Monday, August 9, 2010

Working at SMART

It's Nikki!!! I've been working at SMART since summer started, and it has been a great experience. It has been such a busy summer for me, and I love it. I like having things to do and being busy. Being at SMART this summer is the first thing on my Resume, as this is my first "Work Experience" item. Woo hoo!
So let's start from the beginning of working with SMART:
SMART started using this new database system so they can store EVERYONE's information. (I say everyone in all caps because I literally mean I've been putting in hundred's of people's info.) So I have been - and still am - putting in info from very new students, to the oldest of the bunch and all the people that work behind the scenes to make SMART possible. We have gone through trial-and-error to make the database a lot simpler and more convenient for SMART staff. (This was a great idea by the way. =))
So, once I finished the first batch of people to import in the database, I had to leave SMART for a Computer Science Program, but I came back a week later. I must admit I loved working here, I even came to work the day after 4th of July...when no one was here... how funny is that? I had my mom wake up super early and bring me over here only to go back home. It was a good day though, I had Noah's Bagels and Jamba Juice for breakfast =P.
When I got back to SMART, Paul, Erin and I started planning for the new summer program that we were going to have. It was the 1st summer that SMART had for the incoming 5th graders. It was quite and experience!
While we were teaching these amazing kids about fractions, recipes and "showing-not-telling," we were also in the process of interviewing and choosing someone to be the new Director of Academic Excellence. -Fancy huh? Yeah, well SMART decided to change things up a bit..They changed everyone's position title and started making new logos. Woah.- Anyways, back to the chaos: We had 16 new kids, "Rising 5th graders" (Yes, everyone has titles. I'm "The Best Intern in the World EVER" =). Or you could just call me "Intern" like Nonoko likes to =P) Now, again, back to the kids. 16 kids were getting to know this new environment, were making friends, learning a whole lot of stuff, reading books and stories, writing their own recipes and going on field trips. They had 3 weeks, from 9-12, to enjoy SMART. Each personality came out so beautifully and it was amazing to see how someone can be so tiny and have a great brain with space to expand. The kids learned how to be and act in a community and learned what it meant to be in SMART. Even though the summer program only ran for 3 weeks, there was tremendous growth in the children and it was great to see how much little kids absorb and how quick they adapt. Unfortunately, I had to leave the program a week early to write one of my college essays and missed out on their cool field trip.
See, every Friday, Paul and Erin took the little munchkins out on field trips. The first Friday, we went to the MOAD, The Museum of the African Diaspora. The kids learned a lot of historical things from this place, but it just wasn't the right setting for them as they need to run around a bit. It was OK though, we learned what was suitable and what wasn't. The next Friday, we took the children out bowling at Yerba Buena and they had a blast! Even I did! It was a great time to relax from all the work that they had been doing and they got to be with their friends. We also ate lunch in the park after which was really nice because it was like if everyone took their eating time seriously, yet calmly. Now, the one I really wanted to go to, but couldn't, was Zynga. Yes, Zynga, as in the big company that makes those cool games for Facebook. So I missed out on that one, but I heard it went well. The kids went to Zynga's kitchen since it related to their recipe topics in math class and spent their last day in a good way.
I came back after the last week, and the All SMART Picnic - which I also missed =( - and started data basing again. Yes, more people. Yipee! This time I had to connect a whole bunch of people, and it shows how if everyone was to grab someone they know, everyone in the world would have someone to hold on to and we'd all be connected. (It's like when you're bored on facebook and look at a friend and see you have "60 Mutual Friends" and you're like "Woah! How do you know that person????") Something like that. So, I data based some more, - and I still am - watered the dead plants that have been with us forever, hunted people down for their grades, made fake Polaroid pictures for the students, filed things in the bazillion folders here at SMART and sat in staff meetings.
Overall, it has been a great experience to work at SMART, alongside Nonoko, Paul, Erin and the new member of the team, Ben! We have all had good laughs, random conversations, delicious food, and great ideas. Working here has really helped me build my work experience on and off the resume. I have also found two people to write my letters of recommendations for college! Woo! I have a big year ahead of me, and I definitely will not be leaving SMART. That reminds me, we have had Alumni Advisory Board meetings that have run so smoothly and I am a member now! =) We have a community service project coming up later this month and a reunion in the winter as well as a fund raising event next year.
Smart has so much ahead of them, and so do I. I can never thank SMART and all the people here enough. They have helped me out so much, as well as all my peers and I hope I have helped them quite a bit. I also hope all the other SMART alumni come back to SMART to help out and see how things have changed, yet stayed the same. This has been a great summer and I am truly grateful for it.
Did you also know that SMART is a 8-12 program? Yea, so those who haven't graduated high school yet need to come back and rejoin this incredible community. (And of course the ACTUAL alumni =P)
-Nikki A.

