Community Leadership

Change the Story of Your Life: Bijan Nowroozian

This post is part of our series in celebration of Words Alive’s 20th anniversary and our new brand promise: Change the Story of Your Life. Whether you are a donor, volunteer, participant, or all the above, Words Alive has a meaningful impact on your life story. Follow this link to get involved in the next 20 years of Words Alive.

An image of Bijan teaching fellow volunteers about a strategy he uses in ABG sessions.

An image of Bijan teaching fellow volunteers about a strategy he uses in ABG sessions.

After graduating from college with a Bachelors in English Education, I pursued my education in Graduate School while working for the public library. As time went by, I felt that all of the skills I learned were waning. Furthermore, I had always wanted to work with children who came from tough backgrounds, as a way to give back to those who helped me throughout my childhood.

You see, a major reason I have earned 3 college degrees, have a 4.0 GPA in graduate school, and plan to earn a PhD afterwards, is due to all the teachers and volunteers at my school who never let me think less of what I can achieve. I grew up in one of the lowest income and highest gang-ridden neighborhoods of East County San Diego. Throughout my youth, I was beaten up for "talking too smart," robbed of the little lunch money I had, witnessed friends be shot/killed, and had guns put to my head more times than helmets were. No matter what my situation was, it was the teachers, school volunteers, and librarians around me that instilled a belief that where I came from would never define who I was as a person.

This belief holds steadfast in everything I do as an adult today. Every time I have the honor of entering a classroom full of amazing and brilliant children who are eager to learn, it fills me with so much joy. Through Words Alive, I've been able to use a variety of amazing literary works to guide the next generation in literary, social, and personal development. Furthermore, I've been able to learn more about myself and my own passion for helping others. If I can make any impact on these children's lives, however small, everything will have been worth it. 

Words Alive in many ways has given me a new voice to connect with children who may have shared similarly hard upbringings as my own. And with Words Alive, I'll be able to show these children that they have their own voice, and the world is eager to hear it.

A Children's Day Partnership!

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Since 1991 Paradise Galleries has been a leader in bringing the magic of award winning dolls to collectors around the world. They are passionate about creating dolls that stir your spirit, warm your heart, and nurture your soul.

We are so honored that Paradise Galleries chose Words Alive to partner with for International Children’s Day! International Children's Day, a recognized United Nations holiday, is celebrated annually on June 9th. It is a day to recognize and celebrate all children. 

Meredith, a team member at Paradise Galleries, interned for Words Alive while in college in San Diego. She witnessed first-hand the impact of Words Alive on the lives of many children and thought we were a perfect fit for this partnership!

Paradise Galleries, in honor of International Children’s Day and their belief in the work we’re doing here at Words Alive, will donate $10 of each sale of their special Children’s Day doll to Words Alive!

Purchase here: https://www.paradisegalleries.com/products/realistic-toddler-filipino-doll-childrens-day

Independent Bookstore Day!

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern

An image of books laying on a table.

An image of books laying on a table.

April 27th is National Independent Bookstore Day! We at Words Alive are celebrating the importance of supporting local businesses, particularly independently owned bookstores. How have independent and local bookstores been important in your life?

Supporting locally owned independent businesses not only helps your community, but allows us to go back to and enjoy the simple pleasure of perusing the aisles of a bookstore, searching for that one special book you’ll take home. I’m sure each of us has an abundance of fond memories at a bookstore, stretching from our childhood to present day. Many independent bookstores are also used bookstores, or have a used books section, which is so helpful to people wanting to build their home libraries. We’ve seen how important owning books is as one develops their identity as a reader, and when used books are available for only a few dollars, the idea of a home library becomes much more accessible.

Words Alive understands that supporting local bookstores is important to maintain a thriving community for all of those who wish to have a safe space to explore and read peacefully. Since we are based in the San Diego area, here is a list of just a few of our favorite independent bookstores:

Let us know in the comments the name of your favorite independent bookstore! Happy reading!


Words Alive's 10th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Event!

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern & Sara Mortensen, Communications Manager

An image of our Volunteer Appreciation Event. Volunteer Program Manager, Christina Meeker, stands at the podium in front of a screen that says “Volunteer Appreciation Event." Volunteers mingling over lunch also appear in the image.

An image of our Volunteer Appreciation Event. Volunteer Program Manager, Christina Meeker, stands at the podium in front of a screen that says “Volunteer Appreciation Event." Volunteers mingling over lunch also appear in the image.

