Monthly Archives: August 2013

Maria Had a Dream—A Story for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

The UUCA tutor met Maria, a first grader, in October. She appeared to have mlk2no English at all.

The powers that be gave the tutor a set of exercises and “games” to use with Maria. They all involved sounding out three-letter words comprised of a consonant, a short vowel, and another consonant, like “cap” or “mat.”

Maria proved to be a biddable child, and she seemed actually to enjoy the task, or at least not to mind it. As October turned into November, and November into December, Maria and the tutor kept on task. She became increasingly proficient at correctly sounding out “bat,” “cat,” “sat,” and “rat.” But when asked if she knew what a word meant, Maria would mutely shake her head.

The tutor had limited Spanish, and so was able to tell her, for example, that “cat” meant un gato. Maria seemed appreciative to learn this information, and would promptly move on to sounding out the next word.

Maria’s patience exceeded the tutor’s, but they both soldiered on. By the Christmas break, the tutor was being heard to mutter in the social hall that “We might as well be teaching her to sound out words in Old Church Slavonic.”

That’s when the Unitarian miracle occurred.

By the time tutoring recommenced after the holiday break, Maria had made a breakthrough. During the first tutoring session in January, she began demanding, in simple English, to know the meaning of every word. In some cases the tutor could mime the meaning. When Maria asked about “dig,” the tutor acted out digging a hole with a shovel, producing much merriment.

Sometimes it was harder to convey meanings. When Maria wanted to know what “tin” was, the tutor responded that tin is a metal. “What is metal?” Maria sensibly inquired. There ensued an exploration of the classroom, to find objects made of metal.

DictionaryAs the tutor left for the day, a light bulb appeared over his head. Remembering that there are such things as picture dictionaries, that “define” words for little children by showing them pictures, the tutor detoured by Barns & Noble and secured The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary, in English and Spanish. (It works this way. To define “afraid,” there is a drawing of a little girl in fear of a mouse, followed by a short sentence, “Alice is afraid,” which is then translated into Spanish: “Alicia tiene miedo.”)

The following week, when Maria received her book at the close of the tutoring session, and grasped what it was, she was flabbergasted. After pausing to digest her good fortune, Maria looked up at the tutor and said, in a serious and determined voice, “I’m going to learn every word in this book.”

The tutor wasn’t surprised by her determination, but he did marvel at her ability to articulate that English sentence.

Kids don’t always remember to thank people for their gifts, but you may be sure that in their next session Maria, without prompting, thanked the tutor profusely for her book. The only problem, she allowed, was that she had gotten in trouble for staying up to late to peruse her new dictionary.

As winter turned to spring, the tutor and Maria were able to converse about a wide range of topics. In their last session, as the school year was about to end, Maria took the tutor’s hand and asked him to walk with her back to her class. Outside the classroom the teacher had pinned a poster of President Obama, with Martin Luther King looking over the President’s shoulder.

Maria let go the tutor’s hand and pointed to Dr. King. “That’s Martin Luther King,” she said. “He had a dream.”

“And that,” she added, pointing to the President, “is Barack Obama. He had a dream, too.”

“Yes,” thought the tutor. “And I’ll bet I know a little girl who also has a dream.”


When we tell our stories, the children are real and the stories are true, but the names are changed.

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Filed under Hope-Hill Neighborhood Partnership for Academic Excellence, Our Stories, Uncategorized

Help our Partners at Hope-Hill—Whether or not You Can Volunteer

Ms. Priscilla Borders, the president of Hope-Hill’s PTA and a good friend, has asked for our support in three ways.

First, use your Facebook account to vote for Hope-Hill in the Give with Target program. Each vote earns a dollar for the school. Just select Hope-Hill and vote for it weekly until September 21 or until $5 million has been awarded, whichever occurs first.

No purchase is necessary. There is a limit of one vote per week. Voters must be legal residents of the United States and at least 13 years old. Before you vote, be sure to check out Target’s Terms and Conditions, to see whether you’re comfortable with them. See the Give with Target app on for details.

A second opportunity to help Hope-Hill is through the Boxtops for Education program. Collect your boxtops and bring ‘em to the Hope-Hill/PTC table in the social hall.

Finally, Hope-Hill receives benefits  through the Trueblue for Schools program with Georgia Natural Gas.   Here is how it works:

  • Parents, friends, neighbors, and businesses choose Georgia Natural Gas as their natural gas service provider.
  • New and existing Georgia Natural Gas customers can designate Hope Hill Elementary to receive donations at
  • Georgia Natural Gas donates $5 a month to Hope Hill Elementary for every customer that selects it.

