- This month on The SPARK, our theme is "Centered on Service and Education".
We'll learn more about an organization, helping victims of disaster and providing programs and services that help our community prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
A special needs ministry, providing a safe, and loving environment where everyone can thrive.
And an elementary school teacher, honored with an award hailed as the Oscars of teaching.
We'll also share a special moment from our SPARK Awards 2022.
- From our very beginnings in 1954 Lipscomb and Pitts Insurance has been built on the values of customer service, leading with integrity, and supporting our community.
We believe in promoting the positives, encouraging engagement and leading by example to power the good.
Lipscomb and Pitts Insurance is honored to be a presenting sponsor of The SPARK.
- (male announcer) Additional funding for The SPARK is provided by United Way of the Mid-South, EcOp, The Memphis Zoo, My Town Movers, My Town Roofing, My Town Properties, and by Meritan.
- Have you ever been excited by a new idea, inspired by watching someone lead by example?
When we talk about creating change, we start by sharing the stories of everyday heroes who are making a difference, in their own way, so we can learn, and do the same.
I'm Jeremy Park and this is The SPARK.
When you talk about being centered on service and education, we have a lot of ground to cover with the American Red Cross of the Mid-South Chapter.
We're honored to be joined by the Executive Director, Dr. Sarah Breazeale.
And let's start with a little bit of background for the American Red Cross nationally and internationally and then locally here in the Mid-South.
Well, first, thank you so much for having us.
So that American Red Cross of the Mid-South, we are a chapter of the American Red Cross, right?
There are over 600 chapters throughout the nation, all serving their individual community.
So we are one of those chapters.
And of course, we work in coordination with the Red Cross internationally.
So whether that be in Turkey or Syria, whether that may be you know, in Paris, France, we are working in cooperation and conjunction with them to meet the most critical needs of their community members.
- And so let's go ahead and dive in to all you do because you do a lot.
And so let's start with disaster response.
- Yes, disaster responses.
Most of our work here locally within the Mid-South, right, we are responding to three to four house fires a day, on average.
And those are mostly volunteers who are responding.
So that is, most of our day-to-day work is in regards to responding to those disasters to ensure that those individuals and those families who are experiencing one of the worst days of their lives have the support they need in that moment.
And also the support they need to recover.
- Obviously, we'll talk about the training and so, the team is trained, but talk about when they show up, the first interaction with the families, and how you're able to get them back on their feet again.
- So the first thing we wanna make sure is is that they are safe.
We talk about do they have a place to go temporarily.
We do offer some financial assistance that will help them in the meantime while they figure out what are the next steps.
We also provide them with a list of other community resources.
We are blessed within the Mid-South to have lots of communities that are doing, community organizations that are doing wonderful things.
And so we work with those community partners to get them linked up.
But then we also have case workers that follow that individual or that family for three to six months after that disaster, to make sure that they are on the path to recovery, and they are finding a new place to live, and being successful.
- Another big one for you all is blood donations.
And so talk about the importance of, and your work around blood donations.
So blood is probably one of the easiest things you can do if you're looking at how do you give back to your local community, right?
And it doesn't take any financial resource.
You simply roll up your sleeve.
The American Red Cross supplies about 40% of the nation's blood supply, whether it's here in Memphis or in West Memphis, down in Tunica, whether it may be, you know, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, we are the ones that are providing that blood, to that patient who needs it at that moment in time.
We also have blood drives in our chapter every Tuesday, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM with open spots every, every week.
- A big push right now is around sickle cell, raising awareness for it, but also tying that into the blood donations.
Go ahead and dive in a little deeper there.
- So sickle cell is the most common genetic blood disorder.
It is estimated that about 100,000 US citizens are affected by sickle cell.
So it is a fairly common disorder, and something that you may not be aware of, unless you have had a family member that has been affected by it.
So what we we offer is sickle cell testing.
If you come into a blood drive, any blood drive, and you identify as black or African-American, we will test your blood to see if you carry the trait for sickle cell.
And that testing actually did not begin until 2006.