P.S. You should really check out our cool t-shirts!! =] ""

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Typical Day at SMART...

The first thing we do is get picked up from school, and then...we enter, SMART. We set down our bags and get ready for snack time. After or before snack time we have free time, and get a choice of using the computers, playing Foosball, or hanging out with a friend and playing games. After free time, it is group activity, which is when we get together and talk about different topics and we usually write down some of our ideas. Sometimes, we even play games, or separate into two groups of opposite genders, with Erin and Paul. After group activity, it's homework time, and we divide into two people per table, or people go into the computer lab. We then go into closing circle, answer a question or two, and go home. We admit that we do dread coming to SMART sometimes, but we do like seeing our friends again and getting help on our homework.

~The Sticky Note girls... :)
(Magaly & Mayra)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"The last melon..."

Have you ever seen Ice Age? The part where Sid, Manny and the tiger are trying to steal the last melon from the dodo birds for the baby? Well, if you haven't seen Ice Age, you should! It's a great kids movie. Well, for some reason, as soon as I got to the page to make my blog post, "the last melon..." popped in my head as a title.

This is my last day here at SMART, as an intern because by the end of this day, I will have all 70 hours needed, complete. It has been a pleasure working here, and helping out with all that I can. It feels like I have been here forever! (Not in a bad way.) This whole thing has been a great experience. I got to see people I haven't seen in 3 years, and I've gotten to meet new people. Some people I will not forget about are: Magaly, Lisa, Lexus, and Jaela. They are extremely welcoming, nice and fun to talk to. I knew Lexus since she was younger but I didn't realize until someone said her name. I saw many familiar faces during my time here. I met the new staff, and I got beat by Leon in Fooseball! I worked with Yvonne (who also goes to my high school), I saw Joanna (who I see every week at College Track) and I saw Nonoko. The first one I EVER met, related to SMART.

So this whole time I've been here, I've been doing numerous things: I started with filing papers, stuffing envelopes,copying and organizing folders- basic office work stuff. Then, I got into making marketing packets, making common application questions, to make it easier on those applying to many private schools, uploading all of SMART's pictures on Picasa...(which you should definetly check out! I also made yearbook templates for all the grades, and interviewed Paul! I called schools, parents, made a map of schools for next years bus plans, and I also did my biggest project of all....


My activity was on the topic of subjectivity. The kids got to dig into their past and bring up events, people or experiences that they've had and connect them to personality traits, and characteristics that they have now. They got to get creative and decorate a human body to express themselves creatively, and then they got to share out in the circle to the rest of the SMART students, what they did.

Working here at SMART has been really laid back and made me realize that I actually enjoy being in a quiet work space and enviroment. I thought I wanted to be in a place that was always busy and hectic, but I noticed that being in a small, quiet space, makes things less stressful. You are on your own a lot of the time and it helps you relax and work at the same time. This has definetly broadened my options for my official workplace.

