Building the Next Generation From the Ground Up

Author and entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said that “whatever good things we build end up building us.” The Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry is building a new cohort of creatives, bringing the world of architecture and design to the students of Atlanta.

Expert architect Oscar Harris started the organization in 2004, in hopes of giving high school students the opportunity to explore their own creativity and to showcase the profession to a diverse group of young people. With a mission to mentor, educate, and develop their abilities and provide a greater diversity in the architectural, engineering, and construction industries, ACCI seeks to bolster the fields with the next generation of professionals.

With staggeringly low numbers of minorities and women in the architecture field, Harris and ACCI bring architecture and design within reach of their students, expanding the opportunities for students who might not have considered the profession. Currently, just 1.5 percent of all registered architects are African American, six percent are Asian, and just 22 percent are women.

While they are still in high school, ACCI works with these students to expose them to jobs in the field. Partnering with local colleges and universities, ACCI also works with inner-city students to give them the chance to experience a summer on-campus experience. And, to further boost the pipeline of the profession, ACCI connects their students with area professionals to give them a one-on-one mentorship experience from someone already in the field.

Students who participate in the ACCI program learn from Atlanta’s best, attending lectures, touring construction sites, and visiting architectural firms. They focus on a wide-range of architectural styles and learning, including sustainable design and commercial building.

And, each summer, ACCI presents a week-long academy for 9-12th graders, held at Georgia Tech. While learning from professional instructors, they also get the chance to get hands-on—literally. Students in the program are required to come up with a design concept, and sketch it by hand. From there, they build a 3D model and present their work to their ACCI peers.

“At the end of the week, you’ll be able to stand up in front of everybody and give a presentation on your idea,” Harris said. “When a child comes out of the program, they feel empowered. For the first time, they have been able to develop an idea. They have rendered that idea, and they have presented that idea.”

“The main thing is to get these students excited about themselves and excited about creativity,” Harris added. “We want to get them to see that there is a future for them and a career in architecture, engineering and construction.”

ACCI has worked with hundreds of students in the Atlanta area, seeing many go on to prestigious architecture and design programs in their post-secondary education. More information and applications for this summer’s academy can be found online at www.acci.org. Listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, here.

Love and Dignity, Beyond the Walls in Atlanta

For the homeless population of Atlanta and cities around the world, a place to sleep at night and finding stable housing have the highest priority. Beyond the hardships of not having a place to live, though, there are other, sometimes overlooked aspects that can go straight to the heart of effecting a person’s self-worth and pride. Seemingly simple, every day activities for some, like a man being able to shave his beard, or being able to receive a paycheck, aren’t easy to come by when living on the streets. For those necessities and more, there is Love Beyond Walls.

The organization unofficially started when Founder and Executive Director Terence Lester and his wife hit the streets of Atlanta, giving away clothes and items from their own home. From there, the Lesters started mobilizing their friends and family to help lead service projects in under resourced areas, eventually creating the nonprofit. Engaging the community through social advocacy, Love Beyond Walls advocates for those who are homeless and experiencing systemic poverty.

Lester applies his own “shoe-wearing” philosophy to the work of Love Beyond Walls, frequently walking in the shoes of those he serves. He has lived on the streets as a homeless person, under bridges and in tents, with no access to a change of clothes, to fully experience all that a homeless person endures on a daily basis.

“It’s about– how do I immerse myself into this sacrificial lifestyle in order to build a bridge between those who have and have not?” Lester said.

A 30-passenger bus that was donated to the organization for one dollar, also known as the Mobile Makeover Bus, is One of Love Beyond Walls most successful programs. The inspiration for the bus came from Leonard, a homeless man who had lost his wife and his hope, and hadn’t been able to properly groom or take care of himself for quite a while. Of all the things he could wish for, he said he wanted to be made over.

The bus is a conduit to self-care and other essential services. It holds a barbershop, a hygiene station and a clothing closet. It also offers further resources to help with steps toward self-sustainability. Since opening the bus, they have helped “makeover” more than 1,300 individuals, while also bringing dignity to those who don’t have access points on a regular basis.

Love Beyond Walls

“We are in the trenches every day. Service isn’t an event; it’s a lifestyle,” Lester said. “I’m constantly inspired and in awe. Every time I sit down with somebody who is experiencing homelessness, I am inspired by the stories they tell.”

The organization currently has two tiny homes that they are using for temporary housing for individuals without a place to live, many of whom are just caught in a string of bad luck. Through their Dignity Art Program, using pallet wood, homeless individuals in the program are taught how to take the pieces and turn them into art. They put their life stories and favorite words on the pieces, and then sell them at art shows. In the process, they learn a trade and earn a paycheck for their work.

To listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show click here. To find out more about Love Beyond Walls, visit www.lovebeyondwalls.org, or on social media @lovebeyondwalls.

Atlanta’s School of Rock

The Märchen Sagen Academy offers professional-led training for kids in everything from stop-motion animation to voice over work. Led by Executive Director Couleen LaGon, a video and music producer by trade, Märchen Sagen provides hands on programs to inspire local youth. “We develop humans, and their ideas,” LaGon said. “We are teaching these kids that they don’t have to compete for their world—they can create it.”

Märchen Sagen Academy

“I think that’s the most important thing that we do here—to teach these kids that nothing is impossible. If you can believe and have a little bit of applied faith and some personal action, you can do anything that you want to do.” Opened in August of 2016, Märchen Sagen has attracted many of its students through word of mouth and walk-ins off the street. The Academy also has a performing group that does shows at local schools, building even more local interest.

And the attention doesn’t stop there. The kids in the program were recently hired by Leon’s Full Service Restaurant to produce their new local advertisement. The Academy hopes to continue to provide these services to local individuals and businesses to give participants real-life training, all while securing funds for Märchen Sagen.

While the school year is in session, Märchen Sagen holds a daily after-school session from 2:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at their 418 Church Street location, offering students the chance to learn about making electronic music, songwriting, filming on a green screen and video production. Providing snacks for the students while they are there, Märchen Sagen offers a variety of different payment packages for participants, who can come between two and five days a week.

During school breaks, Märchen Sagen holds K.A.M.P, or Kids and Multimedia Production. K.A.M.P. is a full-day opportunity for students to continue honing their craft. The Academy offers day and full-week rates during these school breaks.

In addition to their work with the kids, Märchen Sagen is also available for additional video production and studio space. Offering quality equipment and production tools, artists can rent out the studio for recording and tracking work. With the Artists Development Package, artists get six hours of studio time, which includes one hour of pre-production, four hours of production time, and one hour of mastering.

The Academy is also available for parties and events, offering locals the opportunity to rent out the historic space. Those interested in learning more or enrolling in the summer camp can visit their website at www.marchensagen.org.

To listen to this full episode of The Good Works Show, click here.

A Seamless Partnership

Charles Pace GCPL
Gwinnett County Public Library Executive Director Charles Pace poses alongside Vice President of Career Services Cheryl Cornett and President Ray Bishop at the annual Employer Recognition Event.

Aligning well with the library’s informational and educational objectives, our mission is to put people to work. The mission of the library is to support informational, educational, and recreational interests with convenient, creative, customer-friendly access to materials and services.

“We are all about changing lives through literacy and reading, just like Goodwill changes lives through helping people find employment,” said Gwinnett County Public Library Executive Director Charles Pace.

Through providing valuable resources, the Gwinnett County Public Library has become an appreciated supporter, partner and friend to us. From hosting job-readiness workshops, networking events and career fairs to encouraging the importance of literacy in the community, the library contributes to the many successes of our participants.

Gwinnett County serves as the second most populated county in Georgia and is home to nearly 20 Goodwill stores, career centers and donation centers. As the library looks to strengthen and expand its footprint in Gwinnett County, we look forward to serving more job seekers in order to reach our goal to put 23,000 north Georgians to work before July this year.

Together, we will accomplish both education and employment initiatives. Pace looks forward to what is next for the partnership. “We are really happy to have this partnership with Goodwill and to be able to leverage what Goodwill is doing while also supporting the mission and the goals of the library,” he says.

Join the #GivingTuesday Movement

2016_EOY_Facebook-Wall_Giving-Tuesday

When the Thanksgiving turkey is eaten and the stuffing reduced to crumbs, conversations may turn to whether to go to the malls on Black Friday or opt to make holiday purchases online on Cyber Monday. 

The holidays spotlight the distinct contrasts within our communities. On one hand, there’s a great deal of consumerism and overindulgence that goes along with the activities and traditions, helping to distract us during an otherwise cold and dark season. The season starts with a day to feast and give thanks and two days to find bargains. On the other hand, there are many among us experiencing poverty.

Unlike any other time of the year, the stark contrast motivates many to give back. On November 29,  #GivingTuesday, charities, families, businesses, community centers and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity.

There are many ways that people choose to give, such as making a financial contribution or volunteering their time at a local community-based organization. There are other ways to donate, too, like offering our time and skills to a food pantry or donating items to our local Goodwill®. For the latter of those options, gently-used household goods will generate revenue to support employment and job training programs for people in the community. 

No matter how you choose to give this holiday season, #GivingTuesday is simple. Just find the right way for your family, community, company or organization to come together to give something more, then share how you are giving and inspire others to also give.

– This entry was adapted from an entry by Seth Turner, Sr. Director of Public Policy for Goodwill Industries International