Unbridled Joy

Posted by Jim Conner to News, RISE

“Can we get in the water?”

“Well, you’re going to get wet… and it’s cold, you know.”

“That’s okay!”

At that moment, about fifteen Cameron Middle School 8th graders encircled the Nashville Courthouse fountain and got as close to the water as possible without touching it.  I have never seen so much unbridled joy as in that moment after taking our RISE students on a trip to see a Nashville Predators hockey game.  My soccer-obsessed Egyptian students were a bit dubious of “hockey,” and some were a little afraid of escalators, but we overcame our misgivings with help from the unlimited popcorn refills.  I tried to explain the rules, and some showed interest.  I think the consensus though is to go to a soccer game next. Before & after the game was almost as entertaining as the hockey game itself: fifteen teens parading down the street through downtown full of energy.  Even with the threat of rain, we persevered through a long walk back to the Courthouse parking garage and managed to work in some freeze tag on the green.  I will harbor that night as a fond memory with my RISE students.

Most Memorable RISE at Haywood Moment

Posted by Qena Armstrong to News, RISE

“Thailand like a small room, it is dark, there is no air.”

I teach RISE students at Haywood who are all special to me and have come to hold a dear place in my heart. Picking one special moment to highlight from this fall is very difficult. A moment that brought tears to my eyes occurred when we had our enhancement Partner, Southern Word, come and teach all of the kids to write down what life was like for them in Thailand and present it in poetry form. The poems were touching. One student was not able to get as much help from me as he would have liked and complained that his poem would not be good so he was not as confident about reading it. He felt his one sentence would not be enough. Well as it turned out, his one sentence was enough to bring my heart to feel the sadness and despair he experienced in Thailand. It went something like this…”Thailand like a small room, it is dark, there is no air.” The child that wrote this is only in fifth grade. He is very special and I am fortunate to be able to help.  I want to bring light into all the lives of each child that walks through the doors at Haywood RISE. I am honored.

Exploring What It Means to Be American

Posted by Lauryn Ross to News, RISE

I can’t believe how quickly this semester is passing. Time really does fly when you’re having fun. We have been very busy getting to know each other and learning lots of new fun things together in RISE. Academically, we have begun spending lots of time reading together and working on reading comprehension using “thought stems.” Students bring in books to read in class daily.

We have been hard at work brainstorming things we would like to learn, including activities that each student can teach to their classmates. Our biggest focus at the moment is the Fall RISE Showcase. Students wrote their own RISE song in groups and then combined them to make one RISE song which we will perform at our showcase. Students are currently in the process of voting on what activities they would like to show their parents and teachers.

We’ve had an abundance of spectacular enhancement activities in our second half of class. The students have engaged in weeklong arts workshops on painting, fashion design, yoga, modern dance, photography and ballet. I think the most memorable experiences so far have been our special days when we go on field trips together. The students took a field trip to Vanderbilt University to see their artwork on display. They created paintings which represented how they felt about immigration and to send a message about how Americans should feel about immigrants and refugees. The students created beautiful artwork with representations of unity between all nations. This project came full circle when the students got to visit Frist Art Museum and have a personal tour to see the work of Norman Rockwell and another exhibit called “30 Americans”, thus getting to see other artist’s ideas of what it means to be American.

One of my favorite days this semester was when we had our International Food Day. Students brought food from their culture to share with the class which was really fun because we have students from 5 different countries. We all got to eat a big family meal together and learn to appreciate foods from all around the world.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of this semester, and this year, has in store!

Howdy from RISE at Millwood!

Posted by Jim Conner to News, RISE

RISE students at Millwood explore fashion design with YMCA artEMBRACE’s Kathy Franklin.

Our site is located in the clubhouse at the Millwood Manor apartments.  All of our students are 8th grade Egyptian students, and it’s been a pleasure to reacquaint  myself with this lively group.  Last school year I met these students as a volunteer for the cooking enhancement, so I’m so excited to be back with them as their site coordinator!  We have a core group of RISE veterans and new faces, too!

The students have painted over 30 paintings and created fashion notebooks in the first two weeks of enhancements.  They are certified watercolor experts now.  We have aced homework assignments every day, tackled algebra, vocabulary, identified states and facts, and even had time to play some games outdoors.

We’re going to have a fantastic school year at RISE - Millwood!

Greetings from RISE at Stonebrook

Posted by Lauryn Ross to News, RISE

Left: RISE students at Stonebrook examine their spectroscopes. Right: A former RISE student who is volunteering each and every day with new RISE students now that she is in high school.

We’ve just completed our second week at Stonebrook in the RISE program for the 2013-2014 school year! We have such a diverse group of students at our site this year, and the students are getting along great! It’s exciting to be in a community-based site where the kids have a strong sense of community, as well as preexisting friendships with their fellow students. Students range from age 11 to 14 and come from Nepal, Burma/Thailand, and Iraq. The atmosphere in our class has been very energetic and enthusiastic!