On Friday April 5th, the community of Words Alive staff, volunteers, donors and supports joined together at the San Diego Public Library to celebrate the many special volunteers that help our organization run so smoothly. As we often say at Words Alive, the volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization.

An image of two of our incredible volunteers, Karen Mailn & Margie Roehm laughing at the camera.

An image of two of our incredible volunteers, Karen Mailn & Margie Roehm laughing at the camera.

At noon, everyone filed into the event space, where there were smiles and excitement all around. In an effort to connect volunteers with one another, everyone received a “signature card” at check-in with different prompts listed such as, “dislikes chocolate” or “has attended a Words Alive Cookies & Conversation event.” Depending on how many signatures one was able to collect, the more raffle tickets you earned! This signature card was a great way to start conversation with the many volunteers and board members present, and to get to know one another.

Once everyone settled into their seats at around 12:40, the award ceremony honoring our volunteers began. We awarded volunteers in 13 different categories, including: Rookie of the Year, Youth Volunteer of the Year, Leadership Volunteer of the Year, and of course, Volunteer of the Year. Each volunteer who was awarded gave a small but memorable speech all with a common theme, the true reward for them was giving back.

Our Volunteers of the Year were Kim & Doug Harrison. In September, Kim Harrison and her husband, brand specialist Doug Harrison, volunteered to lead the organization in identifying how best to convey its brand – in the simplest terms: what do we do, how do we do it, and what does that look like in the community.

This exercise has resulted in not only a refreshed logo which highlights the action and activity that our engaging programs ignite in students and their families, but language that better describes who we are and what it means for all of us to be touched by Words Alive.

This process has permeated all aspects of the organization – from examinations of our programs, to how we market those programs, how we celebrate and leverage the community partners, to how we look to the future – spreading this impact to every corner of our community and beyond.

An image of Volunteers of the Year, Kim & Doug Harrison, with Leadership Volunteer of the Year, Jeffrey Goldman!

An image of Volunteers of the Year, Kim & Doug Harrison, with Leadership Volunteer of the Year, Jeffrey Goldman!

In her speech, Kim said the following:

“For me it’s really about connection, because I think that’s why we’re here, to connect with each other. It’s so incredibly rewarding and every week when I leave it fills my heart because I get the opportunity to connect with these kids and to see their joy. At the end of the day it’s about a feeling the kids have for you, not what you taught them. So if I can connect reading and language and literature with feelings of joy and awe and curiosity, then I feel like there’s nothing better.”

After leaving the event, these feelings of appreciation and joy for the work we all do together lasted. Words Alive is very lucky to have each of its volunteers, and in turn the volunteers feel very lucky to have found Words Alive. As we gear up to enter our 20th year, we look to the impact Words Alive has had since being founded. Over the past 11 years, we have impacted 21,031 students and 1,546 families. We have given away 154,155 books and we have worked with over 1,255 volunteers. It is clear the mark we’ve all made is substantial. So, to anyone who has donated, volunteered or worked with us to better the communities by changing lives through reading and relationships, we thank you. Here’s to many more years to come with all of you by our side!  

How Reading Inspires Communities

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern

An image of a group of students in our Read Aloud Program excitedly holding up their books.

An image of a group of students in our Read Aloud Program excitedly holding up their books.

There are countless reasons why two strangers may connect, but one common reason that has connected all ages is the commonality of stories. As a child, when you discover that your classmate loves the same book series as you, an immediate conversation ensues. Being able to talk about characters, what they think will happen next and why they love the book as much as you do creates a bond.

This doesn’t go away with childhood, if anything it intensifies. Reading doesn’t only builds friendships, but entire communities. Words Alive, organizations like the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), GoodReads or just a classic book club are just a few examples of how the power of reading can bring people together. It may be the fact that every person reading the pages will take a different lesson or viewpoint than the next, and we as humans desire to know and understand one another through these insights.

Books also teach us life lessons that inspire us to do something good for our community. Organizations like the Harry Potter Alliance were founded out of a love for the Harry Potter series and have created a whole community of activists who are using popular stories to change the world. John and Hank Green are brothers (and both authors) who have fostered an online community called Nerdfighteria, a community that celebrates many things but chief among them is a love for books and learning. With the internet, it’s easier than ever to find and form communities around a love of books.

