them up and down flights of stairs…in heels.

It seems so long ago, but like yesterday.

In many ways, you are the one that made Reach real. You helped me define the organization’s beliefs and, for five years, you held me accountable to them. You are a truth teller, an advocate, and an activist.

When I imagined an organization where love and unconditionality played a central role, you never once seemed to think I was crazy. You simply loved our kids unconditionally and learned the power of that approach. You answered the late night emails, you challenged the status quo, you gave our kids hugs and, when they deserved it, side eyes.

Kyare no longer refers to women as females. Sejal has a source of constant support. Fatimah has a twin. Terrell knows he has to defend the statements he makes. Za’Metria knows she is never alone. Mylia knows what a wonderful birthday feels like. Litzi knows how incredible she is. Miles is just getting started.

And Josh is a father. He’s a caring, attentive, loving father. He’s going to be an incredible father. Josh. Look at that. Own that. Know what you did.

The impact you had on the lives of our kids is permanent. You did that with your optimism, your passion, your fire. This work is difficult, and you feel it so deeply.

I have regrets. There are things you learned from me that I wish I could take back. At times, you focus so much on the need to do better that you lose the good you’ve done. You struggle to take compliments. When I tell you that you’re amazing, you’ll struggle not to roll your eyes. You won’t believe it to be true.

You’re amazing. Don’t ever forget that. We won’t.

As we carried desks into our new office in 2011, I don’t know if you could have imagined this. We’re a $1,000,000 organization.  Next year, we’ll serve 350 kids. We’ve published 13 books. We have a summer program. We won the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize. A to Z is part of the DCPS curriculum. Kyare is a Morehouse man. Litzi will be a valedictorian. Rashaan is a US Marine.

Thank you so much. Thank you for your commitment to our kids and to the organization. No hire in our future will ever be so important. Thank you for all you have done to make the organization what it is today.

On Monday, I’ll walk into Reach’s office, and you won’t work there anymore. Reach has never had an office that didn’t include you. The transition will be hard, and you will be missed. But, like we say to our kids, we believe in unconditionality. You have a permanent invitation and a complimentary ticket to any event Reach ever holds. Employment status changes, but family is forever.

Don’t forget to visit. We’ll miss you.

With immense gratitude,

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Growth. Part III.

Today, we are excited to announce our third new partnership for the 2016 – 2017 academic year. Starting this fall, we will begin work at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, our first site in Ward 4. Since 2004, E.L. Haynes has been serving elementary school students. The high school did not open until the fall of 2011. And, though the high school shares a campus with the school’s early grades, their profiles are actually somewhat different.

At the elementary school 45.5% of 3rd graders are “Approaching college and career ready or above,” according to the 2015 DC Public Charter School Board School Report. This at a school where 30% of the elementary school students are English Language Learners, a much higher percentage than at any of our other partner schools. At the high school, only 22% of readers are on track or college readiness and the most recent data available lists a graduation rate of just under 60%. Approximately 15% of the teens are English Language Learners.

E.L. Haynes is a strong organization with a strong reputation. And, due to the unique combination of students at the Kansas Avenue campus, this partnership with Reach could prove uniquely beneficial as the school includes both our teen tutors and their elementary school students. In partnership with the school’s leadership, we hope to contribute to improved outcomes, increased engagement, and the development of an even more caring school community. We are looking forward to getting started.

Growth Goal: Reach currently serves 250 participants at 5 DC sites in Wards 5, 6, and 8. During the 2016 – 2017 academic year, Reach expects to serve approximately 360 participants – 180 teen tutors and 180 elementary school students – at 8 sites in DC’s Wards 4 – 8.

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Job Posting: Program Associate

Program Associate – Job Description

Organizational Overview: Reach Incorporated develops confident readers and capable leaders by preparing teens to serve as tutors and role models for younger students, creating academic improvement for both.

Position Overview: The Program Associate will supervise and support Program Instructors, address successes and challenges at after-school sites, create a culture of continuous instructional improvement, and create communities grounded in Reach’s core beliefs. The Program Associate plays a uniquely powerful role in building multi-year relationships with participants and shaping program culture.

Salary: $45,000+, based on experience

After-School Program Support: Ensure values-based leadership and successful implementation of program curriculum at all program sites.

  • Attend sessions, Monday – Thursday.
  • Be present on site to manage challenges related to staffing and culture.
  • Ensure all participants are assessed using identified tool(s).
  • Support recruitment and enrollment processes.
  • Plan and host tutor outings to build strong relationships.

Tutor/Instructor Development & Support: Build relationships and support the continuous improvement of both Program Instructors and tutors.

  • Ensure fidelity to Reach Incorporated curriculum and culture.
  • Support Program Instructors as they develop individual and team goals for themselves and for their tutors.
  • Observe Program Instructors and provide feedback to improve instruction and community culture.
  • Serve as the primary point of contact for Program Instructors and Liaison Teachers.
  • Support Program Instructors and Liaison Teachers in celebrating participant success and managing challenging behaviors.

