BrentM

There’s only good news here … this blogpost is about kinship and caring

 Community Service, Neighboring, Positive Encouragement, Relationships, Social Capital  Comments Off on There’s only good news here … this blogpost is about kinship and caring
Apr 052020
 

Times like this bring out the best in people. Four weeks ago, we pivoted from gathering and started delivering Meals on Wheels to the kids in our after-school program. Volunteers signed up to help as they usually do, and we increased our daily meal count for 38 kids to over 150 meals this past Friday. We were very surprised that the need for kids meals was there from the get-go.

Requests for nutritious kids’ meals (consisting of lunch for today, breakfast for tomorrow) soon increased and requests included worksheets, chapter books, games and puzzles to keep kids stimulated and away from technology, at least for a little while each day. We were happy to oblige and meet the growing needs.

Our volunteers have gone to great lengths to stay in touch with their student and encourage them during the stay-at-home order.

  • Phone numbers have been exchanged between volunteers and parents (and kids)
  • Hand written letters are being written by volunteers to kids and delivered by US Mail
  • Video calls to children so they can get help with their worksheets and reading
  • Volunteers are reading bible stories and chapter books using FaceTime
  • Baked goods for kids and parents have been delivered
  • Birthdays have been celebrated with cup cakes and birthday cake
  • Moms are making meals for other moms who are no longer working and staying at home

Naturally, the appreciation barometer went way up. Letters of appreciation, drawings and thank-you notes from children and parents are being shared with us daily.

What a healthy perspective on thinking and caring for others in an unprecedented time of need.

Thank you volunteers for your support and for coming alongside our appreciative families. This is no-doubt kinship 101 and walking the talk towards making a meaningful impact.

We’ll get through this pandemic, together.

The holy scriptures assure us that we have nothing to fear. Not even COVID-19. We are to be still and know that God is God and still in control. Psalm 46:10

Until next time, I am

Brent Morris ED LHCC April 6, 2020

Hispanics most often associate with Whites on Census Forms (part 1 of 2)

 Family, Immigrants, Racism  Comments Off on Hispanics most often associate with Whites on Census Forms (part 1 of 2)
Feb 232020
 

The 2020 Census is taking place later this year. It is going to be interesting to see the impact of the much-debated Latino representation. There has been much controversy over how Hispanics might identify themselves on census forms, as they are not identified as their own race or group, unlike Whites, Blacks (African Americans), American Indian, Asians or Pacific Islanders. Those are their only choices…

A recent Pew study of census data shows that many Hispanics are identifying as white. This could have implications in national politics and can certainly influence where parties spend millions of dollars in appealing to get people out to vote. This research suggests that the longer Hispanics have been in the U.S., the more likely they are to indicate that they are “white”. 

There is however a caution in treating whiteness as ideal social baseline; America is much more than the complexion or the color of our skin. We ought to be recognizing our diversity in terms of culture, ethnicities and in the knowledge that all people were created equal and were intended to live together and treat others with respect. 

Consider for instance this Pew Research Center study of census returns that showed that significantly more Hispanics are now identifying as white. The research was completed in 2019 and presented at the recent Population Association of America meeting. 

Some news reports suggested that Hispanics, rather than solidifying a distinct ethnic identity and becoming the driving force of a “majority-minority” future, might instead try to be the latest group of immigrants, such as Italians or Jews, to “become white.” 

If this shift is real, it could have big implications. 

Take for example national politics, where the Republican Party plays to a shrinking, aging and questioning base of historically white voters. If large numbers of Hispanics were to start thinking of themselves as white, that could alter the calculations and messaging of the party and its incumbent president. 

It turns out such scenarios are at best premature. What the new research really appears to reveal is just how confused we continue to be about race. Amidst this confusion, being identified as someone who is white is a label that Americans must deal with rather carefully. 

Next blog will be a continuation of the Pew Research and why whiteness ought not to matter …

Until next time, I am Brent M, Executive Director of LHCC and today is February 21, 2020

 Posted by at 9:52 pm

Where have all the shepherd’s gone? Where are the fathers today?