So if you were born after 2006, you probably know if you carry the trait, but before then you may not know if you carry the trait.
- Go ahead and talk about now, the training, the certifications, to me that is a really critical role that you play in the community.
So talk about training and certifications.
- Right, we offer CPR, first aid.
We offer babysitting courses.
We offer pretty much everything that you can need.
[laughs] The most important thing is, that we also offer hands-only CPR, and that is actually a free training, that anybody in the community can take whether that's individual or a group, they can learn those life-saving skills, that will come in handy at one point in your life.
Hopefully not, but maybe, the skills will come in handy.
And it is a free training, like I said, and really critical training to learn how to do hands-only CPR.
- Carry that into how the community can help.
And I'm also thinking for corporations, too, doing these sort of training opportunities, there's a lot of ways that we can get involved, with the American Red Cross, the Mid-South chapter.
So go ahead and talk about some of those different ways.
- So all the trainings we offer, are offered to individuals, but also to companies, organizations.
And no matter what your size, we can accommodate it in some way.
We also offer preparedness trainings.
So we offer preparedness trainings from kindergarten all the way through seniors.
And so if you have an organization that wants to make sure that their employees are trained to prevent disasters, but also to respond to disasters, we can come in and offer that again, for free, right?
We are in the business of trying to prevent disasters.
It is less disasters that we have to respond to, and less disasters that the community has to recover from.
- And so go ahead and talk about where we can go online.
So website, social media, where do we go to plug in, and make sure that we're prepared?
- Yes, so you can visit us online at RedCross.org.
You can also call us at 1-800-RED-CROSS, to get more information, and you can find us on Facebook and Instagram at Red Cross Tennessee.
- Well, Sarah, greatly appreciate all you and your amazing team and all those volunteers do to make a difference and power the good.
Thank you for coming on the show.
- Thank you.
[upbeat music] - They're a special needs ministry with Hope Church Memphis.
We're here with the director of Macky & friends, Donna Nasso.
And let's start out, this is a personal journey for you with your son, Jack.
Give us a little bit of your background, your family background, with this.
- Okay, so I have a son with special needs.
He is deaf, non-verbal and autistic, and he's 28.
So when they graduate, or age out of high school, there's nowhere to go.
And the pandemic just made it worse.
Everyone just sits at home on the couch, and they regress.
In school, they had the structure, they had, you know, routine, they had friends, and then when you graduate or age out of school, you're just at home and there's nothing to do.
So we have found, all over Memphis trying to find a program.
There's programs out there and they are wonderful, but they're not for everyone.
They have a lot of stipulations, or a lot of qualifications, for you even to attend.
And we were just not appropriate.
So I talked to my preacher at Hope Church, and he said, you know, we should find a place for everyone, not just, you know, I don't know how to put it.
The ones who know how to behave, or can go to the restroom by themselves, feed themselves.
He said, we need to take care of everyone.
And so we are starting a day program just for that reason, which is just a blessing because there's so many parents out there in Memphis that have nowhere to go.
- Let's back up and talk about Hope Church Memphis, in terms of all the opportunities like you talk about, to build a loving environment, a safe environment where everyone can thrive.
So talk about that sort of structure within the church and then dive into everything going on with Macky & Friends.
- So Macky & Friends is our special needs ministry at Hope.
It was started like 20 years ago, because, family members found out that, believe it or not, their church actually asked them to leave because their child was hollering during the sermon, or there was nobody who could watch 'em.
And they were, they called TV church.
They turned into TV church people, they stayed home and watched it on television.
And my preacher, who's Rufus Smith said, you know, that's, you know, that's not acceptable.
And so we started Macky & Friends.
So you, you can actually go to the church service and your child can go to the classroom and have a Bible study, and singing and have fun, and you don't have to worry.
You can actually go for an ho ur and worship and not worry.
So that's how we got started, and that has just been a blessing.
We have over 40, 45 families, every weekend that come to Hope Church.
And then that's where we decided we need to go to the next step, which would be the day program.
