Things That Matter

CoolSpeak Is A Youth Organization Trying To Uplift Nuestra Gente By Giving Them Important Tools

As a community, it’s important we focus on making connections – it’s how we support one another and make sure that everyone’s voice is heard as loudly as possible. Our comunidad is all too often under attack and too many of us aren’t given the same opportunities and same encouragement as others.

That’s where CoolSpeak comes in to the picture. CoolSpeak is fueled by passion, the passion to spark inspiration and help people discover all they can achieve.

CoolSpeak is the youth engagement organization that is showing nuestra gente that every dream can be realized.

As a Latinx-led organization, CoolSpeak leverages the cool language kids speak to design and develop programs and events that build upon the traditional youth motivational speaking – while making sure the content speaks to minority and often forgotten communities.

These guys aren’t going into the country’s highest-rated schools and repeating the same content over and over. They’re visiting schools and students that will benefit the most from their powerful, authentic, and emotional stories – kids who can see themselves in the speakers.

Since 2009, CoolSpeak has visited thousands of middle schools, high schools and colleges in over 40 states, while serving over a million students. Beyond the students themselves, CoolSpeak works with and inspires parents and teachers from around the world.

So who are the visionaries behind this idea pushing kids to chase their dreams?

CoolSpeak actually started off as a graduate research project that impressed professors but didn’t go much further. Its two founders, Carlos Ojeda Jr. and Ernesto Mejia, were both then involved in the world of higher education and it wasn’t until the pair met in 2009 that CoolSpeak began to take shape.

At the time, Carlos was just 23 and admits that he “didn’t know shit” when it came to inspiration speaking. He had his story which he felt would really speak to young students but knew he needed to explore and get to know himself better. So he did just that.

As the two came together to form CoolSpeak, they had three objectives: inspire students, engage parents, and empower teachers. Since 2009, Carlos and Ernesto have worked tirelessly to make CoolSpeak the company that it is today.

For me, the biggest achievement in all of this is the group’s ability to get kids – and their parents – motivated and taking charge of their futures.

Credit: SaludAmerica / Instagram

I know growing up I had zero parent participation in my school work. And if my parents weren’t involved and basically making me do my homework or helping with reports, I wasn’t doing them. It was hard to stay motivated.

So the fact that this team doesn’t just get students and educators involved, but also works to engage parents is a huge deal. Our mamas and papas are often way too busy with their own jobs to be involved as they want to be – but CoolSpeak meets them at their level.

And many students are so empowered and moved by the speakers, they’ll go home and tell their parents, te amo mami. This gets parents wondering what is going on.

And the way they’re accomplishing this is some next level inspirational speaking.

CoolSpeak programs are designed to push the envelope of student engagement while ensuring that the material is highly interactive, full of energy and impactful. The company provides programs on various topics ranging from leadership development, diversity, college readiness and overcoming obstacles.

As an organization, CoolSpeak does literally zero marketing. As they say: the proof is in the pudding. It’s in the work they do and the results they help students achieve.

They help bring in motivational speakers who speak and look like the students – and who come from similar backgrounds. It’s important for them that the students/parents/educations see themselves in their team of speakers. From middle school aged kids all the way up to first year college students, CoolSpeak has 40 different programs across the U.S aimed at empowering vulnerable communities.

An example Ernesto pointed out during a recent interview, is they work to serve students with migrant parents who may be working in agriculture during the on-going crisis. Then helping set these students up with all they need to make it through their first year.

One of the keys to their success (and of the students) is their diverse team of speakers. They’re exceptionally skilled at sharing their unique stories and experiences. They’re truly transparent in what’s happened to them in their lives – they get brutal and gritty – they get naked with their soul.

And they’re looking to give back during this unprecedented health crisis.

In an interview with Carlos and Ernesto, the two shared they they plan to make a lot of the content they share available for free through this health crisis. They want to give back and help maintain some level of motivation and normalcy for the millions of students who are without their usual routines – often bored at home.

The team is already working on content related to the experience of Latinos and Covid-19, including poetry by Joaquin Zihuatanejo – a Slam Poetry world champion. Some examples of content that we might be looking forward to in the coming weeks could be:

  • Workshops to help parents be better at-home teachers
  • Tips for helping students develop leadership skills
  • Best practices for scholarship writing
  • How to write and reflect on whats’s going in students’ lives

Whether you’re an education professional, a parent, or even a student, CoolSpeak wants to hear from you.

Credit: @CoolSpeak / Twitter

The lasting impact that CoolSpeak continues to make on the world would not be possible if it was not for the incredible team members in the company and the visionary businesses who continue to support the dream of two passionate individuals who simply wished to provide transformative resources for students.

If you’re interested, get in touch with your school’s administrator directly via the team’s website or connect with them on social media. They’re always looking to give back and support the community that’s supported them.

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Stephen And Ayesha Curry Are Donating Thousands of Books To Schools For Christmas


Stephen And Ayesha Curry Are Donating Thousands of Books To Schools For Christmas

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Hark the herald! Stephen and Ayesha Claus Curry– are here to bring literary joy this season.

The Golden State Warrior and his wife are donating thousands of books to schools around Oakland, California this holiday season in an effort to bring joy to children.

The couple, behind Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, made the announcement earlier this week.