 Family, Relationships  Comments Off on Where have all the shepherd’s gone? Where are the fathers today?
Feb 172020
 

My last post focused on parents being vigilant at home and keeping an eye on what our children are exposed to through the various media channels that we allow into our home. The learning principle was that while parents consider their daily interactions with their children to be adequate, the average time spend with children in a research study of high school students indicated that the average time spend by fathers with their children is a mere 37 seconds each day …

It takes years to figure out how to be a good parent. I’m obviously still learning to be a better father and to fulfill my role as dad. As the heads of the home, men are called to be shepherds, the designated teacher, the nurturer, the guide and of course, the leader. Shepherds might be carefully guarding their careers, vigilant over their 401k performance, protective of their professional reputations. However, their flock may have been virtually abandoned to fend for themselves against the secular humanistic, pluralistic wolves of society. The sheep are distressed, disorientated and oftentimes depressed. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 42% of girls and 27% of boys seriously thought about suicide.

We owe it to our families to remain vigilant. Children spell love … T-I-M-E. I have to find the right balance between work and play. As a father, and learning from the great shepherd, we have no greater responsibility to nurture and guide the sheep that God has entrusted to our control.

I am Brent Morris

Executive Director

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

February 15, 2020

Inspiration for this post is from a short book by the father of our pastor, Stephen Davey, who is the senior pastor of Colonial Baptist church in Cary, and the headquarters of Shepherds Theological Seminary. I am grateful for his passion to serve his flock and share his insightful resources.

 Posted by at 10:44 am

What’s not to Love

 Attitude, Education, Encouragement, Social Capital, Wisdom  Comments Off on What’s not to Love
Jan 262020
 

Take a moment to reflect on the myriad of influences and messages we receive in a given day. How do these forces shape you and those you love?

A recent study indicated that busy parents who believed that they spend 15 minutes with their children each day were actually spending a lot less than that in terms of interacting with and influencing their hearts and minds. This was closer to 37 seconds than 15 minutes. This ought to be a warning to all of us about what we allow to enter our homes, schools and media devices.

There are many belief systems that are influencing us as a society, as well as families and most certainly our children. TV shows, movies, music, teachers, friends, the media. Each of these carry assumptions. Some are obvious while others are perhaps a little under the radar. We can’t unwatch something we saw on TV. Children are exposed to things in this generation of media that is way and above greater than past generations. On the topic of faith, some are clear and concise. Others are exerting a subtle positive or negative influence. Just think of the many distractions alluring us away from what we know to be acceptable and true.

At LHCC, we conduct scholastic interventions. All our family interactions are intended to be social and ones that uplift, encourage and provide hope. We also exert a spiritual influence through prayers, bible lessons by doing and saying what we believe Jesus would have us emulate.

We are indeed grateful for the joy and privilege of gracefully nurturing children’s hearts towards God. In addition, any opportunities to instill similar behaviors in our own lives is worth noting, as we encourage others to do the same. Let us remain vigilant in doing good, so that the evil one not get a foothold.

“Continue in what you have learned … how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures” 2 Timothy 3:14-15.

 Posted by at 8:40 pm

Teach ’em, don’t just Test ’em

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Teach ’em, don’t just Test ’em
Jan 022020
 

Welcome to the next decade where it is predicted that we will use sophisticated glasses to see the words on the screen, rather than walk with our heads bowed to look at a screen in the palm of our hand.

My blog topic today is about reading and the need for more teaching. It just so happens to coincide with the social promotion of third grade students

The Charlotte Observer editorial article of December 20, titled Educators, not courts, should decide reading test, had me quite intrigued. It highlighted Read to Achieve (RTA), a program adopted, or perhaps borrowed, from the Just Read Florida initiative that tests K-3 reading proficiency. The RTA program has failed to show significant improvements in NC, or anywhere else, says the article, despite $150mil spent by the NC DPI, or Department of Public Instruction.

Growing up in a family where reading was encouraged and promoted from an early age, I did not have to worry much about reading tests at elementary school. After all, I was learning (and reading) English and therefore got to hear thousands of words daily, in my native language, long before I had to take my first school test at age 6. I also grew up at a time in South Africa when TV was only introduced when I was a teen, so there were less alternatives (and distractions) like there are in 2020. 

This scenario has not played out with young students in our program like Anthony, Sneijder and Gabriela, who essentially learned their first English words on day one of kindergarten. Score 1-0. Advantage to the native English speaker. My daughters have all recently attended public school and I am privy to the heavy amount of testing they undertake, rather than the teaching they receive. And I am sure Language Arts, and reading is no exception, regardless of the subject.

