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arete alumni feature - Mariyam Sumareh

Arete Alumni Feature - Mariyam Sumareh

Meet Mariyam Sumareh - LSFT Class of 2020 and a rising senior at New York University majoring Sports Management and minoring Public Policy and Management

Her involvement with Arete as an employee began back in 2020 as a senior at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology forming part of the internship team. She was a tutor to three 8th grade students. Being a tutor provided her with connections she did not know she would have made. She connected with her tutees on a more personal level on top of providing them with educational support during the peak of the pandemic. She noticed that these tutor-tutee relationships helped her reflect on how she saw herself in the younger kids and made her realize that she could become a mentor to them. She made sure the students felt validated about their passions. She was not just a tutor but someone that students could lean on socially, emotionally, and academically. 

After being a tutor, Mariyam became a Youth Service Leadership Fellow where she conducted leadership initiatives for grades 6-12, helped with the adaptation of virtual learning and became a spokesperson to donors and guests. After this, she took on the role of Project Coordinator for Summer Bridge/Rising. During her 2021 summer role, she mainly did administrative work. Her other responsibilities involved outreach which included updating families about student progress. She also curated weekly vlogs for the summer rising program and communicated with program donors. She then got promoted to Program Coordinator for College and Career Access. Here, she oversaw high school student activities during afterschool programs and managed attendance for 400+ people. She supported weekly and monthly attendance reports for the senior leadership team. On top of that, she made phone calls and wrote letters to donors and also maintained a digital alumni database . Additionally, during her time in this role, she started up the Arete Alumni Council where they held monthly events, such as financial literacy, resume building, Feed our Needs events, and Alumni Day. 

Currently, Mariyam works as an Admin Operations Associate. She is in charge of various operational needs like keeping inventory on school supplies, ordering supplies and storing items in the office, and organizing electronic files (paystubs, alumni contracts, etc.). She ensures that students get stipends in a timely manner and administers the onboarding process of staff to ensure they get offer letters. Moreover, she serves as support for human resources responsibilities. This means that she tackles operational issues, creates guides on how to clock in and clock out, provides assistance on accessing paycom and timesheets, and produces basic employee manuals. Not only is she the go-to person for employee assistance, but she also helps the President of Arete, Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg, find prospective donors, have access to an alumni database, and keep alumni contact information organized! 

One thing that Mariyam is immensely grateful for is the ability to grow as an individual with the help of Arete. She recalled that when she first started working with Arete, she possessed a student mindset where her main goal was to just do what needed to be done; however, as she progressed throughout her various roles, she gained leadership skills as she took on more responsibilities. Through this, she has been able to tap into her leadership skills whether it be leading groups or leading behind the scenes. She is constantly pushed to do better and improve on her time management, organization, networking, leadership, and mindfulness skills. She is proud of being able to create a space where everyone is able to adapt and do what they have to do - something that Arete has enabled her to do easily!

A second thing that she values about Arete is Arete’s involvement in her life but also with everyone that is part of the organization. She became exposed to Social Emotional Learning that taught her that it is imperative to check in and make sure you and everyone around you is doing and feeling well. Having the opportunity to debrief and be mindful of these emotions allowed her and her colleagues to perform better within their roles. “Arete definitely cares about their staff!” exclaimed Mariyam as she explained that Arete asks their employees about their feelings and opinions on certain projects instead of just being told what to do. Being asked for personal input makes Mariyam feel welcomed and validated. As a former LSFT student and current Arete employee, she is able to provide a new and youthful perspective on certain events and makes her feel valued as a member of this organization. On top of that, Mariyam enjoys seeing that Arete organizes important events that are beneficial and dear to the communities they serve (Juneteenth, Feed Our Needs, hotline and family services, Eid celebrations, etc.). Also, the fact that Arete is expanding shows that they care about service and are constantly striving for more! One last thing Mariyam underscores is that although what she is studying is different to what she does within Arete, she is able to gain transferable skills that help support her career goals (youth engagement, consistency, empathy, being supported and being supportive). 

 - 07/11/2023 - Anthony Ramirez Diaz
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Leaders of Dynamic Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental sense of awareness that allows one to pay attention to purpose and being in the present moment. Mindfulness is not just meditation, reflection, concentration exercises, or a quick fix for stress. It is the nature of being conscious of personal sensations and feelings and attending to them. 

