Thursday, April 27, 2017

Magnifying The Mind - Teens Raising Awareness about Mental Health

 In Reach's Youth Ambassadors at Parkdale High School in partnership with the Parkdale Student Government Association held an awesome mental health forum. Pictured with presenters and adult facilitators.

“1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.”

On April 26, 2017, IN REACH’s Youth Ambassadors (YA) at Parkdale High School and members of the Student Government Association hosted a Mental Health Forum, Magnifying the Mind, to address teen mental health. The hands-on forum highlighted the warning signs of mental illness; coping mechanisms to handle stress; where teens can seek help; brought awareness to addiction, and how to break the stigma of “mental illness.”  

The diverse panel of mental health experts included Chmaika P. Mills, PhD candidate, Clinical Psychology; Audrey Forka, CRNP a Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner; Pamela Little, CEO of Plate of X’pressions, LLC; Rossalyn Martinez, LCSWC and Jessica Prentice, LCSWC; Rosa Lindquist, yoga instructor; Ben Malecki, a youth advocate at Parkdale High School, and Tobacco Prevention Ambassadors from Parkdale HS.

Before beginning the program, YAs distributed a pre-forum survey to their peers, where they were asked, “How they would spot someone with a mental illness,” and “What characteristics they would possess?”  182 students responded, below are some of their responses:

  • “It’s not something that you can easily spot there are some people who seem or look perfectly fine which is the outside appearance but on the inside that’s where the problem is.”
  • “I don’t think there is a specific look for people with mental illness.  Some characteristics possible are physical impairments such as twisted mouths, slanted eyes, but people can look totally fine & still have mental illness.”
  • “There are many different signs for all the different illnesses.  Sometimes you may not even spot things at all some could be triggered by words, or sounds while in other’s you could never know.  They look like all of us.”

During the forum, students rotated through several mental health stations, spending 10-12 minutes listening to different professionals speak on their area of expertise and the resources that they provide.  Students learned how anxiety/stress and other mental health problems can negatively impact cognition and academic performance, and the stigma associated with receiving school accommodation.  They also learned basic relaxation techniques; that using art as therapy can relieve anxiety; yoga and meditation relieve stress; and learned ways to give their brain a break when preparing for tests.  

At the end of the forum, students were surveyed and asked if their knowledge about the subject increased as a result of participating in this activity?  Of the student who responded, 32% said yes; 10% said no.

“Yes” responses included: 

  • “I got to learn that those who need help have to speak out to get help because it may get worse if not treated over time.”
  • “Before the health fair, I initially referred mental illness to retardation, autism, etc. But now I know it extends to other things such as depression and others, this really broadened/ opened my mindset.”
  • “It has enlightened me that some people who have a mental disorder are mostly anxious or stressed; and also art and yoga helps to relieve stress.”

The Youth Ambassadors is a school-based college access with a service learning heart program. The program engages high school students in a variety of opportunities to become college and career ready lead meaningful service learning projects and build life skills through financial literacy. Learn more at

Monday, April 24, 2017


Our educators as afterschool professionals at Kenmoor Middle School. In Reach executive director, Toni Smith, third from left and program coordinator, Kayla Newsome, second from right.

In Reach, Inc. is joining with the National AfterSchool Association to celebrate the professionals that are at the heart of afterschool programs during "Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week" April 24-28, 2017.

There is no way we could operate without the dynamic educators who teach in our College and Career Ready 21st Century Community Learning Center or the superb principals who lead their school communities, Ms. Dorothy Clowers, William Paca Elementary School; Ms. Nancy Schickner, Carrollton Elementary School; and Ms. Maha Fadli, Kenmoor Middle School; and Dr. Lori Taylor at Parkdale High School for providing guidance for our Youth Ambassadors College Access Program. We appreciate you!

Carrollton Elementary School 
William Paca Elementary School
Kenmoor Middle 
Ernesa Bess
Alma Ardita
Annie Arches
Eboney Brisker
Melissa Bates
Mary Bass
Wanda Brooks
Denise Bishop-Edwards
Jeffrey Garcia
Gail Flowers 
Sharie Canty 
David Green 
Shemayne Hooks
Novilen Capadnyan
Beverly Neal
Alisa Kove
Ailyn Carillo 
Elizabeth Robinson
Tammy Little
Randi Coward
Gina Urban
Antonio Logan
Renee Mahomed-Washington
Lisa Smith-Parker
Claribel Mendoza
Aileen Montillano
Florence Moreno
Melanie Rich-Neal and Janet Rivera

We are joining the effort because we believe Afterschool professionals make a difference in the life of a child. We encourage you to join us in thanking the afterschool professionals in your life. Here are some ideas on how you can show your appreciation:
  • Declare on social media: "I believe Afterschool professionals make a difference in the life of a child. #heartofafterschool"
  • Give a hand-written card from you and/or your child to the afterschool professional in your life.
  • Send an email to an afterschool professional's supervisor describing why that person is appreciated.
  • Make treats for the staff at your afterschool program. For more resources and information check out

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Scholarship Opportunity

In Reach is a community-based nominating organization to the Posse Foundation for their Leadership Scholarship. This scholarship is aimed at identifying outstanding high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential. 