- And so go ahead and dive into the day program.
- We actually started January the 10th, with a pilot program.
Very small, but it is going amazing.
I mean, parents are just like, this is just the best thing ever.
And so we actually had a huge meeting last night, with parents and we're ready to start forming a board.
We're ready to start capital campaigns.
We're actually like, August, we're gonna go full blast five days a week, so parents can go to work.
I think I told you this earlier, not only is this great for the participant, but it's great for the parents.
The parents get respite, the parents get to go, get their hair done, go to Walmart, go to Starbucks.
We talked about a lot of parents with special needs never even go to Starbucks.
So we are just so excited.
We cannot wait.
And like I said, we had a major kickoff meeting last night, and we are just, everyone has just got this positive energy and we just cannot wait to show Shelby County what Hope Church can do for the special needs community.
I'm so excited!
- Talk about though your feedback for the individuals, because they're loving it just as much as the parents are.
- People wanna be in community, people want to be with their friends.
And so yeah, when they come, and their parents are lingering in the lobby, and they look at 'em like, okay, bye-bye mama.
Go, go, go.
This is my time.
And it's just so beautiful.
And maybe some at first didn't wanna participate, you know, and they would just sit around and watch, and now, all of a sudden, they're pa rticipating, they're laughing, they're making friends, and it's just a beautiful thing.
So yeah, the parents get their feelings hurt a little bit, because they're like, wait, I'm, you know, I'm your caregiver.
I'm spendin' 24 hours with you.
But you know, we need friendships, we need to be with people we enjoy being around.
So that's another positive thing about this program.
It helps the individual and it helps the parent, because we talked about, you can't pour from an empty cup, and when you're empty, nothing's coming outta that cup.
So if we can help those parents fill their cup up with rest, relaxation, self-help skills to take care of themselves, they're gonna be a better parent, better spouse at home.
- What does this mean for you to be able to see all of this coming together and to see it blossom?
- It's kind of like, you know, you hear the saying, if you're put on this earth for a reason, and here I am in my 50s and I never realized it, but now I realize maybe I was put here to get this program started.
Not to help me, but to help people after me.
I wanna help people.
That's my main purpose.
And I've already helped a handful of parents.
I tell people all the time in a year, I can't wait to look back, and see how much progress we've made, how many people we've allowed to rejuvenate, or relax, or connect better with their families.
So it's just, it's an exciting time, Jeremy.
- How can the community help your efforts?
- You know, if you're listening to me right now, and you have it in your heart, you have patience, you have that givingness, that you wanna volunteer, we need you.
If you're a retired teacher and you're not tired of teaching, hey, come find us.
If you have means financially, and you're like, you know what, I've been looking for a worthwhile cause, call me.
I will give you the whole rundown, of what you know, our goals.
And you know, if you're great at campaigns, or grant writing, or if you're a therapist, or whatever, we need you.
If you're a prayer warrior, you know, we need everybody.
So I'm just excited and can you tell I'm excited, Jeremy?
[Jeremy and Donna laugh] - Well, where do we go to connect in?
Where do we go to learn more about Macky & Friends?
- I tell you what, please email me at donna.nasso @hopechurchmemphis.com.
And I will get back to you immediately.
I will meet you in person, we'll have a set up a meeting.
But yeah, if you wanna get in on the ground floor of this amazing opportunity in Memphis to help the special needs community, I would love to talk to you about it.
- Donna, thank you for all you and your amazing team do.
Thank you for coming on the show.
- Jeremy, you're amazing, thank you.
[upbeat music] - The SPARK Awards annually recognize, and celebrate individuals and organizations, that have made outstanding contributions to the community.
The 2022 Education Award, in the category of leadership, went to Malcolm Rawls.
[gentle music] - My name is Malcolm Rawls.
I'm the Chief Operations Officer of Peer Power Foundation.
Peer Power is a youth development experience.
We have this pipeline of young people.
We start with high school students that matriculate to the University of Memphis, and they become success coaches.
