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!
We are thrilled to announce the launch
of our new Annual Giving campaign.
Here is a story sharing the impact of our work and how your gift will help:
One of the 19,000 students with whom we connected this past school year was a senior named Andrea. Like many highly talented, first generation college students, she felt University of California (UC) schools were not within her reach. Based on a misbelief that she did not have anything good to say about her life, Andrea was discouraged from applying.
“In 350 words or less, describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?” (Excerpt from UC Application)
More often than not questions like this present challenges for students who have a sense of social inadequacy. This question is 1 of 4 that students must answer when applying to any of the UC campuses.
Through our Storytellers PLUS ME program we learned a lot about Andrea. She is a bright young woman who achieved a 3.8 GPA in high school. She has two younger sisters who look up to her and loves serving as a positive example to them. Andrea balanced her academics while being the captain of her volleyball team and working a part-time job, at a local coffee shop, to help her family pay some bills. With the help of our program, she realized how unique her story is and how many challenges she overcame to get to where she is now. Working with her guidance counselor, we even encouraged her to take on the UC application.
Today, we are proud to share that Andrea is currently a 1st year at UC Riverside and is pursuing a degree in psychology. While we cannot take credit for Andrea’s admittance to UCR, we know our program was an instrumental piece of the college application puzzle for her.
This holiday season we want to take a moment to THANK YOU, our current and past donors, for your support of our mission. Your help has enabled us to impact thousands of lower income students in Southern California. We also want to welcome YOU to the PLUS ME family if you are not a donor yet.
Whether you are already a supporter or have yet to become part of our inspired community of annual donors, we hope you will make a year-end gift. We are energized to expand our impact and invite you to join our family. Please consider making a contribution through our new giving circles with a donation that is meaningful to you. To encourage your support we have designed a flexible program with different levels and a monthly giving option.
Your generous gift will support thousands of students like Andrea each year, helping them develop and articulate their personal story into their college application!
Last Wednesday, I visited Belmont High School to observe our Guest Speakers PLUS ME program. It was my first time at a PLUS ME event and throughout the first few weeks of my internship, I had only discussed the tasks pertaining to my position as a community outreach intern. Up until that point, I had only heard about the organization’s goals and tasks, but never got to witness them.
As a former staff member of Belmont, I worked with A World Fit For Kids as a coach in their after school program. The scenery was familiar walking through the main building seeing the various murals featuring college and university logos, inspirational quotes, and famous activists. I felt like I was back home seeing all the smiles from the students and staff. As we were waiting to access the presentation room, an odd feeling fell over me. One that I had not felt since my first few days at A World Fit for Kids. “I’m nervous and I'm not even the one presenting,” I muttered to Richard. But why was I nervous? Now that I look back at this moment, I realize this was when PLUS ME was finally coming to life for me.
PLUS ME’s vision and mission resonated with me since I first heard about it. Now that I was at a school with Richard, I knew it was real. As I listened to Richard’s story, what struck me the most was how the students reacted. At the beginning, some of them were, unsurprisingly, not fully focused on the presentation. I could hear some discussing their day, others checking their phones, and a few pointing out how happy they were to be at the presentation because that meant they weren’t in class. However, as the presentation continued, phones were put away, conversations ended, and all eyes and ears were on Richard. Some laughed, others nodded their heads, but most were too focused to show any other nonverbal cue. In that moment, I realized that I was at the right place, with the right people, serving the right organization.
Entering PLUS ME’s retreat this past Saturday, I was nervous once again. This time, I didn’t tell anyone. As I mingled with the many amazing individuals who work selflessly to provide a light for the students we serve, I truly felt the passion, commitment, and realness of this team. The retreat brought together the bright minds of the many who support the organization and made me realize that even as an intern, I too will make a difference. As the evening progressed, I felt that I was no longer in the background, I was an active player in the forefront on this team.
Jose Navarijo is a senior at California State University, Northridge majoring in communications. He is serving as our community outreach intern for Fall 2017 and hopes to one day share his story with a group of students.
It was June 21, 2011, at the Hollywood Bowl. I wore a red choir robe as I sat on the stage looking out into the crowd. The sun was burning my face and I had never been so ready to go. All of a sudden I heard my name coming from the podium speaker, “Jasmine Gibson”, said Principal Hagan. At that moment, I knew my hand would no longer be held, I was officially a high school graduate. The feeling of excitement, optimism and fear came rushing through my body at once. It was a bittersweet moment.
I never thought I was smart enough or capable of earning a college degree. I mean I thought about it, I imagined it, but it was only a dream that felt distant. I decided to give that distant dream a chance.
I enrolled at West Los Angeles College (WLAC) in August 2011. This was my only option because no university was going to accept me with my high school grade point average. Enrolling in college was a big step for me.
I come from a background where higher education isn’t discussed nor attempted. I thought maybe I would eventually drop out of community college because that is what I have seen in my surroundings. Little did I know WLAC would be the pathway to my success, the foundation of my future and the beginning of a new me.
Community college was a strengths test. It built my mental muscle and my perseverance to succeed. I was welcomed by helpful advisors and administrators who helped me navigate through the system, and most importantly, motivated me with assuring words. I was able to earn an associate degree and transfer to a university. After accomplishing what I thought was the impossible, I felt there was nothing I could not do. The world was mine to take.
I transferred to Cal State University, Dominguez Hills. Throughout the first few weeks of being at the university I thought to myself, “what am I doing here?” “what am I to do?” “I made it to a university?”. These were thoughts of disbelief because I was so conditioned in my negative thinking about my capabilities. As the semester progressed my mind began to expand. Expand with knowledge and new ways of thinking. I became innovative, I learned that I am a creative individual and my voice matters.
Sure, these may be things we think to ourselves but college asks that you find yourself, your voice and express it. Now that I am in my final semester of college I look back to 2011 where I first began my journey, and I am thankful for every step of the way. I have become strong, confident and professional through the help of professors, advisors, workshops and my fellow classmates. In high school, they tell you your hand will no longer be held, but what they don’t tell you is, there are people who are on your side pushing you to the finish line.
Jasmine Gibson is a few months away from earning her bachelor's degree in communications. She is serving as our outreach intern throughout the Fall semester.
We are excited to bring two leaders to our team this Fall!
Jose Navarijo is a senior at California State University, Northridge majoring in communication studies. He attended Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, California and has resided there for many years. He has worked in the education field for the past four years as a tutor and as a supplemental instructor at Leuzinger High School, Belmont High School, and California State University, Dominguez Hills. His experiences with helping students from underrepresented communities coupled with the vision of The PLUS ME Project made it a true match in his mind to join the organization as an intern.
Jasmine Gibson is a senior at California State University, Dominguez Hills majoring in communications with a focus on public relations and advertising. She has always had a love for writing and helping others. The PLUS ME Project is the perfect organization for Jasmine to exercise her skills and thrive in her passion. She believes in the mission of PLUS ME and is ready to increase awareness in SoCal school districts. After graduation, she plans on becoming a substitute teacher while pursuing her master’s degree in school counseling. She hopes to have a career as a high school guidance counselor to inspire and express the importance of higher education to at risk youth and first generation college students.
Both Jose and Jasmine will support our outreach and communication initiatives throughout the Fall semester by contacting schools, writing blog posts, updating our social media accounts, and supporting the launch of two new initiatives!