In Reach can nominate 10 rising seniors (currently in the 11th grade) for a chance to receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to one of five partner colleges and universities —Bucknell University, Lafayette College, University of Rochester, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Sewanee: The University of the South.  

If you are the parent or guardian of a rising senior, or know any rising high school seniors in Prince George's County, MD that you believe should have an opportunity to become a “Posse” scholar, and they are not being nominated by their school, In Reach is here to help. Click here for In Reach nominating application materials. Contact Ms. Gross via or 301.357-8433 ext. 7005 for additional assistance.

Prospective nomination applications are being accepted until Friday, May 26, 2017. Don't delay!!

In the meantime, visit the Posse Foundation website at to learn more about this amazing opportunity!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Keeping the Lights On Afterschool for #Families

October 18, 2016

Contact: Toni A. Smith
       301.357.8433 ext. 7001

Keeping the Lights On Afterschool for Families

Landover, MD – On Thursday, October 20, 2016, at William Paca Elementary School children, parents, businesses and community leaders will come together to celebrate Lights On Afterschool. The national celebration is being held to draw attention to the need for more afterschool programs to serve the millions of children nationwide who are unsupervised and at risk each weekday afternoon. Locally, it is being organized to demonstrate the positive and powerful outcomes of communities working together to support the Prince George’s County Public School System. Lights On Afterschool for Families at William Paca Elementary School will be one of more than 8,000 such events across the nation emphasizing the importance of keeping the lights on and the doors open after school. 

Hosted by community partner In Reach, the Lights On Afterschool for Families celebration will engage students, their families and the community in a number of hands-on and engaging activities to reinforce the importance of afterschool programs. Participants in In Reach’s College and Career Ready 21st Century Community Learning Center’s Afterschool Program and Family Academy will be in for a real treat as the 2016-2017 program kicks off with this event.

Recent data from America After 3PM, the research series on afterschool programs commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, shows a vast unmet demand for afterschool programs nationwide. In Maryland, 150,112 children participated in an afterschool programs in 2014, only 16%, yet 280,319, or 36%, would be enrolled if a program were available. Further, 87% percent of Maryland’s parents were satisfied with their child’s afterschool program, and 64% percent agreed that afterschool programs give working parents peace of mind for that same year.  More work needs to be done to meet the demand for afterschool programs that keep Maryland’s kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. 

In Reach has enjoyed an enriching partnership with the William Paca family for over four years and I am extremely delighted to be able to host this year’s Lights On Afterschool event with such a dynamic principal, Ms. Dorothy Clowers, a cadre of dedicated educators and amazing families. We are all very proud of our afterschool students and families,” said Toni Smith, executive director. There's no reason that learning should stop at 3 p.m., particularly if the alternative is unsupervised time in front of a television set, or any of the dangerous or unhealthy behaviors that can ensnare children in the afternoons. Like so many other afterschool programs around the nation, ours is supported by funding from the Maryland State Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. Since its creation, it has provided funding to allow hundreds of children to attend afterschool. We need to grow this funding stream for afterschool and summer learning programs.


In Reach’s College and Career Ready 21st Century Community Learning Center opened its doors to William Paca Elementary School students and families in 2015 with a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant from the Maryland State Department of Education. The College and Career Ready 21st CCLC serves almost 200 children, providing homework assistance, tutoring, and classes and clubs in sports, reading, and mathematics, and dozens of other subjects at three Prince George’s County Public Schools. For more information about In Reach, visit

Lights On Afterschool is organized by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children have access to quality afterschool programs. Lights On Afterschool has been celebrated annually since 2000. More information on the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On Afterschool and America After 3PM is available at

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dedication | Patience | Love - #TeacherAppreciationWeek

Our amazing team at William Paca Elementary School in Landover, MD
In Reach Executive Director Toni Smith (far left) and Principal Dorothy Clowers (third from right)

During Teacher Appreciation Week, In Reach warmly thanks all of the amazing educators it is fortunate to work with in the Prince George's County Public School System to implement its College and Career Ready 21st Century Community Learning Center Program and Youth Ambassadors College Access High School Program. We could not do our work without these awesome educators. They are an intricate part of our existence and make our work possible.

This week, we recognize our educators for their

Dedication - most people do not understand the level of dedication it takes to manage a classroom with twenty or more personalities, learn each personality, teach each unique child, give assignments, grade them, complete assessments, talk to parents and so much more and this is all in one day!