Those success coaches then in turn, go and work as mentors and tutors in high schools all across the city of Memphis.
My role with Peer Power began as a senior at East High School.
Charlie McVean and Bill Senard came and talked to me about tutoring after school, starting an after school me ntoring and tutoring program.
I was on the football team, had a lot of influence throughout the school as a senior, and they talked to me about using that influence to help kids, to help kids graduate, and experience success.
That initial conversation has led to 17 years of escalating youth development experiences, really refining and redefining how we help kids.
Since day one, that's what the mission has been all about, how can we take advantage of this underutilized resource, which are the kids in our schools, and use them to motivate, inspire, and empower their friends, their associates, the kids that are in their school.
And we've had amazing results through that process.
One of my favorite impacts of the Peer Power Foundation, is our ability to become a sort of teacher pipeline.
We have almost 200 college students, working for us in our schools across Memphis-Shelby County School District, but not a great majority of them are coming to the organization with the ex pectation to become teachers.
What they're doing is experiencing excellence as a part of the Peer Power Foundation.
Once you get used to experiencing excellence, then you're no longer content with mediocrity.
So these success coaches have the ability to work with some of the best teachers in the city, and they see they have this ability to make a difference, and have an impact in the lives of children.
Next thing you know, they're having these conversations with our principals about working in the school.
It's an amazing pipeline.
Since about 2015, we've had 100 of our success coaches go into the classroom and become teachers.
As we grow and go into more high schools, we're seeing more and more of our success coaches that are now teachers in these schools.
And it's absolutely by far, on e of my favorite experiences.
To go into a school, meeting brand new faces, and see a familiar face.
It means a lot for me to receive The SPARK Education Award because it means Peer Power is working.
We impact schools all across the city.
Our ACT Prep University.
Our kids are earning millions of dollars in scholarships.
We know there's a lot of op inions about public education, but I'm fortunate enough to work with the organization where we see superstars every day, unrecognized superstars that have the ability to create and define their own futures.
[gentle music] - She's a fifth grade ELA teacher at Dogwood Elementary School, with Germantown Municipal School District, recently recognized as a Milken Educator Award honoree.
We're here with Alexa Guynes.
Alexa, let's start with your why.
So why did you become a teacher?
- So I had some of the best teachers growing up, that really inspired me to want to continue my education.
They loved on me, they made connections with me, and I wanted to be that for students.
I wanna be here to make connections, to make relationships, to make sure kids have somebody, that they, that has somebody that loves them, and can help them both learn and be better people, and be good people and do something in this world.
- Talk about some of the things you do to mold good character, citizenship, things like that.
Above and beyond the academic side, it's about character development and leadership as well.
- So not only is my classroom full of learning and fun, but we also do a lot of things to learn how to be empathetic, learn how to be a leader try to look for those positive things in our world.
You know, there are things back in the students' homes, that may not be the most exciting things for them, but we wanna make sure when they're at school, they have those tools in their tool belt, to be a good friend, be a world changer, be a leader.
And so, so many things that we do, the books that we read, the conversations that we have, hopefully give students those tools to take back to their own lives, and hopefully, in their futures they can use it, as well.
- Speaking of books, you read a book a day, and so talk about this.
It's something unique that you do for your classroom.
- Yes, so every single day I start my lesson, with a picture book a day.
So it can be related to the topic that we're studying, both in ELA or social studies.
It can be a fun book that just gets them thinking about rhyme or vivid verbs, or it can be related to a holiday that's coming up.
This month we're celebrating developmental disability month.
And so even today we read a book about how the American Disabilities Act got passed in our country.
And so it's a great way to make connections with students, to have a time to have good conversations, and just kind of feel like kids, you know.
They don't do that a lot in upper grades anymore.
And so it's fun to bring kids to a carpet, and read books that get them excited, get them learning, get them making connections with each other and with me.
And it's just such a wonderful thing to bring literacy alive like that for me.
- And when you talk about bringing it to life, you also, too, have your students to dress up in character, and do all sorts of unique creative things.
And so talk about some of the other creative things that you do to bring these stories to life.
