Dr. Diane's Adventures in Learning

Adventures in Mentoring: I'm Just Me Movement Leaders Tina and Rodney Culbreath

September 28, 2022 Dr Diane Jackson Schnoor Episode 9
Dr. Diane's Adventures in Learning
Adventures in Mentoring: I'm Just Me Movement Leaders Tina and Rodney Culbreath
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Show Notes Transcript

Meet Tina and Rodney Culbreath, two community leaders who turned their own childhood struggles and hardships into the  I'm Just Me Movement, a thriving mentorship program that focuses on resiliency and growth for all of its participants. Looking to implement the Positivity Project? We have books and resource ideas for you (check out the full show notes). Tina and Rodney are a force for positivity and change and you're invited to share in their stories.

[01:18]  I'm Just Me provides innovative mentoring programs through workshops,  Live Life Forward programs, intervention groups, bullying and diversity workshops. 

 [03:30],Why mentoring? How does it make an impact?  To learn more about mentoring opportunities visit imjustmemovement.org

[11:42]  How do mentors change lives? Rodney and Tina share their personal stories.

[18:27] Celebrating 9 Years of the I'm Just Me Movement October is the nationally recognized I'm Just Me Because National Month. On Oct. 2,  I'm Just Me will have a bowling birthday bash for supporters in the Shenandoah Valley. There's also a ribbon cutting at 11:30 am on Oct. 13. 

[20:40] Learn about Project Positive, an initiative created by students in collaboration with I'm Just Me Movement to cultivate kind and inclusive learning environments. 

[27:32] Picture Book Connections for Project Positive, Character Counts, Social-Emotional Learning and STEM/STEAM Learning 

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[00:01] Dr Diane: Wonder, curiosity, connection. Where will your adventures take you? I'm Dr. Diane, and thank you for joining me on today's episode of Adventures in Learning. So welcome to the Adventures in Learning podcast. You all are in for such a treat today. I have two very dear friends on the show with me. I've got Rodney Culbreath and Tina Stevens Culbreath. They are the founders of the I'm Just Me Movement in Winchester, Virginia. And we are going to be talking in a whole lot about I'm Just Me, about the importance of mentoring, and about how we can use playful learning to really make a difference in children's lives. So, Tina and Rodney, welcome to the show. I'm so glad to have you guys here.

[00:51] Tina: Oh, thank you so much for having us. It is an honor. Thank you.

[00:58] Dr Diane: So my first question we're coming up on I'm Just me month. So can you all share a little bit about the I'm Just Me Movement and what you all do?

[01:09] Tina: Yeah. So should we start with a month or should we start with the mission of I’m Just Me?

[01:16] Dr Diane: Start with the mission and then go to the month.

[01:18] Tina: Okay, great question. Thank you, Dr. Diane, that's an awesome question. So first, I'll share that I'm Just Me is a non profit organization. We provide innovative mentoring programs through our workshops, our Live Life Forward programs, intervention groups, bullying and diversity workshops. We provide individual and group mentoring, mobile resource centers, job readiness. And our mission is to strengthen youth, families, and communities through mentorship, education, training, and community collaboration.

[01:59] Dr Diane: Excellent. And how did you two wind up doing this kind of work?

[02:06] Tina: I'll let Rodney answer. I know that we both got into this kind of work for similar reasons, mostly because we are individuals that grew up in some pretty rough times as children. And along the way we learned that we could share and be vulnerable and that we were not our environmental factors, but our own hopes, dreams, and aspirations. And now we're able to do that through our mission and to the organization that we started.

[02:40] Rodney: Just like looking back over, what Tina just told you guys, there’s a mentor that come into our lives, different people who have come into our lives, rather teachers, community leaders. Those were real factors for us growing up in some of the environments that we grew up in. So getting into this work was pretty much just what can I say? Natural. It was natural. It was very natural to come to do this because, you know all the help, support their families need, children need, because those are the same supports that you needed as a child, as a youth, and as a young man. So that's how we got into this.

