A Visit with Naomi Lara

We are so pleased to introduce our newest Lumenary, Naomi Lara, principal of Da Vinci RISE High in Hawthorne. We recently had the opportunity to visit her and her incredible team at one of the three RISE campuses and were inspired by the dedication and compassion they demonstrate in supporting their students.

With just a single instructional space, the Hawthorne campus provides a warm and supportive environment for students from diverse backgrounds, including those from foster care, those recently out of the criminal justice system, credit-deficient students, and transfers from local high schools where traditional schooling is unable to meet their needs.

Naomi is a passionate and inspiring leader who brings a wealth of experience to her role as principal. She has an unwavering commitment to her students and their well-being, and she works tirelessly to create a safe and inclusive learning environment where all students can thrive.

During our visit, we had the opportunity to observe one of the faculty members working with students during class. We were uplifted to witness the level of engagement and enthusiasm among these learners. Naomi and her team have created something extraordinary at Da Vinci RISE High.

Teacher received donated electronics kits for their curriculum.

As we left the campus, we were thrilled to be able to forge another connection between schools by donating a stack of Little Bits electronics kits that another school generously provided. We believe that supporting and empowering educators and students is crucial to creating a brighter future for all, and we are honored to be able to facilitate these connections and provide resources that can make a real difference in students’ lives.

We are excited to continue to support Naomi and her team as they empower and uplift students in their community. Stay tuned for more updates on Naomi and her full story as our newest Lumenary.

Success for the LMS Book Club Campaign

We are thrilled to announce that our recent fundraising campaign was a great success! Thanks to our donors’ generosity, we raised enough funds to purchase books for each student in the Lennox Middle School Book Club, run by our Lumenary, María.

The Lennox Middle School Book Club is an integral representation of our mission to “spotlight and support local heroes in education.” Each month, the club selects a book for the students to read, discuss, and engage in deep, meaningful conversations about important and thought-provoking topics such as homelessness, racial bias, recent immigrant experiences, gender equality, and social justice, to name a few. These discussions not only provide the students with valuable insights and perspectives but also help to foster critical thinking and encourage them to take an active role in their own education. The new books we can purchase, thanks to the generosity of our donors, will provide a valuable resource for the students and help enrich their educational experiences even further.

We are so grateful to our new and continuing donors for their support of our mission. Your generosity allows us to continue supporting our local heroes, and we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you for helping to make a positive impact on the lives of these students.

Making Connections

Growing up, my parents often stressed the importance of getting to know others to build my “network.” Doing so would create these connections that might bring about opportunities related to future work or even joint projects because of some shared interest or passion.

I didn’t realize the importance of networking then, particularly given my introverted nature and unwillingness to initiate conversations and engage in what I thought of as “small talk” with others. I also believed this game was a bit manipulative or misleading at the time. That there was always some ulterior motive for making connections to use this resource solely for my benefit.

It wasn’t until adulthood and professional work that I understood the importance of building relationships, particularly with people with different outlooks, talents, and experiences than my own. I could learn from them and their experiences while offering back my skills and knowledge to them. It was a sharing of ideas and a collaboration.

When we started LumenSparQ, it became apparent rather quickly that connections were vital to keep our engine running and help us continue moving forward. The initial donors were all people our board members knew personally and were part of the network we had each created during our respective careers in education.

But often, the connections we make have nothing to do with giving a donation or supporting our projects financially. The relationships we have, and the interrelationships we build, can bring value without money changing hands. We have recently experienced a number of these interrelationships between our partners.

Buford Elementary is a school you may remember from our Ember Project recipient, Zoe, and her story. The school recently had a new fifth-grade class form because of overflow from two other existing classes. This situation led to a new empty classroom with no supplies or resources.

At the same time, we had two local independent schools with a large number of surplus books generated through their rotation of supplies and inventory. This process is something they have the good fortune of doing on an annual basis. Two separate, simple conversations between LumenSparQ board members and their connections created the opportunity for supplies to quickly shift from schools with surplus into the hands of a teacher and a classroom of students eagerly awaiting reading materials.

In addition to this fifth-grade class, some of the donated books intended for younger readers went into the hands of pre-service school psychologists who use these resources while working with children at their assigned school sites but have no budget to pay for them. It is truly a win win win.