- Yeah, so at our school, there are a couple of days that we celebrate.
Around Halloween, we all dress up as crazy mad scientists, and have a whole day of science experiments.
Of course we read some books that go along with it.
We have done a lesson all about Jackie Robinson, and how he was a barrier breaker.
And so on April 15th we celebrate Jackie Robinson Day, and the kids dress up in their baseball gear, and we have a little wiffle ball tournament.
And so anything that can make learning fun, and help them remember something exciting, we try to do.
And so we just have a great time in our classroom.
- So it's hailed as the Oscars for Teachers, it's called the Milken Educator Awards.
And so talk about what the Milken Educator Award means to you and and what it is.
- The Milken Education Foundation is a group that celebrates teachers.
You know, we have, they have the Oscars, there's all these award ceremonies for different groups of people.
And so the Milken family really wanted to honor the teachers in our country, and all the great work that's being done by educators.
And so every year they go out and search for teachers around the country in all 50 states.
It is not something that we apply for, but it's something that they find us.
They go into the states and they look for teachers that are doing good work.
To me, it is so inspiring, and it helps me know that I am making a difference, and that my leadership is showing, I'm so grateful for this opportunity.
It has really been a whirlwind, and I'm so excited to kind of see where it takes me.
But I love that other people are getting to hear how much literacy means to me, and all the great things that we're doing here at Dogwood and in our school district.
- How can we as the community help lift teachers, and be more supportive of your efforts?
- If you are not in education, you may not realize just how hard it is, especially post-COVID, education has really changed.
And so one thing that we have in our community, the Germantown Education Foundation has been such a great tool, getting teachers resources and money for grants.
Even my classroom book a day is, was a grant, from Germantown Education Foundation back in 2019.
And so supporting teachers, obviously, monetarily helps, but we need, you know, parents as our partners.
You know, it's so important that teachers are seen as professionals and know that, you know, we're doing everything to help your child.
And so anytime the community can get involved with community events, or ways to make sure that children have access to tutoring or things like that, that is just amazing, and so helpful for us as teachers.
- So where do we go to learn more about all of your efforts at Dogwood Elementary, and also too, Germantown Municipal School District?
- Yeah, so you can visit, our website is gmsdk12.org, and you can find links to both Dogwood, and the other schools here in Germantown, and see all the great things that are happening in our community and in our schools.
- Well, congratulations again, Alexa.
Thank you for all you and all of the amazing teachers across the Mid-South do for our youth, our future leaders, greatly appreciate you and your efforts.
Thank you for coming on the show.
- Thank you so much for having me.
[upbeat music] - As we saw in this month's episode, we're fortunate to have so many organizations and individuals centered on service and education here in the Mid-South.
We have the American Red Cross of the Mid-South Chapter serving those in crisis with disaster relief and life-saving blood drives, and educating our citizens through health and safety training courses and certifications, so we're prepared to respond in emergencies.
We have churches like Hope Church Memphis, serving individuals and families, with their special needs ministry, Macky & Friends, and providing a loving and safe environment where everyone can thrive.
And we have teachers like Alexa Guynes at Dogwood Elementary School, and Germantown Municipal School District, who passionately serve and educate our youth, who continue to innovate and make learning fun, and are bringing positive national attention and recognitions to the Mid-South.
When we're centered on service and education, we're centered on building a strong foundation for our future and being a spark for our community.
So thank you for watching The SPARK.
To learn more about each of the guests, to watch past episodes, and to share your stories of others leading by example, visit WKNO.org and click on the link for The SPARK.
We look forward to seeing you next month, and we hope that you'll continue joining with us to create a spark for the Mid-South.
- From our very beginnings in 1954, Lipscomb and Pitts Insurance has been built on the values of customer service, leading with integrity and supporting our community.
We believe in promoting the positives, encouraging engagement, and leading by example to power the good.
Lipscomb and Pitts Insurance is honored to be a presenting sponsor of The SPARK.
[upbeat music] [acoustic guitar chords]