[03:30] Tina: And that's a great segue. But the organization itself started in 2013 when our son shared about some learning challenges that he had. He was leaving and graduating from Millbrook High School and shared his secrets of learning challenges and some of the things that have been tough for him. And so when he did that, it opened the door for other people to embrace who they are, accept others and their differences. And at the end of his interview, he said, now I can just be me. He was so happy to get those things off of his chest that he would be graduating not as a basketball player, but as a human being, a person that had all of these great qualities but couldn't share them because of his learning challenge and wanting to hide that. So at the end of the interview, he said, now I can be me. So he wanted all people to be able to tap into their great qualities and to be honest who they are and who they were meant to be, without restriction or barriers. We went into schools to talk about bullying, effects of bullying, and how our words hurt. We came across a young girl that came up after one of our bullying prevention programs and said, I don't care about bullying, no one cares about me. And she had a personal conversation with me about it. I could then look her in her eyes and let her know that I too had a hard start, but that she could write her own ending to her story. So we went to the drawing board and we created a mentor program so that we can help all people really reach the best version of who they are by building the skills to do so.

[05:25] Dr Diane: I love that idea of being able to write your own ending, of overcoming sort of the hand you've been dealt and the power of the mentor. Can you walk us through a little bit of what the mentor mentee relationship is and how that works?

[05:41] Rodney: Basically, just making the match with students and a trusted adult or somebody that comes through the program, we get to train them, talk to them, interview them, as well as we get to interview the mentee. So we get to interview the mentor, the person that's going to come into these young people’s lives. Once that match is made, they make that connection. They find the different things that they have in common. Sometimes different things can draw them. Sometimes a child might be drawn into because somebody reminds them of their grandparents or something. It could be older mentors. So a younger mentor could be like an older brother. In a sense, it’s just making the connection to find a way that we can bring these young people into their purpose, into their meaning.

[06:35] Dr Diane: So once you make that connection between your mentor and your mentee, how often do they meet? What kinds of things do they do together? Do you all provide additional training for the mentors? How does that work?

[06:46] Tina: Great question. So I'll start by saying that we have a non clinical approach to what we do and because they need time and they need some space to kind of process through their emotions and thoughts outside of the four walls that a therapeutic or a clinical approach would have. 

We go on walks. We do things out in the community to help their social skill building. What we do is pretty unique in the sense that we're very creative and we meet the students where they are with their strengths. So if a student mentions that they really have a knack for reading or they have a knack for playing an instrument or whatever those things are, we really connect them to their strength. We build on those, and we really give them the time and space to share at their pace. 

I will also say that, yes, we do provide additional training for our mentors. So we do provide a mentor training, and we also have a trauma training as well. And we do provide and connect them to different resources that we've partnered with, with the Warren Coalition, which provides a trauma training and such. 

The relationship with a young person and a mentor is so critical. One in three kids grow up without a positive role model in their lives. And these young kiddos are really in need of support, and mentors come in all sizes, all ages, all abilities, and all interests. And so when we're matching the young kiddos with their mentors, we do keep that in mind. And we have a survey that helps to kind of make a successful match. Requirement is that you meet at least with the student — if it's in a school setting — that it's for at least half an hour during lunch. And if it's in a community based setting — that you meet with them at least an hour a week. 

So those times spent with these young kiddos, it’s priceless. It's really about the connection, the bond, the rapport, showing up, being consistent week after week. And there are weeks that students won't really talk about much, except for maybe some things that are going on in their lives that are exciting and some things that may be tough, but they may just want to kind of feel you out.

[09:43] Dr Diane: How many students do you work with each year in terms of your mentor mentee program?

[09:49] Tina: So through our partnership with other agencies like the Warren Coalition and Warren County Schools, the under 18 students that we currently serve on a team of three — total amount of students at 78. In addition to that, we provide summer programs at Discovery Museum. We partner with them to provide character count camps, and those are about 30 students per summer. We have parent enrichment, and we have kids that are going through law involvement. And so I would say on an average, we're talking about 60 students per year.

[10:34] Dr Diane: And if I'm sitting on the fence thinking that maybe I'd like to be a mentor and I'm listening to you guys talk, what would be the next step, I should take?

[10:45] Tina: An application. You can go to our website: imjustmemovement.org We have those applications there on our site. Click that link, you complete the application. Once that's returned, we will start the process of fingerprinting background checks. All of our mentors must complete and pass a background check before they are paired with our kiddos.

[11:11] Dr Diane: Great. And before we go to our first break, I want to ask you each question. Think about the many students you've worked with over the course of the last nine years of I’m Just Me. Think about the prior informal mentorships I know the two of you did before you made this official. Can you think of a specific story that stands out in terms of the power of mentorship? And you don't have to share names, but if you can share a story, that would be really powerful. I think.