I'm going to miss hearing Magaly as soon as she comes into SMART. I'm also going to miss talking to Rigo about The Secret Life of the American Teenager. It's going to be different now, because I am sooooo used to coming into SMART, which seems like everyday, and having the kids make all the excitement. It was fun playing about 100 rounds of fooseball with Leon, and only winning about 21 of them. Just not being here in general is going to seem different to me.

I'm thinking that I should come back and visit a lot more. In fact, I want to be apart of this AAB thing? I will talk to Paul about it to find out more. I want to be more involved with SMART than I have been these past 3 years. I miss SMART, and now that I am leaving again, I'm going to miss it even more since I got to revive a lot of the old memories.

This is my last blog post as an intern...Hopefully it's not my last though.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Interview with Paul

Today, I interviewed my mentor, Paul Mann to "paint a portrait" of who he is and what he does in his job. I found it really interesting to interview him because I learned more about him and what he does here at S.M.A.R.T. We talked about how he loves his job and what it takes to work in this field. I asked a few questions, along with some follow-up questions and got some good information.

Paul is the Program Coordinator and Alumni Coordinator at The S.M.A.R.T. Program. As program coordinator, he and one of his colleagues plan out activities for the students to do when they arrive from school. The after school program runs 4 days a week and there is a different planned activity every other day so that the two groups (Monday-Wednesday & Tuesday-Thursday) do the same activities. As Alumni Coordinator he regroups the alumni from the program and has different services that the program provides specifically for the alumni.

I received a lot of information that helped me with this assignment. I asked Paul about what skills and personal attributes are needed in order to fully succeed in this job, and his response was that there needs to be a desire to have the kids succeed. A person needs to be able to care for the kids and have patience in order to get them to do what they have to do in order to succeed. When they succeed, you will succeed. With this, I asked a follow-up question about how the alumni are different from the students currently in the program. His response was that the alumni are basically adults and they reach this stage in about mid-sophomore/junior year. Some take longer to get to that stage but ultimately alumni are adults. The middle school students at the program test your patience a lot, and are still growing. He feels that with alumni, there is an honest and authentic interaction. "I don't need to strategize with how I will get the high schooler's to do something. I just ask them, and its up to them if they do it or not." A huge difference between these two age groups, is that the middle school students don't really know and understand why they are in the program, why they are studying or even why they need to. They need motivation and as a resource to them, you need to create reasons for them to do and continue to do what they are doing at the program, at school and at home. With alumni, they know what they need to do and why; they know what is at stake. Two problems that occur in his job overall are that they are a non-profit organization and that means there isn't a lot of money. The staff here, as well as Paul, would like to do many things to provide for the students and alumni, but they just can't because of the lack of funding. The other problem is that the students have a lack of community, and they try to build that up for them. As a student in the program, there is a community in their neighborhood, but not completely because their school is not in their neighborhood. Being a private school, their school is away from where they live and who they are close to around them. They also have a community in their school, but the problem is that they don't fully fit in because they don't come from the same places as their peers. At the after school program they try to build that community and have activities that allow the students to see their similarities with their peers and see how they are supported throughout the S.M.A.R.T. building. Another question that was asked was what he likes most and least about his job. The thing he likes the most is that he feels like he is doing something that matters when it comes to helping kids and giving them opportunities that he lacked as a child. "I have friends who define their success by how much money they make. I can't imagine living that way." He defines success by how much he can give. He loves his job so much, but the pay could be higher so he could pay off his student loans and take some time off to himself. Paul has worked many, many jobs which are incredibly different from one another, and by far this is the job he has enjoyed the most. One big factor that comes from loving his job is his colleagues. He loves them and how supportive they are. He used to have a social life, but when he got this job, he got so engaged that he doesn't do what he used to as much. And frankly, he doesn't feel like he is missing out on anything. He is living his life exactly how he wants to live. In turn, he wouldn't go back and change anything from his past if he could redo it all. This is mainly because as a child he was angry at the education that he didn't receive and the fact that he didn't get many opportunities. That has led him to be where he is now, helping other kids get the opportunities and education they deserve. His plans are to work at S.M.A.R.T. for another 2 years, then go off and get his masters in public policy, maybe even to become a teacher. With public policy, he will most likely work as a consultant to non-profits-but what he would like to do the most is work at public schools and make them better in some way.