The Mindful Stress Buffering Account presented by Creswell and Lindsay (2014) proposes that mindfulness alters stress appraisals to reduce stress reactivity and strengthens stress coping mechanisms. Furthermore, they present that mindfulness can activate the SAM-axis (a stress-response system) in one of two ways: reducing the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response to stress) or increasing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (network of nerves that relaxes the body after experiencing stress). This biological evidence communicated that mindfulness can help mitigate the effect stress has on human health. 

Moreover, applications of Mindfulness-Based Programming have observed increases in well-being, improved behavior regulation, and reduced stress and psychological symptoms. Stress and trauma can have direct (onset of diseases) and indirect (impair cognitive function and performance) effects. Implementing mindfulness practices can help reduce stress and support health. 

Arete President Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg plans to use a Niroga Dynamic Mindfulness Training to implement mindfulness practices within Arete to help not just students but staff and leaders too!

Why this training? 

The work from the Niroga Institute has developed from using their training in groups with students in Oakland. It was tailored for youth who are in serious distressing circumstances and focuses on addressing their trauma. Niroga specializes in an integrative approach that involves social emotional learning, social emotional teaching, and social emotional parenting. 

Materials from Niroga are not new to Arete as we have used their approach in the past when piloting and designing the SEL curriculum 2019. It started with training students and afterschool staff with Transformative Life Skills sessions with the help of Niroga. This work resembled a bottom-up design where the Arete SEL pilot team saw how students took the lead in mindfulness-based programming like deciding when they wanted to take the time to do breathing exercises. Four years since the SEL pilot, Sarah wants to layer in a top-down design where leaders within Arete receive training through Niroga’s Dynamic Mindfulness sessions. 

“The intent of this training is to give you more oxygen to survive with your work,” Sarah coaches the leadership team. She underscores the importance of providing her staff with the necessary tools to help and support their needs as human beings and educators. She intends for this training to help Arete's leaders deal with their trauma, whether it be vicarious trauma or acute trauma. This is a call for Arete’s leaders to know how to support themselves and find ways to address their stress. Down the line, they will be transferring the skills learned through Niroga to their work within Arete.

What do you hope your employees gain from this training? How will progress and learning be tracked? 

“I want them to feel comfortable breathing. I want them to feel comfortable creating a space for mindfulness.” Sarah hopes to see these mindful behaviors happening in all Arete meetings, classrooms, and across the organization's culture. The leadership group will finish the intensive training period by June and subsequently have working products that are manifested at the partnership schools

In terms of assessment, there is a plan to have our leaders working on designing a curriculum for this summer that implements what they have learned in their Niroga training. Engaging Arete's leaders in some form of design work will put their skills to the test. This is imperative for implementing their new learnings for the upcoming school year at all of Arete's four expansion sites.  Their learning will be observed, and they will be coached to integrate Niroga's dynamic mindfulness skills into their staff trainings and regular team meetings. From there, the dynamic mindfulness skills gained from this spring's trainings can serve as a model for future work. Niroga is well known on the West Coast but not in New York. Arete can serve as an example for others to see how powerful integrating Niroga's trainings can be within an organization and at community school sites.  

Why this group? Do you hope it’ll have a trickle down effect?

Sarah’s vision for this session was to have a pilot to start with an influential group. She states that this approach is partially in response to Arete's expansion as the organization is living through the question: “How do we want this culture to expand with the other boroughs?”

Arete is a relatively small organization with over a decade of experience at the The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, which serves as a model for new partnerships. This training allows for a monthly leadership series to build a leadership cohort. Then, at each community school site, there will be a cohort that will be able to lead the school's dynamic mindfulness work. Sarah notes that these leaders have been through a lot by being an organization within a big city that serves marginalized students and families. Niroga gives Arete a way to power up its employees to help them lead and create a great culture to serve the community. After having gone through the training, she anticipates that these individuals are able to lead others in the work. The goal is to have leaders that are comfortable with leading dynamic mindfulness practices and learning how to self-regulate themselves as they engage their staff, students, and families. This is a beneficial way of providing support to the leaders of our organization by offering opportunities to properly address their stress and trauma to then suitably serve our communities. This work fully embraces the mission of seeing our employees, students, and families prosper! 

What did you notice within the organization that led to adopting this training?

Sarah encountered Niroga five years ago when attending a women's leadership conference in California. One of the Niroga staff members was leading a workshop where he had attendees participate in dynamic mindfulness practices while also learning about impacts of trauma on the work of education leaders. All of the attendees at the conference were working in urban settings that dealt with chronic stress, direct trauma, and vicarious trauma. Since the pandemic, everyone has experienced trauma and stress while also leading with complex issues of working within an urban community. 