[11:42] Rodney: I would say for my story, the mentor making a connection with me, a mentor where we both had come from different backgrounds. The first time I ever got a mentor was a white male. So there was no background that we actually kind of shared. But the thing that he really taught me the most is I could think outside the box and then his compassion, because it didn't matter where he came from, where his privilege was, he wanted to show me that I can live in this privileged life, this world. And I remember one time what he showed me was a picture frame of cows, nothing but in a field. And we're standing in the shopping center when he showed me this picture. And he said, what would I put in that picture if all that land was mine? And I could only name things that I knew, things that I just knew in my environment. But he told me, Rodney, this is actually the shopping center. That field is this shopping center. You can put anything you want and always be open to anything that's out there. You don't have to be closed in just in your world alone. But showing me that I can dream and there's possibilities and things out there. So that's one thing that really inspired me. Like I said, to really want to do this, because it didn't matter what the background and we work with so many different types of students, is what we can provide in their purpose and give them some meaning behind those purposes and things that they want to do and be that support for them.

[13:25] Dr Diane: Thank you for sharing that.

[13:27] Tina: That is wonderful. So I'll quickly share mine. I had a teacher, I was 15 years old, found myself pregnant and not knowing what to do at that time, I had up to that point, I learned that you don't tell your family secrets. You don't tell what goes on. This house stays in this house. But at that point I said, okay, I'm 15, I'm pregnant. In six months, or whatever, I'm not going to be able to hold the secret. So I confided in a teacher. And before I confided in her, she knew something was going on when I showed up that morning and she said, are you having a bad day? Tell me what's going on. And I said, I don't think you want to know what's going on. And she assured me that whatever it was, she wouldn't judge me and that she was there to help. At that moment, I felt a sense of relief because up to that point, I didn't tell things that were going on. So I trusted her and I shared with her that I was 15 and pregnant and scared and not sure what I would be doing about being able to focus on the goals that I had, one of which was graduation. And I just could not see how these things could be possible for me, because where I grew up, 15 and pregnant meant that you would drop out of school, that you would rely on government assistance, that you would make choices that would not be healthy for your child, and then there would be cycles of those things. So that was what I came to the table with this conversation. And what she showed me was, although I was 15 and pregnant, that I still had value and I had worth. And those goals and dreams that I wanted to do were still possible. And not only were they possible, but that she would be there with me and for me to help make it happen. And she lived up to her word. I did graduate on time. I actually made it to college and she helped me get into college and the rest I can say is history because she saw something in me that I did not see in myself. I was able to still achieve those things that I always wanted to do.

[15:55] Dr Diane: Wow. Well, those are two very powerful testimonials on why mentors are important. So again, if you're listening and you're on the fence, reach out to Tina and Rodney because they will gladly get you paired up with a mentor with the I'm Just Me Movement. And if you don't live in our area, find a local mentorship program in your own listening area. We're going to take a break and when we come back, we're going to talk a little bit more about the I'm Just Me Movement and then we're going to talk a little bit more about your personal Adventures in Learning. 

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[17:35] Dr Diane: Welcome back. While we were on break, we were talking about the fact that this is nine years for the I'm Just Me Movement in our area. What do you all have planned to celebrate?

[17:49] Rodney: I think we have quite a few things to celebrate. Not just the birthday, but the National Month. We have the bowling bash that's coming up in October 2. A couple of other events that we're going to be doing are some things on SU campus with the civic engagement thing. So we got a lot of things planned. So Tina probably had a little bit more details than I would probably have as far as the dates. But we have a lot of good stuff in plans, a lot of good stuff in store as we move forward into the future.

[18:26] Dr Diane: Excellent.

[18:27] Tina: Absolutely. So I do have some dates we have for October to start off our National Month. We do have the I'm Just Me Because month that encourages people to go beyond simple tolerance to accept people for who they are and really just embracing the fact that we're all unique. And so if you go to our Just Me Because National Month, you can Google that. It'll pop up right away. It'll let you know how you can celebrate that. Schools are putting together bulletin boards and letting their kiddos share on a board or sharing board on what makes them unique and what helps them tap into those great qualities. October 2, we have a bowling birthday bash. So we will be nine years old. We will celebrate that at Northside Lanes here in Winchester. We are inviting our sponsors and donors and supporters and everyone that has believed in what we do and that has helped us achieve our mission. So that's really, really important. We have a ribbon cutting coming up on October the 13th. Ribbon cutting ceremonies will start promptly at 1130, it will last will last until 01:00 because we have a new office. We'll have light refreshments and cake and a lot of new promotional material because along with our ribbon cutting, we have a new logo reveal and we'll have some goodies for you guys to take home with you. We'll have some oh, my goodness. I don't want to sell everything and tell you everything, but please come. If you're interested in coming by our office, it's Avon Street here in Winchester and that's from 1130 to 1. Just come on in, see our new office, help us celebrate, and we could not do everything that we do without you.

