By Maya Robinson

On December 4th a group of Wells Fargo employees took time out of their day to volunteer at AAP Build-A-Library Site, Raising Expectations. The group was organized by AAP Cabinet Member and Wells Fargo Senior Vice President, Hugh Rowden and his colleague Tammy Sanders.

“What is the difference between a checking account and a savings account? How old do you have to be to open your own savings account? How many types of savings accounts should you have as an adult?”

Those were just a few of the questions that volunteers from Wells Fargo asked the sixth grade students from the Raising Expectations afterschool program. By the end of their hour and a half session, the students were correctly answering questions about banking, money, and saving. The Wells Fargo volunteers, Linda Brown and John Stork, made the lesson fun and interactive with videos and prizes for each correct answer. At the end of the lesson, Wells Fargo presented the students with copies of Beating the Odds: Eddie Brown’s Investing and Life Strategies.

While the six graders were trained on financial literacy, two groups of Wells Fargo volunteers were busy with the younger students on more age appropriate projects. The fourth and fifth graders assembled care packages with special notes for local senior citizens. The contents of the care packages were donated by Raising Expectations and Wells Fargo.

The youngest students spent the afternoon reading aloud with Wells Fargo volunteers. The students who were old enough to read themselves chose their favorite books to read to the volunteers. Research shows that reading aloud is the foundation for literacy development.

To celebrate a successful afternoon of learning and volunteering, Bruster’s Ice Cream treated everyone to an ice cream sundae bar, thanks to Wells Fargo. Financial literacy and ice cream made the perfect pair!

Raising Expectations has been a long-time Build-A-Library site for AAP and grantee for Powering the Potential. Raising Expectations provides impactful youth development programming for youth in Atlanta communities. It is unique among out-of-school time (OST) programs in that it is longitudinal in its relationship with students. Students begin their relationship with Raising Expectations as middle school students and continue as they matriculate through secondary and embark upon their post-secondary plans.

If your company or group would like to volunteer at a Build-A-Library site, a staff member will be happy to coordinate.

AAP is committed to addressing the achievement gap and improving outcomes for African-American boys and young men in the metro area through partnerships that increase educational opportunities and pathways to employment. Over the years, our efforts have expanded from a laser focus on literacy to include additional learning opportunities targeted to support youth’s overall academic achievement and future success. We have seen the profound impact that caring professionals, like you can have both for you and the students. This fall, AAP is launching a pilot volunteer program of tailored volunteer opportunities.

As our dedication to this work continues, AAP and United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Volunteerism team have come up with a menu of volunteer opportunities with AAP’s current Build-A-Library Sites.

We can organize interactive projects for groups of 10 to 25 people. Opportunities can be customized for the company depending the career area. For example, a financial company could present a workshop on money management for young adults or a team of software developers could present about writing code.  Your company can host a group of students for a day of shadowing on October 15 or November 5 or you can travel to an agency like Delta Air Lines chose to do in this video.

To participate, please fill out our project request form to find an available date.

AAP Partners with Georgia State University’s African-American Male Initiative

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership (AAP) is committed to improving outcomes for African-American boys and young men in the metro area through partnerships that will increase educational opportunities and pathways to employment. AAP’s signature cause Powering the Potential of African-American boys and young men began in 2016 with a laser focus on literacy through the Build A Library project at six partner agency locations. Thanks to dramatic response from AAP stakeholders, increased fundraising and recommendations from program experts, the efforts have broadened beyond basic literacy to include additional learning opportunities targeted to support youth’s overall academic achievement and future success. Each site exposes youth to career pathways, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), through career exploration, job training and work experiences.

AAP partners with the Georgia State University’s African-American Male Initiative (AAMI) at Booker T. Washington High School as one of the six sites in areas of low and very low child well-being in Atlanta. The mission of the Georgia State University African American Male Initiative (AAMI) at Booker T. Washington High School is to enhance the graduation rate of African-American males at Booker T. Washington High School while also increasing the number of diplomas conferred upon this population couched within a college access and readiness focus. With support from generous AAP members, AAMI provides a true STEM experience using digital literacy to address themes of Black male identity.

Recently, AAMI gave us an update on their work. The young men participate in discussions and activities twice a week covering topics that include the formation of Black male identity, spirituality, critiquing modern music, adjusting cultural lens about Africa, and interviewing and digital media training. Over the course of the school year, the students have fostered an environment that makes it acceptable for young men of color to be vulnerable and not feel ostracized.