 In our first week of programming the students and volunteers spent lots of time getting to know one another and doing community building and bonding exercises. We have a student teacher, Haley, who comes every week to do science projects with the kids. The first week, the students made spectroscopes which break down light into rainbows. The second week she taught them a lesson about different types of rocks and brought some rare rocks for them to look at. In our first week during our enhancement time, the kids studied hip hop dance and learned a dance routine. This week, I’m working with the kids on prepositions and we have done many reading activities. I’m looking forward to all the fun activities we have in store for this semester!

Greetings from RISE at Apollo Middle School

Posted by Sydney Cannon to News, RISE

RISE students at Apollo Middle School stretch with Will Mattingly, YMCA artEMBRACE’s martial arts instructor.

When the final bell rings at the end of the day at Apollo Middle  School, the halls bustle with students getting to extracurricular  activities, like soccer, volleyball, and cheerleading practice. Some  students decide to stay after school for homework help in the NAZA  programs.  In my R.I.S.E. program, I have students from all different  parts of the world, including Egypt, Mexico, and Nigeria, who come  together and share this experience as a team.  My students meet me in  the cafeteria eager to find out what we are doing for the following two  hours.  For the first hour we eat snack, talk about the school day, and  then begin homework. They support each other during homework help time  and encourage the group to participate in the fun activities that  follow.  After an hour of homework, the students are given the  opportunity to participate in an enrichment activity.  For the first  week, for example, the students participated in martial arts with an  outside instructor, William.  We all loved William’s encouraging  teaching strategies and motivation to stay active! Thanks, William! This week, we are exploring what sparks our interests for career exploration and beginning to understand service learning.

Greetings from RISE at Haywood

Posted by Qena Armstrong to News, RISE

RISE at Haywood site coordinator, Qena Armstrong, works with students during academic time.

Our RISE site is at Haywood Lane Apartments. Most of our students are originally from Burma, and they are Karen. They are all wonderful children! They are so eager and happy to first have a healthy snack and then share about their day; they especially enjoy homework help. Time goes by so fast and when our enhancement partners arrive, time goes by even faster. Last week, we had a four-day drawing workshop. All of the kids drew so many pictures. I imagine we created more than 30 pieces of art. I can’t wait to see them in the end-of-semester showcase.  

This week we have gotten to know each other better through our service learning planning. It is amazing how high they have set the expectations for their project. We look forward to planning and implementing our service project. All but one of our students likes soccer. Can you guess the focus of our service project? More coming soon! I love that they like coming and continue to come. Today another child from the neighborhood joined us in playing soccer. One of our students has already recruited him to join RISE!

I love working with RISE — this is my first year, and I am looking forward to many more exciting days.

Befriend Diversity

Posted by Tiffany Hodge to News, RISE

“A refugee is someone who comes from another country to have a better life.”

Listen in as two students in the Refugee and Immigrant Students Empowered (RISE) program share their dreams for the future. The video was  created and produced by Melba Williams and her fall 2012 short form media class at the Art Institute of Tennessee – Nashville.

RISE Begins a New Year!

Posted by Tiffany Hodge to News, RISE

Will Mattingly, YMCA artEMBRACE’s martial arts instructor, leads RISE students in a martial arts sequence at Apollo Middle School.

On September 9, 2013, R.I.S.E. (Refugee and Immigrant Students Empowered) started a new year of programming. RISE is a wonderful program for middle school students! RISE students have the opportunity to get help with their homework in math, reading, and language skills, and participate in fun enrichment activities such as: fashion design, painting, songwriting, hip-hop dancing, and martial arts. This year, we are working with students from Apollo, McMurray, and Cameron middle schools. The program meets Monday through Thursday, 4-6 p.m.


Lauryn Ross, the teacher for one of RISE’s community-based sites, helps a student read during the first week of programming.

RISE is part of the NAZA (Nashville After Zone Alliance) system. NAZA seeks to engage and empower middle school students to increase their academic scores and stay in school, so that they can graduate with an array of post-high school choices in front of them. NAZA has sites all across the Nashville area, and programs range from the P.A.C.E. career exploration program to Moves and Grooves, a group focused on dance. Regardless of the program, NAZA partners all promote community building, academic improvement, and the development of leadership skills in a fun and safe environment.

If you’re interested in volunteering with us ~

Volunteers at RISE —

•   help English language learners with their homework

•   assist with classroom management

•   lead activities of their choice

•   have fun with awesome middle schoolers!

This is a great opportunity for those thinking about a career in education, especially with English Language Learners. It’s also a good chance for those thinking about working in the non-profit sphere to interact with refugees and/or immigrants. Regardless of the career you have in mind, you’ll love working with our middle schoolers!

Please contact Tiffany Hodge at [email protected] for more information.