Four groups that matter
Here are examples of the kinds of services helped by the Annie B’s drive
A total of 169 agencies are participating in this year’s Annie B’s Community Drive. We’ve selected four of them to profile in some depth. They represent, we believe, the range and quality of services the rest of the groups provide.
One is a private, nonprofit school for children with special needs, such as autism or ADHD. Another is a children’s choir that offers kids an opportunity to sing and make music and perform. There’s an extraordinary program that seeks to bring the latest micro-tech audio-visual tools to developing countries, and an agency that provides a range of desperately needed services for people with substance-abuse problems.
These groups are typical of the quality and importance of the many other agencies participating in the Annie B’s drive. They demonstrate just why the drive is so important for so many people.
‘School, sweet school’
“During my 32 years in education, I had never heard the words expressed by one of my students one day last spring. ‘School, sweet school!’ sang Joshua, a 9-year-old with high-functioning autism, as he jumped out of the car and began running toward the door of Rose Scott School. In that single moment, every ounce of effort and determination it has taken to start a new school (without funding) was rewarded tenfold!”
Carlson conceived the idea of the private, nonprofit school for first- through 12th-graders “who maybe just do not fit on the bell curve,” as the school’s website (www.rosescottschool.com) puts it, after more than three decades of working as an educator. Rose Scott School (850 Palmetto Ave.) invites students with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, giftedness, and other learning challenges and strengths to attend.
I recently enrolled my 9-year-old, special-needs daughter, Lydia, there.
Weekly music lessons; hands-on math instruction; nature- and sustainability-focused science lessons; daily fitness-related activities such as tai chi, soccer and bike riding; and an hour-long, unrushed lunch period are some of the school’s unique offerings for its 14 students.
“There are many ways to be smart. That’s what I’m trying to teach our kids,” said Carlson, referring to developmental psychologist Dr. Howard Gardner’s eight intelligences—verbal, mathematical, kinesthetic, visual, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist.
“Today they made ‘self-smart’ [intrapersonal] mobiles,” she said, holding up a plastic hanger with Lydia’s name attached to it, from which hung pieces of paper decorated with the words ”dancing,” “ice cream,” “baseball” and “hot dog with ranch on it.”
“[T]he public schools operate on a ‘deficit’ model, where they identify students’ weaknesses,” Carlson offered. “When you focus on the weaknesses, that’s what the children see about themselves, and it doesn’t build self-esteem. … Even gifted people are deeper thinkers and need more time to process information. … My main thing is I want these kids to feel loved and supported, to be exactly who they’re supposed to be.”
As Susan Steffani, Chico State professor and mother of two Rose Scott students, put it, “The kids absolutely love that [the] teaching is to their individual needs, and I personally like the compassion and energy that the teachers have for my children.”
—Christine G.K. LaPado
A place to clean up
After going though significant financial and managerial changes in the recent past, the Skyway House in Chico is eager to receive funds this year from the Annie B’s Community Drive.
Executive Director David Deichler plans to use any additional money to reach out to the community as much as possible, while continuing to function as a viable organization.
“The long-term goal kind of goes hand in hand with our ability to remain stable in this tough economic time, but it would be how we can better reach our community and how we can get our services to a wider population within the community,” Deichler said.
The Skyway House has been active since 1993, providing substance-abuse treatment services in the North State. It provides residential drug and alcohol treatment for both men and women at its facilities in Oroville and Chico. It offers alcohol- and drug-free housing services for men and women once they leave treatment, and for individuals who choose to go directly into the treatment program.
The outpatient services are provided at the Chico location. Skyway House also offers drug-diversion programs and Proposition 36 groups, which support the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act and work with individuals who are court-ordered to receive treatment. The agency also provides a teen outpatient program.
Deichler prides himself and the rest of the Skyway House on holding a “higher moral standard.” He believes this is the core of their success, along with numerous other values including respect, integrity, empathy and health.
“It’s more like a family environment; it’s not like a clinic setting,” Deichler said. “If you’re going to come to our facility and you’re going to live there—it’s going to be your home for the time you’re there.”
The power of micro-tech
Last week, Matt York boarded a plane for Calcutta, India. After that long journey, he’ll travel to a couple of villages in eastern India, then on to Bangladesh, before returning home. His purpose: to provide assistance to local nonprofit, non-governmental agencies by bringing them—and training them in the use of—the latest micro audio-visual tools.
It’s something York is uniquely qualified to do. As co-founder and CEO of Chico-based Videomaker magazine, a national publication with more than 60,000 subscribers, he has more than 20 years of experience in the micro-technology field.
His nonprofit, called One Media Player per Teacher, or OMPT (www.ompt.org), got its start in 2007, when the Education Development Center, a large Boston-based global nonprofit, hired York to go to southern Sudan to see what could be done to provide audio-visual equipment to rural schools.
As he discovered, the schools had no electricity, and classrooms were sometimes so large and full that the kids at the back of the room couldn’t hear the teacher. As York was aware, however, there’s a new generation of portable solar-recharged projectors and amplifiers that work well in such environments.
He’s since been meeting with various foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave him a small grant to do more field tests of these micro-technologies. He says the money that comes in through the Annie B’s drive helps in this regard, by funding his trips to developing countries. His own time and energy are completely voluntary.
In the Indian village of Ranchi, he’ll be working with a group called Gram Vikas that focuses on water sanitation. The agency needs villagers’ buy-in to finance new latrines and water sources, and currently it’s using portable television sets powered by motor-scooter batteries to educate them on the connection between human waste and water-borne diseases.
York will be bringing with him several micro-projectors, such as the $200 Pico, which is about the size of a fat iPhone and rechargeable using a small solar panel. He’ll work with Gram Vikas to repurpose its current video content for the Pico and also, if needed, provide instruction on improving the content.
During an interview at Videomaker offices that included OMPT’s newly hired associate director, Jim Mikles, York explained that field trials are necessary “to prove the scaleability of the concept” to major foundations that could provide the money to greatly expand the group’s reach. His admittedly “audacious goal” is to empower 10 million teachers with instructional technology, but first he has to prove it will work with 100 teachers.
Music in kids’ lives
The Children’s Choir of Chico is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, with the theme “Celebrating 10 years of harmony.”
The group provides exceptional classical and traditional choir training and performances to children of all ages, from preschool to high school, and there is also a women’s group with women of all ages from high school and up. The Children’s Choir is located at the First Christian Church in Chico, but is not affiliated with the church.
Office administrator and board member Lori Rice is very grateful to be a part of the Annie B’s Community Drive.
“The Annie B’s fund drive is a great way to give a little extra to your community,” Rice said. “It allows your dollars to stretch and grow beyond what they are, and every dollar really does count.”
Rice added that last year the additional funds the Children’s Choir received from the Annie B’s Community Drive enabled them to provide two additional scholarships for children. She notes that the organization takes pride in being accessible to anyone and everyone who is willing and able.
Artistic Director Susan Tevis specializes in Zoltan Kodaly musical training, which teaches children musical skills in a very interactive manner. The children learn songs through interactive games, puppet shows and dance. The method engages the younger children and eases the stress of pitch, notes and the more difficult aspects of learning music.
The Children’s Choir is involved with numerous community give-backs, performing at various times of the year, but it usually presents only two concerts of its own each year, in the spring and fall. The choir will be performing as part of this year’s Artoberfest on Sept. 25 and then will host its own fall concert, titled “Harmonious Harvest,” on Oct. 24.