AAMI has been able to leverage the Build A Library program to purchase books on various topics including subjects that have enhanced their media skills training like camera, editing, film, graphic novels, books on fantasy and anime. The students have developed their own graphic novels and film projects. This year, two veteran program members who are working to complete their comic book character origin stories, which they began last spring, delivered a presentation about the process for developing their comic origin stories at the Sources Conference hosted by the Georgia State University’s Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence.

Beyond their work on graphic novels, AAMI facilitators taught the young men about shot and angle composition. The young men were tasked with shooting a short-film utilizing the information from their lessons. They came together and completed the assignment within one hour. The short-film was edited and presented to them to show their accomplishment. Check out their video here. They will be utilizing their media skills at an upcoming career fair being held at Washington High School.

The young men were exposed to activities that went beyond the afterschool program on their school campus. Some of the young men went on college tours to Georgia State University and Clark Atlanta University. The group had the opportunity to complete unique teambuilding challenges at the Escape Room and the retreat at Georgia State’s Indian Creek Lodge.

You can be part of the great work happening at Booker T. Washington High School and AAMI. First, make a commitment to support United Way’s AAP which funds six sites in areas of low and very low child well-being in our region. Give now. Second, AAMI are looking for volunteers for their upcoming Summer Institute to chaperone field trips and discuss their education and career pathways with the students. Sharing your story could shine a powerful light ahead for these young men. Contact to coordinate a date and time.

Villages at Carver YMCA Impresses at AAP Leadership Luncheon

Of the many attendees at the 4th Annual AAP Leadership Luncheon, two young men stood out a head above the rest, Deron Dill and Christopher Wright, program participants from AAP Build a Library site at Villages at Carver YMCA.

These two gentlemen, along with the teen center director, Bilal Blake, were featured in a video about AAP’s signature cause, Powering the Potential of African-American Boys and young men toward academic achievement.

Villages at Carver YMCA is one of the original after-school sites that AAP invested in when the group took up the goal to improve academic outcomes for African-American young men and boys back in 2016. Today, students participate in the book clubs, leadership workshops, team building projects, creative writing classes and homework tutors. Tricia Crossman, United Way’s Senior Director, Youth Development, manages the program.

Hear more from Deron and Christopher here.

#WhyWednesday: Natasha Chambliss

Meet Natasha Chambliss, Home Depot employee and United Way of Greater Atlanta African-American Partnership board member! Watch Natasha’s Share Your Why video to learn how being a part of AAP helps her fulfill her passion for improving literacy, by getting hands-on in the Build-a-Library program.

What’s your passion? Come fulfill it in partnership with United Way of Greater Atlanta! Whether you’re ready to step up as a board member in your community, want to volunteer more or are interested in joining a group, you can plug into your purpose with United Way.

In the summer of 2017, when AAP Director Bryan Vinson came to deliver books for AAP’s Build-A-Library project at Raising Expectations, Akeem Haqq was there to help him unload the books. When AAP spoke with Tangee Allen, co-founder of Raising Expectations, she was excited to share Akeem’s progress thanks to the Build-A-Library project.

Akeem is now a senior at Washington High School and participates in Early College through Georgia State University. He is applying for colleges in Georgia and Alabama and wants to study engineering with a focus on computer science and gaming.

Why highlight Akeem?
“We have worked with Akeem since he was in middle school. We have really seen him grow and benefit from this project supported by United Way of Greater Atlanta and the African-American Partnership.”

What changed for Akeem through working with the project?
“The project has allowed him to believe in himself. Akeem comes from a background with challenges. His mother never graduated from high school and his father is a pet tech at a local pet store.

Thanks to this project, Akeem has people in his life to remind him that he is academically gifted. It encourages him to celebrate his love of reading at a time when reading isn’t considered ‘cool’ for a young African-American man. Akeem has a path to a postsecondary education that he can really actualize.”

What has been one of the most impactful experiences for him through the project?
“Mentorship from older men of color has been particularly meaningful. Before working with Build-A-Library, most of our mentors were college-age students. Our work with the African-American Partnership opened the door to add mentorships with professional African-American men, providing ongoing mentoring sessions with our students. Many of the young men in our program are growing up in single parent matriarchal households. This element makes a real difference.

Akeem works with his mentor Quinton on a weekly basis. One of the more impactful activities Akeem and Quinton did together was read books by African-Americans who had to survive difficult circumstances. The two discuss each book. They read The Kid by Sapphire. Quinton related parts of the story to his own journey which added context to the book.

Quinton complements others in Akeem’s life who all work to hold him accountable for the choices that he makes in his life.”