Patience - with so much on their plate every day including working with partners like In Reach, usually after an already long day, we are thankful for their patience. 

Love - there is no way they could do all that they do without love. Although working with children can be very fulfilling, only love for them could truly sustain the amount of energy required to perform each day. We know this from experience.

Today, we recognize and thank each and everyone of our amazing and awesome educators.

William Paca Elementary School
Alma Ardita
Denise Bishop-Edwards
Novilen Bendebel Capadngan
Lisa-Michele Dunmore
Lekitta Epps
Renee Mahomed-Washington
Claribel Mendoza
Aileen Montillano
Florence Moreno
Teixeira Reynolds
Janet Rivera
Beverly Wilborn-Butler

Carrollton Elementary School
Ernesa Bess
Eboney Brisker
Tiffany Dupree
Rebecca Harrison
Edwin Ibias
Alisa Kove
Karen Mack
Teresa Trozzo

Kenmoor Middle School
Randi Coward
Jasmine Davis
Jeffrey Garcia
Beverly Neal 
Elizabeth Robinson
Maya Webb

Parkdale High School
Erica Bullock
Shayne Swift
Melvin Twine

Monday, May 2, 2016

To Be Beautiful Means to Be Yourself - Children's #MentalHealth Matters!

May 1 – 7, 2016, marks the annual celebration of Children’s Mental Health Matters! Campaign Week. In Reach, Inc., has joined the Children’s Mental Health Matters! Campaign - a collaboration of the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD) and the Maryland Coalition of Families (MCF) with support from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Behavioral Health Administration - to celebrate!

The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health. According to Harvard University’s Center of the Developing Child, the foundation for positive mental health begins taking shape in the earliest years. Experiences in the first 3 years of life, from relationships with parents, caregivers, and teachers can significantly impact a child’s developing brain. Negative experiences during critical developmental years can have lifelong implications such as hindering a child’s capacity for learning and ability to relate to others. Many costly problems, ranging from the failure to complete high school to incarceration, could be dramatically reduced if attention were paid to improving children’s environments of relationships and experiences early in life.

Each year, the network of nearly 250 partners and schools throughout the state celebrates Children’s Mental Health Matters! with over a week of events, workshops, media, outreach and other awareness raising activities. National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week is geared toward raising awareness to the issues and causes integral to the children's mental health field in each of the communities across the country. 

To raise awareness and create dialogue about emotions and mental wellness among students, families, and educators, In Reach will host a family movie night at partner William Paca Elementary School in Landover, Maryland where it will screen the Disney film Inside Out. Students in In Reach's program at Kenmoor Middle School will view the movie and complete the Walk in My Shoes activity for the 4th Annual Anti-Stigma Art Project.  

For more information and resources for addressing children’s mental health, visit

Monday, April 25, 2016


In Reach, Inc. 
Celebrates the Heart of Afterschool Programs During the First Ever
April 25-29, 2016

Prince George’s County, MD, April 25, 2016In Reach, Inc., is joining with the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) to celebrate the professionals that are at the heart of afterschool programs during the first ever “Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week” April 25-29, 2016.

“We believe Afterschool professionals make a difference in the life of a child,” said Executive Director Toni Smith “We encourage everyone to join us this week in thanking the afterschool professionals in their lives.”

Why is it important to recognize Afterschool Professionals?
An estimated 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs each year. Today, afterschool programs are viewed as much more than just childcare. They are widely credited as the way to enhance education in STEM, literacy, the arts, social and emotional learning, health and wellness, and more. With that demand comes increased responsibility on the estimated 850,000 of professionals who are making a difference in the lives of our children.

What is Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week?
Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week is a joint effort of community partners, afterschool programs, youth and child care workers, and individuals who have committed to dedicating time to recognize and appreciate those who work with youth during out-of-school hours. The week is marked by celebrations and public relations efforts to encourage people to thank afterschool professionals serving children in programs and organizations across the nation.

Who is an Afterschool Professional?
An Afterschool Professional is someone who works with children and youth in diverse school and community-based settings to provide a wide variety of extended learning opportunities and care during out-of-school hours. Currently, there is an estimated 850,000 afterschool professionals in the US.

How can I thank an Afterschool Professional?
--Declare on social media: “I believe Afterschool professionals make a difference in the life of a child. #heartofafterschool”
--Give a hand-written card from you and/or your child to the afterschool professional in your life.
--Send an email to an afterschool professional’s supervisor describing why that person is appreciated.
--Make treats for the staff at your afterschool program.

When was Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week introduced?
Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week was announced during the NAA Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, on March 20, 2016, by NAA President & CEO Gina Warner.

For more information about Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week visit: For more information about In Reach visit or call 301.357.8433.