Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to Build a BVP Playground... In Three Steps.

By Kathleen Rommel from Civic Builders

It’s time for me to confess. I had no idea what a soil tamper was.  I know, I know. The “soil” part is easy, and I know what “tamper” means, and I certainly know how Google works. So at the end of the day, my first hurdle? Cleared with room to spare. 

Now, for my second hurdle. My colleagues, along with the Blackstone Valley Prep team, were tasked with making sure we had enough of these so-called soil tampers, along with a list of other tools, ready to go bright and early on a work-in-progress construction site on a Saturday morning. Surely it was going to be difficult to find people to commit to lending their tools—let alone their time—to do manual labor so early on a Saturday morning.  But let’s cut through the foreshadowing. My second hurdle? Once again, cleared with room to spare. 

I should have known. This wasn’t any old construction site. This wasn’t any old Saturday. This was a Let’s Play community build day for Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2. This is a site where you look up at 8:45 am (for a 9 am start time) and volunteers are already pouring in. This was a site where nearly 100 community members, Blackstone Valley Prep staff, and our Civic Builders team came together to manually assemble a playground for Cumberland children and the students of Blackstone Valley Prep.  

As the day progressed, I was thoroughly impressed with the show of support for this school and its scholars. With children hard-at-play at Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 1, volunteers were so hard-at-work at Elementary School 2 that the project was being completed well ahead of schedule. Through teamwork, focus, and a good dose of heavy lifting, we were able to install a brand new playground that encourages creativity and gets kids active. This playground goes well beyond the traditional slide that I knew as a kid—there are climbing walls, balance boards, a trifecta slide that lets multiple kids swoop down at the same time. So, my third hurdle? Remembering concrete does not harden immediately, which meant I would have to wait to testing out each and every part of this fun new playground.  Let’s just say that hurdle was cleared, but that I’m still a little disappointed I didn’t get to test out the monkey bars. 

With the playground now undergoing the final steps necessary to prepare it for students, I’m still in awe of the amazing community effort that made this project possible. The experience of working with such an inspiring group of people has convinced me that these students, this school, this community will be able to clear every hurdle they are faced with impressive room to spare. Warm congratulations to the students on their new playground, many thanks to those who came out and to Whole Foods, Angelo’s Palace Pizza, Eastside Marketplace, and Dunkin’ Donuts for keeping us well fed, and to KaBOOM! and Dr Pepper Snapple Group for making this playground possible—and now, Let’s Play!


About Kathleen:

Kathleen Rommel joined Civic Builders in 2013 as Communications Coordinator. She is responsible for Civic Builders' communications and marketing, including the annual report, social media, events, and donor outreach.  Before joining Civic Builders, Kathleen held various development and communication roles with nonprofit organizations, including FACE for Children in Need (2012-2013) and Aguayuda (2010-2011).  She also worked in the field as an English teacher and orphanage caregiver in Accra, Ghana (2008). Kathleen graduated with an MA in Literature from Wake Forest University (2012) and a BA in History and Literature from Georgetown University (2008).  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Howard Fuller visits BVP!

By Executive Director Jeremy Chiappetta

In order to successfully realize the mission and vision of getting all of our scholars on a path to success, we believe that:

1. Our schools must be diverse, and
2. We must actively use our diversity to support and engage all members of our community.

In July, BVP made national news when it was named a founding member of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools. Our schools were also featured in The New York Times, The Century Foundation blog, ASCD’s Education Leadership publication, and Education Sector, to name a few. Although these highlights show how hard we have been working to do this well, we are only at the beginning of the journey.


In order to get recently hired staff members engaged in the conversation, BVP kicked off its summer professional development this year by hosting a panel discussion on diversity with featured guest Halley Potter, a Fellow at The Century Foundation, BVP Parent and Central Falls Councilwoman Tammi Johnson, RI-CAN Executive Director Christine Lopes and the Former Central Falls School District Deputy Superintendent Victor Capellan, who recently joined the team at Mass Insight. You can watch the full panel discussion here.

Before school started, we hosted an optional working lunch session for all staff to engage in discussion related to the occurrences in Ferguson. Below are also links to blog reflections from some of our team and community members:

All of this is only a small part of an ongoing and much larger conversation, a conversation that we are looking for you to join. We truly need a variety of voices in order to make the discussion about diversity valuable, authentic and dynamic.


If you’re struggling with knowing how to make your voice heard, want to learn more, or don’t even know where to start, I invite you to join us on September 11 from 6:00-7:30PM for a book talk with Dr. Howard Fuller, a professor of education and Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. You can read more about him here.

Dr. Fuller is a strong voice today around issues of diversity, race, and education reform, and his events usually sell out. Expect this book discussion to get you thinking and - more importantly - talking about these very important topics. Spots are limited, so be sure to reserve your spot before tickets sell out. RSVP is required.

Copies of Dr. Fuller’s book, No Struggle, No Progress, will be for sale at the event, and Dr. Fuller will be available for a book signing immediately following the talk.  

*If you read his book before then, shoot us a note to let us know your thoughts. We may even post your review as a blog, much like our pre-post from 2012 about Michael Petrilli’s book, The Diverse Schools Dilemma. If you’re itching to read more on these topics, below are attachments to some of BVP’s very own required readings that staff completed over the summer (some are links to videos):