This year we have two corps members placed at Durham Children’s Initiative. One of them, Dani Rangel, reflected on their work in the organization and its impact on the community:
Durham Children’s Initiative (DCI) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing children in under resourced communities with high-quality, comprehensive services and opportunities to prepare them for college or their careers. We try to facilitate the process of connecting individuals in the community with meaningful resources to help jumpstart or assist in their child’s learning journey. If the resources or programming in existence does not meet the needs of all our families, then we try to create supplemental programming with our own staff and resources.
As a member of the Program Implementation and Community Engagement (PICE) team assistant, I am part of the team that creates, coordinates, and facilitates said supplemental programming. I assist in coordinating a weekly STEM + Arts Saturday camp for students between 3rd and 5th grade. I also help facilitate and create programming for our weekly after-school program. This programming covers topics such as mental and emotional health, exercise and nutrition, and community safety with two separate cohorts of 4th -6th graders. I personally assist with other community- focused projects such as our community garden project co-sponsored by the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and physically planted and organized all crops growing in our office garden. Lastly, I also facilitate bilingual communication between our Spanish- speaking community members and members of our staff.
Throughout my time here, I have been able to see the positive impacts our programming has on our students. Our STEM + Arts program promotes teamwork and creativity. It allows students to interact with complex ideas and subjects outside the stressful environment of day-to-day school and in a more fun, but still learning-focused, lesson style. My goal is to make learning about math and science and engineering fun and appealing to young children, particularly young children of color and young girls. Their interest in these fields would create multiple career and schooling opportunities for them in the future. Minorities are also heavily under-represented in these fields; a reality we try to present to our students as an opportunity for them to become part of the wave of new professionals that go on to change our world for the better.
Our after school program is designed to engage students on what will make them live healthier, happier lives for themselves and their families through learning about nutrition, exercise, meditation, and community safety. We have seen our students understanding of food and consumption, as well as stress-coping mechanisms increase. We’ve also been able to connect with them personally and help them build strong friendships with each other.
DCI is doing a lot to serve the community through a variety of avenues such as ESOL courses offered, direct family stewardship of local community/educational resources, and child care services. They also provide a Pre-K service and partner with organizations like American Dance Festival to create affordable access to proper child care and fun extracurricular activities. Now that it has expanded to include all of Durham, outside of its birthplace in East Durham, it can continue to impact lives at a much grander scale.