We partnered with GEAR UP 4 LA throughout September and October bringing our Parent Engagement series to over 50 of their parents. Parents bonded over shared experiences, inspired each other with their vulnerability, and strengthened their relationships with their families.
When parents know their stories matter, so do their children.
Our 2018 - 2019 year kicked off with multiple capacity building support offers from The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
In July, we received a sponsorship from the office of 1st District Supervisor, Hilda Solis, providing us the opportunity to develop a new 3-year strategic plan with consultants from Executive Service Corps. This nine-month program will guide our executive director and board of directors through multiple training sessions that will result in us producing detailed organizational goals, objectives, and action plans through 2022.
Additionally, PLUS ME also received a sponsorship to participate in 2nd District's Capacity Building and Leadership Development Program. This program hosted by Mark Ridley Thomas' office and Community Partners helps small to mid-size organizations achieve greater organizational sustainability, programmatic effectiveness, and financial strength. Through eight monthly training and coaching sessions, we will strengthen and expand PLUS ME's capacity to serve its constituents.
We are honored to have earned their support and look forward to building our capacity and growing our impact throughout the year!
I remember how much I struggled when writing my college personal statement as a transfer student back in 2009. I had no idea what to write and constantly felt overwhelmed by the process.
While moving last year, I found it in a folder and was shocked by how little it did to showcase my resiliency at that age. Instead of highlighting how I overcame my lung collapsing three times and maintaining a 4.0 GPA, I wrote about the struggle of being a TA at an elementary school.
They would not specify why, but I still believe the reason I did not get accepted to Occidental College the first time I applied was due to my subpar personal statement. I cringed and felt embarrassed for my former 20-year old self after reading it for a few minutes and then it clicked. This was another reason why I launched PLUS ME Project.
Writing a personal statement when applying to college or grad school is one of the toughest things a student must do. I experienced it first hand and have now committed myself to making it easier for others.
Our Storytellers PLUS ME curriculum guides students through a 10-hour process helping them identify and share their own powerful, resilient personal narratives. They each get to share their stories in front of their peers and leave with the building blocks that they use when writing their college personal statements.
Help me continue to bring this important work to more students this year by supporting our #5Years5Days5Dollars campaign in celebration of PLUS ME’s 5th anniversary or bringing our program to your school!
Richard Reyes is the founder and executive director of PLUS ME Project. To contact Richard, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Sunday, June 3rd PLUS ME hosted its 5th Annual Silent Auction Benefit at Brookside Club in Pasadena. We had over 200 guests join us to celebrate our recent accomplishments and raise funds for our new program initiative.
IR & Kumud Patel
Law Office of W. Patrick McPhilamy III
Reel Muzik Werks
St. John Foundation
Pasion Flamenca Los Angeles
We would like to thank all our sponsors, donors, volunteers, and team members who made this event the success that it was. We look forward to our 6th Annual Benefit next year and hope to see you there!
We kicked off our Alliance GEAR UP Parent Champions program in January with a cohort of parents that represent the 7 middle schools Alliance GEAR UP currently serves. Once a month we met with these parents and facilitated our PLUS ME Parent Engagement program, helping them develop and articulate their own personal narratives.
Throughout the first four months, the parents identified and wrote about the important characters, settings, events, and lessons from their lives. Each parent created a timeline highlighting important small moments from their lives and engaged with their children back home through monthly homework assignments.
At the end of our program in May, each parent stood in front of an audience and had the opportunity to own a part of their story. For many of these parents it was the first time they stood up in front of a group of strangers and revealed some of the toughest struggles they had overcame throughout their lives.
Maria Vasquez, one of the Parent Champions, shared with us one of her biggest takeaways from the program. "In my community, there are many parents who do not even talk to their kids. They don't do this because that's how they were raised. I did not have strong communication with my parents and PLUS ME made me realize that I want to change that with my children. Now I communicate with my son on a daily basis because I feel like I have to. I realized the importance of sharing our stories and creating closer bonds with our family and friends."
We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with these parents and look forward to supporting their students as they enter high school in the Fall.
Our Board of Directors spent a morning in April at Cobalt & Clay for our PLUS ME Spring Board Retreat. Board Member, Lilian Miller, facilitated "Board Members Make The Best Fundraisers" and shared her development expertise with our team. We also discussed ways to further engage as board members and finalized our plans for our 5th Annual Silent Auction Benefit. At the end of our agenda, we played with clay and created our own masterpieces.
Our PLUS ME Champions got together to celebrate our Motivational March success and strategize for our 2018 - 2019 year. We enjoyed lunch at The Standard and finished our day at our Cross Campus Downtown LA office space.
Our Executive Director, Richard Reyes, was selected as a semi-finalist for Social Venture Partners LA's Fast Pitch 2018 competition. From January - March, he worked on creating and delivering a 3-minute pitch that centered around PLUS ME's impact and innovation. SVPLA partnered him with two coaches, Joan Herman and Evelin Montes, to support Richard throughout the 3 month process. Below is a video to the final pitch that was delivered in March at Wilshire Ebell Theatre.