As a program and alumni coordinator at The S.M.A.R.T. program, and as my mentor, he has a lot to offer and it shows in his personality. It is very hard to find someone who can honestly say they love what they do. Paul is a great example of this character. I had a great time interviewing him and who knows, maybe I'll start interviewing other people who work here as well; get their insight and learn even more.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Computers, Yearbooks and Fog

Today is a new day, Wednesday Feb. 24th, 2010 to be exact. I'm still the same Nikki, and this is still the same S.M.A.R.T. The only difference is that time is passing by and it's time to start making a yearbook. So this morning, I got in the building at 8:45 and my first task was to start working on this year's yearbook. I got to look through last year's yearbook, go through files on the computer from the previous yearbooks and get some ideas. So this morning, (well it's still morning), but the past 2 hours I have been working on Microsoft Word, making templates for this year's yearbook. I got ideas from the old yearbooks and "spiffied" it up a little. I am proud with what I have done so far, and I was having fun doing this littel project because time flew by so fast! So, the title for this blog is "Computers, Yearbooks and Fog" because, 1. I was working on a computer, we have had server problems and I've learned some new tips and tricks on Microsoft Word. 2. I have been working on creating a yearbook and so far it's looking great. & 3. We are in the city of San Francisco, the capital of fog. It is rainy season, the weather is droopy and makes many people tired and sick. I have been yawning a lot this morning, but I'm not bored! & Paul is currently sick =( and I am coughing too, hopefully I don't get sick.

Well, now a little switch...Last week when I came in to S.M.A.R.T. I was working on Erin's computer all day, uploading TONS of pictures from the program up on Picasa. It was my first time working with Picasa, and I am glad I am a fast learner because I got to knock out a bunch of pictures in one day, with tagging and everything. I am still not done uploading pictures, but I will get to the soon and finish that up. That task took up my whole time, from 9-4. Can you believe that? It was a neat experience though and it brought back soooooo many memories. There were pictures from all classes, even before mine, and when i saw my class and all the students that attended when I was in the program, I was smiling ALOT! I saw Conflict Resolution videos that we made, and was so funny to watch because we sound like chipmunks! I still keep in touch with many of the alumni- and knowing them now, and seeing them from back then just made me realize how people grow and change. It was an amazing day even though I was working the entire time on the same project.

For my school requirements, I have to make a project that will benefit the organization and myself. Paul and I have a couple ideas and honestly, I think I am going tohave more than one project. I still have to talk things out with Paul and make everything official. I'm so excited! =]
Now I will go and get my next task!
I will post later! =]

Monday, February 1, 2010

First Day as an Intern!