Communications: Ensure communication of stories and successes to appropriate internal and external stakeholders.

  • Communicate significant program challenges to the Program Manager.
  • Ensure the appropriate documentation of student successes and challenges.
  • Advocate for participants both inside and outside of sessions by communicating with parents, teachers, and school leaders.

Other Projects:

  • Identify growth areas and provide leadership when aligned with Reach’s priorities.
  • Support, as needed, Reach’s Summer Leadership Academy.
  • Attend and support Reach events, including teen-author readings, book sales, and all major fundraising events.

To apply, send your resume and cover letter to In your cover letter, please describe your interest in this job and identify the ways in which you align with Reach’s core beliefs. Applications will be accepted until the job is filled. Preferred start date is on or before June 20, 2016.

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Growth. Part II.

Reach Incorporated is excited to announce our second expansion site for the 2016 – 2017 academic year. In the fall of 2016, we will grow our work at Anacostia High to include Orr Elementary School.

Located in Anacostia, Orr Elementary will soon move to a brand new facility, replacing the current open concept design. Orr students have a variety of extra-curricular options, and Reach will be offered to identified students through one of DC Public Schools’ Empowering Males of Color grants. According to the most recent data, only 12% of Orr students met expectations in reading, but we are sure that number will soon be rising.

This new partnership with Orr will allow us to grow our tutor cohort at Anacostia High. This year, we served 25 teens in partnership with Ketcham Elementary School. Next year, we expect to hire 40 teens who will serve students at both Ketcham and Orr. In addition to growing our tutor cohort at Anacostia, we will also attempt to strengthen our partnership by building more intentional partnerships with teachers and administrators.

Growth Goal: Reach currently serves 250 participants at 5 DC sites in Wards 5, 6, and 8. During the 2016 – 2017 academic year, Reach expects to serve approximately 360 participants – 180 teen tutors and 180 elementary school students – at 8 sites in DC’s Wards 4 – 8.

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Growth. Part I.

Reach Incorporated is excited to announce our first expansion site for the 2016 – 2017 academic year. In the fall of 2016, we are excited to begin work in partnership with Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School (TMA) and Savoy Elementary. These two schools, which actually share a gym, will now build community as TMA scholars tutor 2nd and 3rd grade students at Savoy.

Savoy Elementary School serves a population where 99% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. With a strong focus on the arts, Savoy students aim to be “peerless in their academic achievements and fearless in their artistic accomplishments.” A DCPS priority school, Savoy is making significant strides under the leadership of Donyale Butler, a Mary Jane Patterson Fellow and second-year principal at Savoy.

Across the gym at Thurgood Marshall, a strong academic culture exists. Students are developed “to succeed in college and to actively engage in our democratic society.” Under the leadership of Rich Pohlman, TMA is one of the city’s strongest charter schools, but it does serve a population in which 73% of the students are economically disadvantaged and 57% qualify as at-risk. Additionally, because the high school sets such high academic standards, a significant number of 9th grade students struggle to transition to the school when not prepared by their middle school experiences. We want to help those TMA students stay and thrive while ensuring that Savoy’s students make the gains necessary for long-term success.

We are thrilled to be partnering with both schools, and we look forward to begin our work together this fall.

Growth Goal: Reach currently serves 250 participants at 5 DC sites in Wards 5, 6, and 8. During the 2016 – 2017 academic year, Reach expects to serve approximately 360 participants – 180 teen tutors and 180 elementary school students – at 8 sites in DC’s Wards 4 – 8.

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Great Week. Seriously.

Is our work impactful? It’s a question we ask regularly. And, this week, we got some good evidence that the answer is year:

1) This year, our friends at Shout Mouse Press submitted two of our books for the IndieFab Book of the Year Awards. This week, we learned that both the books – The Blue Spark and A Little Girl in a Big, Big World – were named finalists in the Child Author category.

2) In the last week, seven – yes, SEVEN! – of our teens earned the DC Achievers Scholarship. Each of our seven youth are eligible for up to $60,000 in scholarship money to support their college dreams:

  • Anacostia Senior High: Jaleel, Jewel & Zaniquar
  • Ballou Senior High: Darne’sha, Herbert & Litzi
  • Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS: Tavian

3) Rashaan, a 2015 Eastern Senior High graduate, completed boot camp this week and is now officially a US Marine.

4) Kyare, another 2015 Eastern Senior High graduate, came back to visit during spring break. In his first year at Morehouse College, Kyare is doing really well. This week, he joined us when Reach was visited by a group of local philanthropists. He represented us well as we discussed the ways Reach had played a role in his life. When Kyare finished talking, I asked our visitors whether they had any additional questions. There response: “Wow. No.”

Is our work impactful? Yes.

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