Moving Onward and Upward After a Successful School Year

Jul 2, 2014

We made it through the 2013-2014 school year and we finished well! The past month has been filled with “last day of program” celebrations, volunteer appreciation activities, graduation and promotion ceremonies, year-end surveys, meetings with children, and a lot of reporting and data analysis on the past year of programming. Last night, we finished off the year-end events by celebrating our eighth grade graduates with their families. We sat and listened to each of the parents speak blessings over their children. I can hardly believe the kids we’ve been walking with for seven years will be high school students in the fall. How quickly they grow!


In addition to closing out our school year programs, we have been proactively planning and looking ahead through the development of our strategic direction plans which are focused on developing local leaders. We define local leadership development as helping individuals understand and embrace their God-given potential  and developing confidence to re-invest those unique gifts for the common good of the entire community. During the month of June, the Casa team has sat through hours of planning meetings around each of the newly identified strategic directions. This group has written three to five Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bound (SMART) goals, paired with quarterly actions for each of the strategic directions. Last Saturday, June 28, the community strategic direction committee gathered to celebrate together and approve the strategic actions Casa Chirilagua has developed for the coming year.


Last week, the Casa team held a morning meeting focused on action steps to develop the internal and external capacity of individuals in the community. A high school student from the community volunteered to attend the meeting and participate in the development of the SMART goals for this strategic direction. During the brainstorming process, she read the sheets of paper on the wall and commented, “That paper up there, the one that says “healing spaces”…that one calls to me.” I responded, “What about that idea calls to you? What does ‘healing space’ mean for you?” She responded, “People need spaces where they are loved and accepted no matter what. They need places where they can share what they have been through without being judged. I’ve been through a lot and I know that healing is a long, long process. I gotta be honest with you. Therapy has helped me a lot and it has been an important part of the process but there are places inside me, deep, deep places that only God was able to heal.” She continued to share about her struggles and her pathway of healing. She expressed that she hopes her story will be an encouragement to other teens.


By the end of the meeting, one of our strategic action steps for this direction was dependent upon the participation and leadership of this high school student. Since there is currently no funding set aside for a high school group, she volunteered, with the help of an adult volunteer, to organize and lead a monthly high school meeting night. Her vision for the group is to line up motivational speakers who share similar experiences to present them to students from our community, offering hope that “if this person was able to overcome his/her circumstances, then I think I can do it too.” She also aspires to include sharing time for the students at each meeting.

Through the process of listening and inviting the community to participate in the process, local leaders are already stepping forward to move the vision and dreams of our community to reality. This is just one exciting example of capable leaders in our community and we look forward to sharing many other stories over the year to come.

We are a community of people “learning together to love our neighbors as ourselves” in a Latino neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia.

As a faith-based Christian non-profit with a small staff and over 100 volunteers, we serve alongside more than 100 families and their children (1st-12th grades) each week through our community programs.

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Our relational network of volunteers and donors reflects a diverse group of individuals from all over the Washington, D.C. metro area. As a non-profit, we rely on the community for assisting program directors on-site, being mentors, supplying the needs of our food pantry, and everything in between. Each member of our Casa community holds a unique gift, whether time, talent or treasure.