PLUS ME Champion, Bethanee Epifani, has brought her voice and story to thousands of students over the past year. Through our Leaders PLUS ME program, Bethanee has also had the opportunity to facilitate our leadership workshops. During one of our sessions, we introduce students to a goal setting formula and help them set their own academic and life goals. Each time Bethanee facilitates this particular session, she shares with the students a real life example of a goal she set and met. One of her life goals was to write a book and a few years ago she published her first one, "My Quarter Of A Century Life Lessons".
In February and March, Bethanee had the chance to work with a cohort of students from Will Rogers High School under the Project STEPS GEAR UP grant. She visited Mrs. Mikhail's class for 6 weeks and built a strong connection with the students and teacher. When she delivered the session on goal setting, she brought her book to show the students her accomplished work. The students and teacher were so inspired by it, they asked Project STEPS to fund a classroom set of Bethanee's book for the students to read and learn from.
Mrs. Mikhail emailed us saying, "Thank you so much! We are very blessed to have met you all and I am super excited to include her book in next semester's syllabus for Psychology. The students will learn from a young writer and benefit from everything she's gone through. It's so cool that they've already met her. Maybe they too can see themselves as accomplished authors."
We are honored to have Bethanee on our team and are lucky to have great partners that invest in their students and our team!
Whether you heard one of our PLUS ME Champion's stories or participated in a workshop with us, we want to hear your PLUS ME story.
Share with us what you remember from the experience, what you learned, and the impact it has had on you since we last connected.
We will be selecting 5 individuals (students, educators, or parents) to bring their PLUS ME stories to our 5th Annual Silent Auction Benefit on Sunday, June 3rd. These individuals will receive complimentary tickets to our event and a gift from PLUS ME.
Our work at PLUS ME cannot be completed without the help of passionate, dedicated individuals who volunteer their time to help us fulfill our mission.
In 2018, we are looking for people like YOU to help us expand our work and inspire thousands of students each year. We currently have openings for board members, committee members, and our soon to be launched advisory council.
These volunteers help us plan our fundraisers, connect with new partners, develop our programs, secure grants, and strategically plan where PLUS ME will go in the coming years. If you're interested in learning more about our opportunities, click the link below and we will contact you to share more.
At the start of 2017, we made a list of goals we wanted to meet throughout the year. Here is our list with our end of year updates.
1. Secure A Grant
It was a remarkable year for PLUS ME. What will 2018 bring us? Stay tuned.
As PLUS ME's Board President, I am pleased to announce our board's commitment to reaching our $10,000 year-end campaign goal by offering $2,500 in matching funds to donations made through December 31st.
Last month, we launched our first-ever year end multimedia campaign including mailers, social media posts, videos, and a new giving page. We wanted to share with you Andrea's story to give you an insight on how your donations help us fulfill our mission.
We'd like to THANK the 24 individuals who have already helped us raise 32% of our goal and I'd like to personally ask YOU to join our inspired giving community and help us get closer to that $10,000!
We'd be honored to match any contribution that is comfortable for you to give. Please know that
your year-ending tax-deductible donation will go directly toward supporting 500 more students, like Andrea, next year with developing their stories into their college personal statements.
In November, our founder graduated from Executive Service Corps' Executive Director Leadership Institute, a 12-month program designed to enhance the knowledge and expand the network of nonprofit leaders in Southern California. Throughout this journey, Richard was paired with a coach, Al Lavery, who supported him through special projects relating to board development, fundraising, and personal growth. One of the reasons Richard launched PLUS ME was because he never felt that he had a positive male role model growing up and to realize that he gained one from this experience was truly an emotional moment for him at graduation.
Al has been a volunteer with ESC for 9 years and loves participating in the EDLI program as a coach. "It’s been an enjoyable and rewarding experience for me this year because of the professionalism, relaxed atmosphere, and Richard’s commitment to developing the organization. I was absolutely impressed with all Richard and PLUS ME has accomplished in such a short period of time. To start this organization with little knowledge of the sector and zero funding and to get it to where it is today is inspiring. It was great to see the mission in action and I'm excited to see where the organization goes in the next few years."
Although the program has come to an end, Richard and Al plan to stay connected and support each other on their future endeavors. PLUS ME would like to thank ESC, Al, and Sunair Children's Foundation for sponsoring a portion of Richard's tuition for the program.
Earlier this month, PLUS ME attended Starfish Impact's Top 5 #SupportingOurSector awards ceremony in Santa Monica. Our executive director, Richard, shared our story and mission with an audience of philanthropic donors and the fellow Top 5 nonprofits. We were thrilled to walk away with 2nd Place and the Judge's Award of $4,000.
PLUS ME would like to thank Starfish Impact and all the sponsors who supported this initiative. We also would like to thank each and every person who nominated and voted for us throughout this journey!