Hello there, my name is Nikki Alvarez, and I am currently a junior at Metropolitan Arts & Technology High School. My high school has a few graduation requirements, just like any other school, but one different requirement is having to intern at a business, company or organization for 70 hours and get some work experience. This program at my school is called WLE (Work-Learning Experience). I was calling around one day for a spot at an adoption agency, the FBI, the police department and such but everyone had a new policy about having to be 18+. So then, I was thinking to myself "Where can I intern? Where would I be able to work with kids, give back to the community, and where would i feel welcome?" I thought for a while, and decided to call Nonoko at The S.M.A.R.T Program. I graduated from this program in 2007. Yup, it's been 3 years, and now looking at the pictures on the wall from the past students and the ones that attend now, I feel old---because I can say that they look so young! I mentioned this to Tara, whom I just met today, and she said "Well you looked like that once too!" That made me think, wow...time passes by so fast! I haven't really spoken to the staff members or kept in touch with S.M.A.R.T. until a few weeks ago. They switched locations so today was my first time seeing the new facility, and compared to the old one, I LOVE IT! It's a lot bigger, the walls are bright and colorful like the personalities in this building and it just feels so cozy. I met 4 new staff members today, and they are all so friendly, funny and kind. I love how the environment feels, it's very comfortable, laid back and calm. Today, all 5 staff members and I sat around a table and ate some very delicious food that came from Tara's best friend. The food I tried was a new experience and the meal altogether felt a bit like a family. So far, I have put together some marketing packets, I have organized the students' binders and made copies of papers. I've caught up a bit with Nonoko, and learned more about what the program is doing now and how things are, 3 years later. Right now I am listening to Nonoko talk about how this week is San Francisco Beer Week! Or something of that sort. This building is so lonely right now, but I can't wait until the kids get here around 3:30/4. Seeing all the kids will liven up the building more and also take me back to memory lane where I can see myself talking with Nancy, Jessica and Jacky (S.M.A.R.T alumni) about life. This program makes me miss everything, but sometimes you have to grow up! I'm going to figure out how to put pictures up here, seeing that I have to take 4-8 pictures for my school assignment for today anyways. So far, I love what I am doing here, and how everyone is super friendly. I thought I would come in with an awkward feel to it, but hey, I warmed up pretty fast! I come in once a week, and I can't wait to see what is in store for me. I hope that I can be looked up to by the "youngsters" here. They really are youngsters now that I think about it! Jeeeeez. Time flies. Well, I've written a lot already, and I think I've ran out of things to say for now, sooooo....I will wait until the little ones arrive, and then take pictures.Of course after I get to know them and vice versa!....Otherwise that would be creepy. =]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Welcome Back

Hello! You are currently reading about The SMART Program on Blogger, a Pop-Up free website where people who feel too lazy to write in their personal books can blog all they want, hour after hour, day after day. I am your very entertaining guest blog-person of the day, Leon Lu (Current Freshman @ the International High School of San Francisco and honorary staff member @ the $M@RT Pr0gr@m.) So, as you fellows may all know, its been almost two years since anyone had talked, or 'blogged', about anything on this site. You may not think so, but (in years) two is a very big number, almost as big as the number three. In these two years or so, many things have happened. Unfortunately, we are not a newspaper, or one of those insurance or credit card companies that keep calling you until you oblige to their services, so we cannot keep you updated constantly on everything that is happening. But as our president, our CURRENT president (not the other one that looked like a monkey) but our current president, Barack Obama, says "The time is now". So let's focus on the present.
Speaking of "welcome back", a few weeks ago we had our annual Alumni Reunion. The Alumni Reunion is an event that is held every year where people reunite, people who were once part of the SMART Program come back and party for a night, whether they are now famous singers like Taylor Swift, or still struggling in High School. This year, there was some awesome activities, like some pretty sick video games, a raffle, and pizza (some with pepperoni, some with cheese). But details, who needs them. The Fiesta was a massive successo. If you missed it, you probably had something else to do, but this event is definitely one you should have come to, unless there was a 95% sale at Banana Republic or a Hot Topic opened next to your house. If not, you missed alot. So we will leave here for today. You should definitely stay tuned, because there are so many awesome things that happen at SMART every day. Just ask Hao Tran, or Ruben Morales. They'll tell you. If you don't know who they are, feel free to drop by SMART sometime. I'll be happy to point them out to you (I'm the bald one with the blue jeans and white t-shirt). Then, if you have time, you can come along for a ride on our carousel of fun. Not the one in Spongebob, or the one Carlos Mencia would have. Our carousel of fun. So just a reminder, our address is 1345 Mission St. right in the heart of San Francisco. So anyways, if you have time on your hands on a lonely Thursday evening, with nothing but the weather on television and country music on the radio, feel free to come down to SMART. We'll offer you a warmer welcome than the guys down at the casino can ever provide. See Ya!