In the coming weeks, a similar interrelationship will form between two middle school faculty, one that teaches robotics in a private school setting and the other a STEM faculty member at a public school. We will help to pass along some lightly used and current robotics equipment from one organization to the other and hope to build a lasting connection between two passionate teachers.

These simple acts cost nothing and yet carry so much value, now and into the future. These connections are as vital to these communities and our mission as any monetary support. As the saying goes, “It’s as much about who you know as what you know.”

The Value of a Sensory Regulation Course

“What is it? It looks like a colorful play course!” inquired the after-school staff.

I replied, “It is a sensory regulation course, and it is used to help students use it as a tool to regulate big emotions. “Wow, we need that, “ he said, “We have some kids with big emotions after school.” “Then this is the place to let off steam and walk out the wiggles while teaching about regulation too.”

To be fair, it is normal for students to have big emotions throughout the school day. Many of our students start the school year feeling excited, but students also feel anxious, worried, nervous, and fearful. So teaching students about regulation, which means knowing when our bodies are in a calm state, and dysregulation, when our bodies feel out of control or uncomfortable, is an important concept. Sensory-regulation courses allow students to move, jump and practice calming breathing techniques to help them regulate their bodies and minds. A two- to four-minute break on the course can help a student return to the classroom calmer, focused, and ready to learn. This tool, paired with learning about feelings and learning tools to help calm ourselves in challenging moments, can help students manage themselves while in school.

This summer, the LumenSparQ board and a group of amazing parents and students worked on painting a three-part regulation course on the 156th Street Elementary School campus. The idea is not new and has been catching on in many districts. When all students are allowed to practice regulation as they motor through, jump, pause, and breath on a course, it can support them in moments of big emotions or the need for a break.

Our volunteer painters working on one of the course elements for 156th Street Elementary School

When students return to school, I would love to say they just come with new backpacks, hopes for a good year, and excitement. The reality is many of our students bring an array of challenges and emotions, which range from anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, and fear. These challenges have been exacerbated by the economic or physical losses due to Covid. Our fantastic teachers are challenged to create a safe environment for all students, offer support and help students navigate challenges so they can learn. Having additional tools can support our students and help us breathe more easily.

Below are additional resources to learn more about Sensory Regulation Courses:

Sensory Regulation Courses (also called Sensory Pathways)

Zones of Regulation:

Sensory Regulation Course

We shared the story of our Lumenary, Ms. Dudley, over one year ago. But as with everything pandemic related, it seems time moved slower than anticipated. As such, it’s taken until now to fulfill our gift to her. This past week, we completed three custom Sensory Regulation Courses on the campus of 156th Street Elementary School.

A future blog post will dive deeper into what a sensory regulation course is and how it can help students to reflect, relax, and refocus, particularly when emotions run hot and they need an outlet.

For this post, we are sharing a few photos and short videos. Here are the three courses we planned out this past spring:

The quad area in front of the office has an outer track of steps and pauses, and an inner track for stepping, jumping, and stopping for a yoga pose.
This small seating area is for meditation and grounding.
On the playground, students and teachers can use the Zones of Regulation to self-regulate, then check out the maze, the alphabet trail, and hopscotch.

With over 45 volunteers on a sunny summer day, we mapped out and painted the courses. We are grateful for the time and effort provided by these community members. Their dedication is a testament to Ms. Dudley’s work.

In these last days of summer, before we all returned to school, the LumenSparQ board and the school’s parent liaison came to campus to stencil in keywords and paint the yoga characters. Below is a short video:

Please check back with us soon. We will follow up with a more extensive post on Sensory Regulation Courses, how they work, and how to use them with your students.

Paying It Forward

Buford 4th grader shares the art lesson with his 2nd-grade friend

After experiencing an enjoyable hands-on lesson on the use of color through clay and paint, as taught by our Ember Project student, Zoë, the fourth-grade students at Buford Elementary School had a desire to share their newfound knowledge with others.

Using surplus clay from their time with Zoë, students from Ms. Lewis’ 4th-grade class prepared an art lesson for the second-graders. Prepped with information from Zoë and some of their own research, the new “teachers” presented works from artists like Andy Warhol, Simone Legno, and Takahashi Murakami to show how color can impact works of art in various ways.