According to the journal, “Using Parent Book Clubs to Build a School-Wide Reading Community”, a high school class partook in reading aloud throughout the year. This allowed students to “engage in meaningful relationships and social interactions tied to reading, and these connections mattered to them. Students took these connections seriously, and they authentically acted in ways to contribute positively to the reading community.” Here, we can see what one could call book club within the classroom.

The importance in these communities may seem obvious, but there is more than just reading aloud and discussing books. Organizations like Words Alive understand that communities that value reading help build thriving and intellectual individuals and relationships among one another.  

Reading, literacy and all it brings is a powerful thing, which is why we at Words Alive are here. Through the passion of reading we have come together to show the importance and positive impact it can make on others. While reading is often done in solidarity, it has the unique ability to bring a huge group together, to understand and bond with one another.  





Board Spotlight: Jeffrey Goldman

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Meet Jeffrey!

Jeffrey Goldman has been a part of the Words Alive family since 2014 and most recently completed his tenure as Board Chair on the Words Alive Board of Directors. Over the past five years, Jeffrey has been a constant source of leadership and inspiration through his commitment to Words Alive and bettering the futures of students in our programs. Jeffrey not only serves on the board, but also volunteers with our Adolescent Book Group as a writing facilitator at the Monarch School.

Jeffrey is the publisher at Santa Monica Press, an independent book publishing company, since he founded the press twenty-five years ago. Santa Monica Press publishes an eclectic list of critically acclaimed and award-winning non-fiction books. Prior to Santa Monica Press, Jeffrey spent a decade as an arts and entertainment journalist and editor, working for a variety of newspapers and magazines both nationally and internationally.

In addition to serving on the Words Alive Board of Directors, Jeffrey is also a member of the Board of Trustees at the La Jolla Playhouse, where he serves on the Executive Committee and is the chair of the Education and Outreach Committee.

I wanted to make an impact on the lives of children and believe that encouraging strong reading and writing skills is the simplest and most effective way to change the story of a child’s life.
— Jeffrey Goldman

Now, let’s hear more directly from Jeffrey!

How has Words Alive changed the story of your life?

Words Alive has changed the story of my life by making me aware of not only the extraordinary need in the community for advocates of reading and writing, but also of the number of incredibly talented children — brilliant writers — whose talent often slips under the radar of their parents and family members. The joy and fulfillment I receive from helping to spread the love of reading and writing to children, and further encouraging those children who already show a tremendous aptitude in these areas, has brought me endless pleasure and has truly changed the story of my life.

When was the first moment you fell in love with reading?

I remember reading a book (whose title I’ve long since forgotten) with my teacher and fellow classmates in kindergarten or first grade. It was a mystery of some sort, and before we turned the page to find out the surprise ending, the teacher asked us if anyone could guess what was going to happen. I guessed correctly, and the shock, surprise, and wonderment on her face gave me so much happiness and confidence that I couldn’t wait to read the next book she assigned! My love of reading (and writing) kicked into high gear from that point on!

How do you use literacy in your day-to-day life?

As a book publisher, writer, and editor, I not only use literacy in my day-to-day life, it has been my profession and my passion for 40 years.

Jeffrey working with an Adolescent Book Group student at Monarch School.

Jeffrey working with an Adolescent Book Group student at Monarch School.

What is your favorite book and why?

This is a nearly impossible question to answer because there are so many. Certainly Shakespeare and William Faulkner top the list of my favorite authors, and King Lear and As I Lay Dying are my two favorite works by these amazing writers. If forced to choose, I guess I’d go with King Lear. Why? Because it’s such a powerful, tragic story that encapsulates so much of the human condition.

What made you join the Words Alive board?

I wanted to make an impact on the lives of children and believe that encouraging strong reading and writing skills is the simplest and most effective way to change the story of a child’s life.

What has been your favorite aspect of being a Words Alive board member?

Working with the kids in the classroom; working with and becoming friends with the incredible Words Alive staff, volunteers, and my fellow board members; and being a champion of Words Alive out in the community.


Thank you, Jeffrey, for all you’ve done for Words Alive! Learn more about our Board of Directors here!

How the PGA Tour Supports More Than 3,000 Nonprofit Organizations

An image of three attendees of the Women’s Day Event stuffing Kindergarten Readiness Backpacks.

An image of three attendees of the Women’s Day Event stuffing Kindergarten Readiness Backpacks.