With this in mind, she acknowledges that trauma is real and prevalent within Arete and wants to help address that with the help of Niroga! A benefit of using Niroga is that their practices are refined in urban settings which is helpful for Arete implementing mindful actions to help reduce the impact of trauma. One thing that Sarah finds crucial in the work Niroga does that will be beneficial for Arete is the focus on trauma as a somatic definition

“Trauma freezes within our body! I want to provide a sort of first aid for our educators and leaders. Post pandemic, it is clear to all of us that we’re fragile! We are still processing what has happened and figuring out how to effectively move forward.” She finds it vital for trauma not only to be addressed through thinking and processing, but also through movement. This is what Niroga brings to us: dynamic mindfulness - transformative behaviors that require mindful movement, breathing, and centering. Niroga is a call to action! It is a breath of fresh air, a time to pause and take care of yourself! As she puts it, it is a simple way to do some self regulation that can take as little as 15 minutes. It is feasible and asks her staff to partake in these helpful practices.

 - 04/13/2023 - Anthony Ramirez Diaz
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Arete Alumni Feature - Stephanie Polanco Serrano

Meet Stephanie Polanco Serrano - a third year student at Lehman College studying Psychology!

Her journey with Arete started when she was a high school student at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology where she had the brilliant idea to start up the Self Care Club! Stephanie recounts that starting up this club helped her emotionally because the focus of the club was to offer a space where one would take care of themselves through different artistic activities. This outlet allowed her and other participants to learn of various ways to practice self care! Professionally, she gained communication skills and learned how to take initiative when she had to propose the idea to Arete Executive Director at the time, Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg, in order to get the club up and running. She also mentions that she felt connected to Arete and our mission because she felt that her voice was heard and as a student she felt that her idea of starting up a club was validated and taken seriously. 

Stephanie also became a tutor as a high school student during the pandemic. Stephanie chose to become a tutor because she felt that helping students academically would not be challenging to her as she was in good academic standing. Another big factor in taking up this opportunity was being motivated by a former middle school teacher, Ed Martinez, who presented this opportunity and encouraged her to form part of the program. In the end, it worked well as she was able to solidify her teaching and time-management skills and gain different service skills. As Stephanie puts it, “this role helped me grow because I learned how to serve my community!”

Now, her role within Arete is Senior Program Coordinator. Stephanie oversees Arete's afterschool programs at their various sites, on top of many other responsibilities! Currently, she is located at P.S./I.S. 155 to help the program function and flourish. 

 

Stephanie is grateful for Arete because they foster an environment where she can develop professionally. They provide her with opportunities like participating in trainings and professional development sessions. Being part of those things has helped her realize what it takes to be a part of a successful working environment. She continues to benefit from Arete because she feels security in the role she currently has and underscores that within the organization, there is a sense of trust and unity amongst her coworkers! As a college student, she is also extremely thankful that Arete works around her school schedule and does not penalize her for being a student unlike other college students her age who do not have the same privilege.

 - 04/12/2023 - Anthony Ramirez Diaz
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Reflecting on the ExpandED SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future Part 2

This April, Arete Education had the remarkable honor of joining fellow SEL Educators and exceptional EQ-minded professionals in facilitating the ExpandED Schools SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future. This annual event was curated to lead members of the SEL educational community in networking and in learning promising SEL practices. Arete was asked to co-facilitate the Breakout Room focused on SEL Frameworks and Models. We shared Arete’s SEL Curriculum and the SEL Module II model with a wider audience, and in turn, received numerous SEL resources and praise from others. This 4-part Reflection will share the highlights and takeaways from the Convening and also challenge the readers to join the SEL conversations.

Feel free to explore the resources below:

· Session Slides and Resources (presenter slides/videos)

· Session Recordings

The Convening was sectioned into four parts. The second portion was The City Artifact Shareout, which is a space for selected SEL Educators and professionals to share the resources they utilized to help guide EQ activities within their communities. This year, seven eager SEL experts volunteered their go-to tools. This article highlights three.

  1. Tozyea Reed (Dallas, TX) - SEL Calm Corner are physical spaces designed to help students check in with themselves. In these spaces are handouts, and hands-on tools for self-awareness and mindfulness.

  2. Kara Hader (Tulsa, OK). - Yale University’s Mood Meters are color-coded zones that help students identify their moods and that mood intensity. These meters are helpful in setting up norms and practice for noticing how you feel and then regulating those emotions.