The problem appears to be that NC borrowed the programs worst aspects … more testing and holding back children who fail to show proficiency by third grade. In case you missed it, only 4 out of 10 3rd grade students in CMS schools can pass the reading proficiency test, according to recent Charlotte Meck School research. And it’s not getting any better I am afraid to say …

 So, what happens to those on the cusp of repeating grade three? Glad you asked. In my experience with working with ELL students from title 1 schools in our after-school program, 3rd grade students are tested, and retested near the end of the school year. If you fail the retest, you are afforded the opportunity to come back to school for the first three weeks or so of summer, to do some intense Read to Achieve testing. Or should that be teaching? It’s really not possible to catch up on years in just a few short weeks while their more fortunate buddies are enjoying a nice summer vacay. In my experience, 4th grade looms large, whether they are ready or not. After all, what would third grade look like if some 18,000 or so were held back every June? And besides, who would want to be a third-grade reading tutor, tester or perhaps teacher?

You see, the $150mil has not been spent so much on teaching to read, as it has on testing. The Science of Reading program is getting strong reading results at less cost in Mississippi, the state with the dubious distinction of having the highest poverty levels, but where 83% of 3rd graders passed, this past school year. In NC, only 56% passed, according to the research. It was 4% higher when Read to Achieve was implemented in 2013.

Dr. Claire White, from UMass, in her recently published dissertation had it right, in my opinion. Academic literacy is the way to go. Dr. White really got me thinking. She makes a great case for teaching target words and then engaging children from a young age in debates about topics like “is it cruel (in your opinion) to have animals in a circus?” It is never too early to start, her research suggests. In my opinion, we ought to teach kids to connect with the books theme and its overall content, and worry less about force feeding the vocabulary that has little significance to a young child who is already so far behind and is no doubt going to be to fourth grade, regardless.

I am suggesting that we need to try something else in our local schools. More emphasis on teach, instead of test. Reading often comes across as an unpleasant time of struggling to figure it out by yourself. Not fun at all.

Here’s what we are doing and will continue to do at LHCC in the reading arena. We let children choose their own books, read with them and help them connect with the subject matter. We want them to see reading in a different light. Much like the beacons of hope we try and represent for all students and their families.

Brent Morris

Executive Director

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

January 5, 2020

 Posted by at 7:58 pm

Happy New Year

 Encouragement, Family, Our Mission, Reading is important  Comments Off on Happy New Year
Jan 012020
 

Firstly, may I wish all our blog readers a very happy and blessed 2020.

Over the holidays, I received a wonderful Christmas greeting card from one of our families that bears repeating here. It was written by one of our 7th grade students on behalf of the family, to me and my family. At the start of the new year, this message is inspiring and encouraging to me, my family and our LHCC staff. I dedicate it to all our partners and supporters for the privilege of being able to serve on the mission-field in this powerful and fulfilling way. It is also no doubt intended for each and every one of our volunteers and staff members.

“Dear Mr Brent, thank you for making LHCC, a really good thing in our community. You help a lot of children’s education become more successful. Thank you for encouraging us students to read. I really appreciate it. Thank you for helping us with our work and making us be better at school work, it does really help us, and we all appreciate that.

Education is very important, and you make a child’s education better. I know every child of the LHCC group appreciates it, and their parents. We all love that you gave your opportunity to help us and care about us in LHCC.

Love Karina P “

Truly humbled, and grateful for what we get to do, together, through scholastic, spiritual and social supports for families who appreciate what we do.

Brent Morris Executive Director LHCC January 1, 2020

 Posted by at 4:08 pm
Nov 292019
 

We celebrated another enjoyable and festive Thanksgiving meal this week with our LHCC families. I learned of some of the heartache of family separation, as immigrants like myself, whose family is not all state-like. It’s been many years since we last embraced loved ones.

I was motivated to determine the origins of Thanksgiving and came across the Thanksgiving Proclamation made by George Washington, just 13 years after independence. It strikes me how far we have departed from the original intent of this annual American holiday.