This past January marked the 52nd year that the Farmers Insurance Open was played at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California. This annual golf tournament brings in some of the largest golf names and attracts over 100,000 spectators. The PGA tour, its players, and the tournaments support more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations in numerous areas of their communities including youth, military, health, environment, education, and disaster relief. The PGA tour is a unique sporting event in the way that it runs similar to a nonprofit: it relies on volunteer support to run most aspects of the event and it is designed to donate 100% of the proceeds. Up through 2018, the PGA tour has generated $2.65 billion for charity, with that number steadily climbing.

Champions for Youth is the primary charitable program of the Century Club of San Diego, which is the administrative organization behind the Farmers Insurance Open. This year, Words Alive was one of the 10 chosen organizations in San Diego to participate in the Champions for Youth program. This means that not only did we embark on our most successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to date (our Board, staff, and volunteers collectively raised over $20,000!), we also had the opportunity to earn bonus funds from a pool of $260,000. In addition, we were able to participate in the Women’s Day Event, Community Day, and we hosted a special Read Aloud session with students from the Doris Miller Elementary School. Participating in these events allowed us to reach out to and interact with members of the community that we haven’t previously been able to.

An image of one of our Read Aloud students from Doris Day Elementary holding up a piece of paper that says “love.”

An image of one of our Read Aloud students from Doris Day Elementary holding up a piece of paper that says “love.”

For the Women’s Day Event, Farmers Insurance employees assisted us in putting together 1,000 Kindergarten Readiness backpacks for the children in our Family Literacy Program. These backpacks included the necessary school supplies for our littlest learners as they enter kindergarten, as well as a brand new book to start building the children’s home library. The event also brought together women in leadership positions across different sectors to discuss the importance of mentorship and their success.

Thanks to our community of supporters and the staff and volunteers who helped us fundraise, Words Alive was able to exceed our goal of raising $60,000. These generous donations will allow us to serve more than 300 students and families this year. Your belief and dedication to building communities who value reading is what enables us to continue giving back to the children and families of San Diego.

If you would like to learn more about Words Alive or keep your eye out for any other upcoming fundraisers, click here.

Carolina Enriquez - Volunteer of the Month - December 2018

 
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Carolina is an aspiring editor who joined our Words Alive Family as an intern in the summer of 2018. Her writing skills, experience working and communicating in an office, and familiarity with social media marketing made her a perfect candidate for our social media internship. Throughout her internship, Carolina helped create content and measure our visibility on all platforms. She volunteered outside of her role to support our events as well! Carolina volunteered at the VIP Reception for the 2018 Author’s Luncheon and Fundraiser. There she met and interacted with Words Alive supporters, helped with setup and organization, and saw the finished product of her marketing efforts over the summer.

Carolina is a devoted and caring individual who fit in perfectly with our team! We have been so fortunate to have her positive attitude and skilled support over the past six months. Thank you, Carolina!

Learn more about Carolina from the interview below!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in San Diego all my life. Since I was very young I grew up loving books. Right now I’m a senior at San Diego State University, studying English and Publishing! I enjoy discovering new books and poems to read. Aside from that, I enjoy walking my dogs, hiking, and drinking lots of coffee! I aspire to be a creative editor for a publishing company one day!

2. How did you get involved with Words Alive?

During the summer of 2018, I didn’t take any classes and was just working at my job as a receptionist. I wanted to do something meaningful and related to my future field. Luckily I found an ad for Words Alive online and I promptly applied. What first got me interested was Words Alive’s mission to advocate for children’s literacy education. As a lover of books, I can’t imagine my life without reading. I think what they are doing is incredible!

3. What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role(s)?

As a social media intern, I worked on creating content for various platforms. I absolutely loved my volunteer position and I learned a lot throughout my internship. The most rewarding part is probably knowing that the posts reached people and motivated them to volunteer! I also enjoyed writing the posts and seeing the impact Words Alive has in our community through the blog posts and even events like the Annual Author’s Luncheon and Fundraiser.

4. What are you reading lately?

I love a variety of genres in books. From fiction, nonfiction, YA, and classic literature. Right now I am reading “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.