The school receives a donation check every quarter and has, so far, received $555.

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UUCA Volunteers Support the Annual Celebration of Excellence for Children in Foster Care

Life can be tough for kids graduating out of Georgia’s foster care system. Only half graduate from high school, and only a tenth enroll in college. Many become homeless. It’s important to work to improve the situation. It’s also important to recognize the significant achievements of many of the children in foster care.

The annual Celebration of Excellence celebrates the educational achievements of youth in Georgia’s foster care system graduating from high school, GED programs, college, or vocational school. This year a dozen UUCA were inspired to help out with the event, held on June 26 at the Georgia State Rialto Theater.

Carol Jordan and Lisa Guyton were among the bus chaperones. Lisa

UUCA volunteers join Big Bethel bus to meet students arriving for the celebration.

UUCA volunteers join Big Bethel bus to meet students arriving for the celebration.

remembers the event this way,

I had a really great time. It was inspiring to see all of these young people achieve a significant goal.

 I was a little nervous about being a bus chaperone. Would the students be rowdy or hard to manage? Would I remember what to do?

All went well and I had a lovely time talking to the youth and to the adult mentors riding on the bus. I thought the welcoming carpet with photos and drumming was so festive and exciting for the students. I could tell by their beaming faces that they really did feel good at that moment. I stayed for the beginning of the program. The entertainment and speakers were excellent. I can tell that the organizers put a lot of effort into making this a memorable night for the students.

The red carpet walk.

The red carpet walk.

Carol writes that she was also a bus chaperone, and enjoyed meeting and talking with some of the students who were being recognized.

A gal grad said she was joining the Army. I asked if she had already enlisted.  No, she was going to college first.  I said it might be that college would lead to a different path.  She said I know, but write down on the card that I’m going to college and the Army.  The “card” is what they wanted the emcee to read as they accepted their certificates of excellence on stage.  One fellow whose card said G.E.D. had also written down valedictorian.

The buses left late (from hotel near the airport), amidst confusion, and we got mired in traffic.  The kids had been waiting around since 4:30 and it was now almost 6:30 arriving at the Rialto. Grumps quickly turned to smiles as the beat of drums and energy of the gathered crowd beckoned the kids down the red carpet, cameras flashing.

We observed the evening program for a short time. One of the introductory speakers, a leader within the state “system,” eloquently handed these now young adults both a moving tribute and the mantle of role model and mentor going forward.

It was great to meet the folks from Big Bethel AME Church, but especially to get to know some of my fellow UUCAers a little better.

photo 2

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Filed under Foster Care--Transitioning Youth, Our Stories

Volunteer on Saturday for Old Fourth Ward Kids!

Our friends at Big Bethel AME Church on Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta need our help in meeting the needs of at-risk children. Some of us are working in their Saturday outreach program, but we need more help.

We need reading classroom helpers each Saturday from 10:30 to 11:30 AM.

Volunteer reading, writing, math, and computer lab tutors are also needed each Saturday from 1:00 to 2:45 PM, to work in 50-minute sessions one-on-one or with small groups of students.

A particular need is for mentors for young boys.

Big Bethel’s Saturday program—which serves children from the first through the eighth grade—provides  a much needed service for some of Atlanta’s poorest kids, and a richly rewarding experience for tutors.

Recently, one of our tutors helped a first grader—who was a little shaky on _A444726-Editthe ones place and the tens place—to master basic addition and subtraction. It was a rewarding experience for all concerned.

If you’re interested. please contact Beth Davis ( or 404 687-8641; email preferred), and let her know about any special interests and talents you have, your availability, and your preference in terms of subject and grade level.

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Filed under Hope-Hill Neighborhood Partnership for Academic Excellence, Our Stories

Older Youth in Foster Care

Many of these youth enter the adult world without the family network, community connections, jobs, housing, health insurance and other resources they need to become self-sufficient responsible adults. More

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Juvenile Justice–School Discipline–Keeping Kids in Class

2013 was a banner year for juvenile justice. The state legislature passed and Gov. Deal signed the most sweeping overhaul of the juvenile law in 40 years.  UUCA member voices, as part of a broad-based coalition, worked for more than five years to get the legislation written and passed. More …

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Help for Homeless and Struggling Families

The facts about poverty and homeless in Georgia are disheartening.

UUCA, through Promise the Children supports metro Atlanta’s neediest families with direct service ministry. Yet the biggest need is for unremitting advocacy for compassionate policies at both state and federal level.  This is where faith can step into action.

2,100 school-age children and their families are homeless in the City of Decatur and DeKalb County this year. More …

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