Washington issued a proclamation on October 3, 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 as a national day of thanks. In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans prior to the Revolution, assistance to them in achieving independence, and help in establishing the constitutional government.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor­ ­­­– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Thankful that we can pray and give thanks today and everyday…

Nov 212019
 

Many young at-risk children that we serve and growing up in crescent communities in Charlotte find themselves constantly on the move. Switching schools constantly as parents move to find affordable housing. Maybe seated in another new school classroom trying to learn their second language. Perhaps you have felt the same way at times. I know I did, when I moved to a new city and into a new school and the age of 6. Finding new friends and fitting in ain’t easy.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Sofia. Sofia and her sister Gabriella, along with mom, started attending our after-school program in 2018. They have attended each week for many reasons including receiving literacy and homework help. Sofia was in kindergarten when she started. She was shy and certainly quiet. Overwhelmed with learning English, she often seemed disengaged by the interactions and encouragement from her reading buddy. Then she met a friend, Samantha, at the start of grade 1 and together they soon struck up a friendship. Things started to change …

After some quality time together, having fun at summer camp and then homework and reading, they have become best buds. Both are helped by the same volunteer and are making steady progress. More importantly though, they have made a connection. Both learning together, taking in the new vocab words, reading the same book, together and solving the same math problems. Together. That’s the blessing here. They made friends and their outlook is looking up. This kind of friendship is blossoming in other areas as well, including between our students and their homework buddies.

We have some more volunteer spots to fill so that others like Sofia, Gabriella and Samantha can also get a helping hand. Forming friendships that we hope and pray will last well beyond vocab words and solving math problems. Come see the bonds that are being forged and be a part of something special while doing good. We have good to give. You have good to give! Connect with us in person at a program near you or via email

Happy Thanksgiving until next time. We have much to be grateful for.

Brent Morris

 Posted by at 8:35 pm
Nov 032019
 

This past Tuesday, the LHCC family came together to honor me with a post-program dinner celebration of my birthday. I am very grateful for their kindness and generosity in providing a meal to feed 5,000 … literally. The Hispanic culture dictates that all family meals are a pot luck. Everyone contributes something tasty and the volunteers are always the guests of honor for their generous time commitments. Our families are grateful for the help they get as well as their children. Reflecting upon this joyous occasion, I wondered what it would be like to be grateful like that every day, birthdays or no birthdays…

Brennan Manning in his book Ruthless Trust posed the question of whether the primal sin of the first couple mentioned in the bible was ingratitude. Even before they were deceived and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree.

I believe that people who have known tough life and death situations, suffering and know what it is like to need something so bad they will do anything to get it, have had to draw upon trust or something like it, to find joy in their lives. They have literally had to swim upstream against the odds. The poor give larger proportions of their income to charity than the rich, because they know what it is like to have needs seemingly beyond their means.

If you are reading this then surely you have much more to be grateful for. Living in a first world country with plenty of clothes, a warm home and one maybe two cars. I have much to be grateful if I consider how much better off we are than many struggling for survival each and every day. Let me use this reminder to count my blessings every day and to praise God for blessing me abundantly and most assuredly more than I deserve.

Until next time

Brent Morris Executive Director

October 20, 2019

 Posted by at 7:53 pm
Oct 072019
 

Picture the scene. Ten or so pallets full of potato’s, totaling about 20 tons, being bagged by kind hearted folks into 10-pound bags on a cool Saturday morning. How did they get there you may ask? The potato’s that is…

It all takes place every year at Pineville Neighbors Place. A generous farmer donates what I call the gleanings in the form of potato’s, in support of the homeless and food banks. Gleanings is a term used in the bible and is defined as the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested. It is a practice arising over 2,000 years ago when it became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms.

Fast forward to Charlotte and the 21st century and it has taken on a more hands on meaning with a deeper connotation. Potatoes are trucked in from three hours away in central NC. Picture for a minute (or check out the video) random strangers, neighbors and school children standing in huddles around pallets of spuds, surgical gloves on, digging into the gleanings and bagging all 40,000 pounds of edible offerings until they are all bagged. It’s a beautiful picture of collaboration and unity across all races, cultures and people of different socio-economic backgrounds. High fives every time a pallet is transformed to handfuls for easy distribution. Organizations represented included Atrium Health, Cardinal Innovations, Pineville Elementary School, Learning Help Centers of Charlotte and Pineville United Methodist Church, to name a few. There were the many young, the young at heart, ambitious teachers and pastors, church congregants and community helpers. It was another awesome drop.

So, now you know what’s a potato drop. Lots of potato’s going to a needy cause, for sure, but more importantly, a show of how a community comes together, extends some love for the less fortunate and helps one non-profit make light work of an otherwise huge truck load.

Thank you, Jane Shutt and Pineville Neighbors Place, for blessing our neighbors and the LHCC families with a fun community service event, and more importantly a show of good neighborliness. Till next year …

Video credit to Mr. Morry Alter, who does great productions for non-profits like LHCC and PNP