Fourth-grade leaders illustrating the works of various artists.

The younger students were overjoyed to see their older schoolmates in this leadership role and readily engaged with them when it came time to dive into the clay. Students from each class paired up so the more experienced children could assist the younger ones in their creative explorations. Below are some of the highlights from the day.

Thank you, Zoë, for inspiring these young learners to continue spreading the joy of art.

Heroes in the Making

In our search for Lumenaries (educators) and SparQs (students), we seek out individuals doing incredible work for communities in need. Most often, the projects these heroes engage in are long-lasting, working with these communities year over year and touching many lives. As we share their stories and good work, we catch but a glimpse of their impact.

However, beyond our mission to spotlight existing heroes, we also hope to cultivate new ones. In doing so, we seek to spotlight younger students in pursuit of providing a social good. They may have a single project impacting a small group of people within a specific timeframe. On the other hand, their project may be a launch point for some grander objective. While their stories might not be as comprehensive and far-reaching as Lumenaries and SparQs, their impact is nonetheless valuable and significant. We see these individuals as heroes in the making.

Today we introduce the Ember Project to promote this aspect of our mission. The focus of the Ember Project is to highlight student projects that provide a social good for a group or community confronted with a problem. The project may stem from a classroom activity or initiate solely through the student’s personal interests and goals. Our direct support for the project can come in many forms with the intent to promote and enhance their work in a manner they could not otherwise accomplish on their own.

We have partnered with Westside Neighborhood School, integrating the Ember Project with the school’s 8th-grade capstone, called the Passion Project. As with LumenSparQ, the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals drive the Passion Project, and the students’ projects often focus on underserved or underrepresented communities and the problems they face. We will provide a monetary contribution for a selected project(s) that aligns with our mission and demonstrates a need for financial support. Ultimately, the funding must directly impact the community addressed in the project.

Look for a follow-up post regarding our first recipients in the coming weeks. Additionally, please reach out to us if you have a school or program in mind that would fit well with the goals of the Ember Project. We are eager for new partnerships and ways to collaborate.

Lifelong Warriors

Yesterday, March 26, the LumenSparQ board joined El Camino College students, faculty, administration, and community members on the “CommUnity Walk Against Hate” to support the fight against hate, racism, and intolerance. While the focus was on recent anti-Asian hate crimes, the event emphasized inclusivity and unity with people from all backgrounds.

Before the walk, we listened to inspirational speeches from Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, State Senator Steven Bradford, and the El Camino College board members, including their student representative, Karina Ramirez.

The message was clear, “Hate has no home here.”

This walk kicked off the first of many events to be organized by students through the newly created Student Social Justice Center, which will debut in the fall of 2022.

You may remember our first Lumenary, Kim Cameron, as she runs the Warrior Food Pantry here at El Camino College. And each of the LumenSparQ board members started their educational journey on this campus, so our connection is lifelong. We celebrate and support the efforts of these courageous young students.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

I come from Mexican, Indigenous, Puerto Rican, Spanish, Portuguese, African, and Jewish mothers. My DNA test surprised me and made me think of all the women that existed for me to be here. Each of these women had their unique way of looking at life. I can imagine the hardships that many had to endure for me to be here. Many of them sacrificed a lot for the next generation. I can’t help but think about the fabric of my DNA and how many profound thinkers, doers, artists, and creators are represented there. It is an honor to be related to all these women. We at LumenSparQ are thankful for our mothers, grandmothers, and all the women that represent our past.

WOMEN WORK HARD. Their work is often ignored; they are overlooked in the market, discriminated against, marginalized, harassed, and even killed for being a woman, for being Mexican, Black, or Asian. The women around us matter, the women before us matter, the women who are next matter. WE MATTER. Use your voice, vote, and energy to help lay a foundation for the betterment of all women.

We have the tremendous responsibility to protect this earth for future generations, protecting a most valuable resource: WOMEN. Women think, work hard, create, protect the earth, build communities, inspire and dream big. In their greatness, we thrive. Feel inspired by all the women that represent your blood to continue fighting for our equal place in the world.