Learn How Champions for Youth is Making a BIG Impact on Words Alive

Farmers Insurance is partnering with Words Alive to host some special events that will help us inspire more students and families to become lifelong learners. Each year, Farmers Insurance hosts a Women’s Day and Farmers in the Community Session during the week of San Diego’s PGA TOUR event, the Farmers Insurance Open. During these special events, Farmers Insurance employees will be spending a portion of their time stuffing 1,000 Kindergarten Readiness Toolkits for our Family Literacy Program.

After completing seven weeks of fun and engaging programming, our Family Literacy participants are eager to continue learning and using language as a playtime activity. At the end of the program, graduating families receive a backpack with school supplies, alphabet magnets, glue, crayons, scissors, and more. We encourage families to continue spending valuable time together to ignite quality conversation, which is the foundation for learning at this young age.

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Words Alive will also be hosting a Read Aloud Program field trip for 60 students from Doris Miller Elementary School sponsored by Farmers Insurance in partnership with the PGA Wives. The PGA Wives will be using our Words Alive curriculum to host a small group read aloud session with students ranging from K-5th grade. At this time, they will also host a small book giveaway where students will receive a copy of the book they are reading and get to choose three of their own to take home.

We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with Farmers Insurance and The Century Club San Diego to serve more students and families. Words Alive is fundraising until the last day of the Farmers Insurance Open, January 27. We are vying to earn up to $30,000 in bonus funds. Donate today to help us reach our goals.  

Board Spotlight: Andrea MacDonald!

An image of Andrea with Christina Meeker, Words Alive Volunteer Program Manager, and Patrick Stewart, Words Alive Executive Director, at the 2018 Volunteer Appreciation Event.

An image of Andrea with Christina Meeker, Words Alive Volunteer Program Manager, and Patrick Stewart, Words Alive Executive Director, at the 2018 Volunteer Appreciation Event.

Andrea Mac Donald has been on our Board since 2013, and we are thrilled to introduce her as the incoming Words Alive Board Chair starting in 2019! Andrea MacDonald earned her Bachelor's Degree in Speech and Hearing from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Following school, Andrea worked as a real estate appraiser, earning many professional designations. In 1992, she moved to New Jersey where she started a residential real estate appraising practice for a leading commercial appraising firm.

After returning to California, and as her children grew up, volunteering in the community has been very important to her. Andrea served on the Board for the Solana Beach Foundation for Learning for five years, and was an officer for three years. As VP of Site Development, Andrea oversaw the fundraising for the six Solana Beach School District schools. Other organizations that Andrea has been involved with over the years are PTA, Girl Scouts, Miracle League, and National Charity League.

Andrea has not only been on the Words Alive Board since 2013, she has also chaired our Event Committee for many years, providing immense support and organization for our largest fundraising event of the year! We are so excited for what’s to come with Andrea as our Board Chair.

Now, let’s hear more directly from Andrea!

When was the first moment you fell in love with reading?

I have always had books in my life. When I was little, my mother shared her love of reading with my sisters and I.  She would take us to the library every week, and share with us how when she was little she decided to read every book in the library, and we would all go to each aisle with her and pick our books - trying to read our way around the library.

How do you use literacy in your day-to-day life?

I have discovered in the last few years, that I love being in the classroom with young children and have recently started working as a Substitute Teacher. I love reading to them, discussing a book with them, and watching them get excited about the characters and the subject matter…..watching the light bulbs going on!

What inspired you to join the Words Alive board?

When my children were in elementary school, I was on the Solana Beach Foundation for Learning. I oversaw all the fundraising for Solana Beach Schools. Words Alive was an incredible fit for me.  Reading has always been important to me, and to be on a Board with a similar mission statement fit. To be able to bring reading and writing to these kids, who may not be exposed to it everyday is so unbelievable and exciting.

What is your favorite book and why?

I am a voracious reader and belong to two book clubs. I cannot tell you one book I love because I tend to enjoy them all.  Many times I will read a book and not really enjoy it, then when I go to book club, hear the discussion, and then I’m ready to re-read it with a different perspective.  I have loved many books, but because there are so many books out there that I want to read, I have never re-read a book.

What has been your favorite aspect of being a Words Alive board member?

When I first joined the Board, Words Alive was concentrating on our three programs and doing a good job. But in the last 6 years, Words Alive has grown tremendously. Not only has our staff grown, but our reach has grown. It is really exciting to see how our programs have expanded. I’m looking forward to watching our growth in the future!

Thank you, Andrea, for all you’ve done for Words Alive! Learn more about our Board of Directors here!