  3. Lavone Walker (Omaha, NE) - Vibratone is a percussion bell that is used to focus group attention. At the sound, SEL student practitioners are intentionally centering.

Other impactful artifacts shared included Cooking Clubs for kids and staff, SEL Calm kits, and stipends geared at SEL initiatives. All of the artifacts provided takeaways that could be specified to our own communities and EQ practices.

The Arete SEL Challenge: Thank you for reading this article. As a part of our growing SEL community, we invite you to join the conversation. Which of Adams's highlighted artifacts interests you the most? Which of the briefly mentioned artifacts would you like to hear more about? Do you have any cool SEL artifacts to share?

 - 05/09/2022 - Nicoise Waring
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Reflecting on the ExpandED SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future Part 3

This April, Arete Education had the remarkable honor of joining fellow SEL Educators and exceptional EQ-minded professionals in facilitating the ExpandED Schools SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future. This annual event was curated to lead members of the SEL educational community in networking and in learning promising SEL practices. Arete was asked to co-facilitate the Breakout Room focused on SEL Frameworks and Models. We shared Arete’s SEL Curriculum and the SEL Module II model with a wider audience, and in turn, received numerous SEL resources and praise from others. This 4-part Reflection will share the highlights and takeaways from the Convening and also challenge the readers to join the SEL conversations.

Feel free to explore the resources below:

· Session Slides and Resources (presenter slides/videos)

· Session Recordings

The Convening was sectioned into four parts. The third portion was The City Networking Session, and participants had a choice of three Breakout Rooms. The Breakout Room discussions were focused on Strengthening Community Partnerships, Youth Voice, and Policy and SEL Working Groups, respectively. I joined the Youth Voice room since Arete’s Vision, Mission, and Motto are aligned with youth advocacy and SEL Leadership. The facilitator, Farhen Johnson, was phenomenal in delivering this thought:

 “SEL can’t work if it’s being done to you. However, SEL can work if we are speaking life into each other and showing up for one another.”

She drove home her point by challenging us with this thought:

“ SEL is a thread. How can we braid it in culturally?"

I took this as: Where in Arete’s program can we emphasize beneficial customs and observations based on our specific cultures and experience?

The key is developing a Connected Environment. Johnson listed four strategies for developing Connected Environments:

  1. Know Names

  2. Practice Emotional Checks

  3. Introduce Community Circles

  4. Keep all spaces in alignment

 - 05/09/2022 - Nicoise Waring
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Reflecting on the ExpandED SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future Part 1

This April, Arete Education had the remarkable honor of joining fellow SEL Educators and exceptional EQ-minded professionals in facilitating the ExpandED Schools SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future. This annual event was curated to lead members of the SEL educational community in networking and in learning promising SEL practices. Arete was asked to co-facilitate the Breakout Room focused on SEL Frameworks and Models. We shared Arete’s SEL Curriculum and the SEL Module II model with a wider audience, and in turn, received numerous SEL resources and praise from others. This 4-part Reflection will share the highlights and takeaways from the Convening and also challenge the readers to join the SEL conversations.

Feel free to explore the resources below:
· Session Slides and Resources (presenter slides/videos)
· Session Recordings

The Convening was sectioned into four parts:

  1. The Welcome and Key Note Speech
  2. The City Artifact Share-out
  3. The City Networking Session,
  4. SEL Professional Development

The keynote speaker was David Adams, CEO of Urban Assembly, and the premise of his presentation was to drive home how Belonging truly influences one’s purpose and need for education. The main text of reference was W.E.B Dubois' The Souls of Black Folk. This literary work revealed to Adams several insights. He emphasized three:

     1.) The purpose of Education is to transform from a carefree man to a thoughtful man, and the responsibility of each educated person is to help us all through the struggles and into progress.

     2.) To belong is to understand your responsibility to the group, and the group's responsibility to you. Being named and claimed can be healthy and helpful.

     3.) Burdens are easier to bare if everyone carries their own weight. Keep in mind that the strengths need never be unformed, as long as their benefits are mutual.

In closing, Adams reiterated the importance of belonging to and in educated communities by emphasizing the standstill politics places on education. Adams expressed that when education is guided through teaching rather than learning, a student’s scope is narrowed. The solution to teacher-centered education is in our shared characters, groups, and mutually shared experiences.

The Arete SEL Challenge: Thank you for reading this article. As a part of our growing SEL community, we invite you to join the conversation. Which of Adams's three insights were most impactful to your concept of belonging? What are some of the groups you proudly belong to?


 - 05/09/2022 - Nicoise Waring

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