“We along with our entire team at Eat. Learn. Play. understand the importance of early childhood education, especially when it comes to literacy,” Stephen and Ayesha told People magazine in a recent interview. “Nothing is more basic, more essential, more foundational, or more important to a child’s success in life than the ability to read well. We know there is a lot of work to be done, but with partners like Literati, we’re hopeful that we will be able to make an impact on these children’s lives.”

The Currys’ donations will arrive to schools in boxes that will contain six books.

The packages will include five children’s books and one for adults. All of which come from Stephen Curry’s “Underrated” book club selection.

Along with their thousand book giveaway, the couple’s Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation will donate boxes to students who are learning remotely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in collaboration with and Literati. Fourteen thousand boxes will go directly to Oakland Unified Schools.

According to people, “The remainder of the donation, which was also made possible through Bay Area investor Aydin Senkut of Felicis Ventures, will be distributed through community partners in the new year.”

Speaking about their own experiences of teaching their children during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Stephen and Ayesha (who are parents to Canon W. Jack, 2, Ryan Carson, 5, and Riley, 8) told People that they’ve been hard work attempting to keep their children busy and learning.

“My oldest is pretty disciplined so that’s been easy, but our 5-year-old has a little trouble staying engaged for an extended period of time,” Ayesha, host of ABC’s new show “Family Food Fight,” explained.

Ayesha says she has found that taking part in “some kind of physical activity right before class starts” helps her daughter Ryan “to focus the mind and get some of the wiggles out, and periodic ‘dance breaks’ between lessons.”

“We also added resistance workout bands to the legs of her chair, which give her something to do if she gets antsy during a long Zoom session,” Stephen added.

“Luckily for me, Stephen has really stepped in with education and their schooling. And I’m okay with that because I birthed them so now [he] can birth and nurture their education,” Ayesha joked in a recent episode of “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”

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This Pop-Up School For Migrant Kids Along The Border Went Virtual Thanks To Covid-19 But It’s Thriving More Than Ever

Things That Matter

This Pop-Up School For Migrant Kids Along The Border Went Virtual Thanks To Covid-19 But It’s Thriving More Than Ever

John Moore / Getty Images

The people traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to reach the U.S.-Mexico border aren’t living in some ‘migrant vaccuum’ where nothing else matters. They still have lives to live and experiences to have and, particularly for the young ones, an education to continue.

That was the thinking behind one sidewalk school that popped up in one of the many migrant camps along the U.S.-Mexico border. It was becoming filled with children from across Latin America who were forced to wait out their asylum process from within the border camps, thanks to Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. But their need for an education didn’t just go away.

One woman – with no formal teacher training – decided to help and launched what was called a ‘sidewalk school’ for kids in the camp. But it’s been incredible successful and has blossomed into an online academy for kids throughout the border region.

Despite Covid-19, this pop-up school for migrant kids along the border is thriving.

Just as the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted schools around the world, it’s also having an impact on a pop-up sidewalk school for asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The school, which launched to help fill the educational needs of a growing group of kids stuck at the border, had to go to virtual learning because of the pandemic. But instead of seeing that as a challenge, the school instead has blossomed.

What started out with one teacher at one camp on a sidewalk, how now blossomed by hiring 20 teachers – all asylum seekers themselves – to give classes via Zoom to children across the border region.

To be able to switch to distance learning, the teachers and students were outfitted with more than 200 Amazon tablets by The Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers. The organization was founded by Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, who lives across the border in Brownsville, Texas, and has been crossing to help the asylum seekers by providing them food and books.

It started in just one migrant camp with one teacher but it’s blossomed ever since.

A program like the sidewalk school was severely needed as hundreds and thousands of kids starting being forced to wait at the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s well-known that the border region is one of the most dangerous and violent parts of Mexico and that only underscores the need for quality activities.

Many point out that parents aren’t sending their kids to Mexican schools because they’re afraid to be apart from them. Crime is common here, and kidnappings have been reported. Other parents say registering for school in Mexico is difficult. But program leaders want the kids to be able to continue their education, and they say that many of the asylum-seekers have skill sets they can put to use at the school.

Parents are grateful, too, with one woman telling NPR that she knows “her children will be safe at the sidewalk school, and it gives her time to meet with an immigration lawyer. Volunteer attorneys have been coming over on the weekends to give free legal advice. The asylum-seekers could wait for months to be able to make their asylum case in the U.S.”

Teachers try to give the students some sense of normalcy amid the often dire circumstances at the border.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Many students start their day with an arts and crafts class. Kids are asked to draw on paper plates then outline them with flue and drop glitter. Then they get to hang their creations from trees.

One impromptu teacher, who told NPR he preferred to remain anonymous, said that he wants the kids to “see other people appreciate the artwork they did and let them know how important they are, too, even to people, like, just walking past and driving by. It’s beautiful work.

The classes have offered children not only the chance to catch up on studies that were interrupted when their families fled violence in their homelands, but also a distraction from the long days of boredom.

Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is what is fueling the need for programs like these.

Credit: JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images

It’s the Trump policy of ‘Remain in Mexico’ that has forced programs like these to exist in the first place. The program forces asylum seekers to wait south of the border as their immigration cases proceed through the U.S. court system.

It leaves thousands of families living in tents or at Mexican shelters. Previously, asylum seekers were allowed to remain in the United States with relatives or other sponsors while their cases proceeded.

Many have spent more than a year with their lives in limbo, and the wait has only grown longer with the Trump administration suspending immigration court hearings for asylum-seekers during the pandemic.

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