[20:40] Dr Diane: So I know with the mentorship programs, those are geared more towards middle and high school students, but you guys have worked also with the younger crowd doing Character Counts kinds of activities. What sort of things go into those workshops, what are your goals for those and what do you hope to achieve? And how could a teacher who might be listening be able to use that during I'm Just Me Month?

[21:04] Rodney: I think with the Character Counts, especially with the young kids, it's getting them to know themselves earlier, get to find that identifying themselves a little bit, exploring themselves and they're learning a little bit more, not just about them as a person, but learning about their friends and learning about different people from different backgrounds. I think the character counts thing has been very successful because we get to talk about different things, we get to talk about different words from patience and what's the one thing that we talked about? We got word patient, character, being nice, kindness. We even did one segment that we did Talk to the Hand, where each kid created a puppet hand in which they named their puppet hand and they had to go around introducing the puppet hands on how we make friends. And the whole is based on how do we make friends, what would be the first steps to making a friend? And once you have that friend, how do you keep friends? So we talk about those different types of things like that in our character counts. I think for teachers, it's really a good tool for teachers doing this as far as learning, because there's different styles of learning. When kids get up and do presentations, seeing them respect each other while one is speaking and not speaking, giving everybody that courtesy. And sometimes we get to learn those things and respect each other. So when somebody gets up there and they're kind of shy, we don't laugh or something like that, it's so great because we see the kids encouraging that kid up, that's standing up there to like, yeah, keep going, or do you need help? I can help you. So you get all of that just in that week that we do most of our character within that week. And it's so special because these kids grow to know each other, to know themselves. They get to go out in the community with their Kind cards, telling workers and different people, you're great, you rock, you can do this. And when you're teaching kids, especially in this day and age and environment, that kindness is such a powerful thing. And I think that teaching that young will get kids to understand the value of each other and themselves because they get to embrace their diversity, they get to know what that inclusion is and what it looks like, what it feels like and understand that. So it's really great to see that when we're in our character counts, to see the best part of it. When the kids graduate, they actually get the other kid’s certificate and they call up the other kid, another child, and they say good things about them, what made them unique, and then they actually handed that child that certificate, shake their hand, and then the other child gets to introduce someone. So it's just great because at the end of the day, it's about the respect and the character that we want all of our young people to have.

[24:13] Dr Diane: So kind of what I'm hearing as you're talking is kindness is a verb and it's an action that can make a difference. And that as we're learning these things about ourselves, we're also learning to appreciate other people. And it sounds like you're helping the kids really zero in on being seen themselves, but also seeing others and really recognizing who they are.

[24:39] Tina: Absolutely. Inclusion, diversity, community, citizenship, do you make your home, your school and community better? Do you cooperate with others? Are you a good neighbor? And as Rodney was, sharing, each of the kids creates about four kindness cards. And then we go out into the community to make someone's day. We know that when kids and people feel good about who they are, they can pass those on to their peers that are watching. They can teach adults a couple of things or two. It's really important for kids to learn the character traits and positive character traits earlier on. And I think kindness never hurts. We need to always be a little more kindness, patience, self awareness, having people have some knowledge of their own character, their feelings, their motives, their desires, their abilities to tune into their feelings and thoughts and actions. I think that when they can have some self awareness, they can recognize their strengths and their challenges too. 

So we also want to guide you to our website. We do have a Project Positive. It is an initiative that was created by students in collaboration with I'm Just Me Movement. And we would love to help their schools help cultivate more kind and inclusive learning environments. And if they go on our website, they can click on Project Positive and learn about what young people are doing to impact their schools and learning environments in a positive way. And they talk about kindness and how bullying sometimes impacts children, and they have negative thoughts about who they are and how that can play a part in negative things that are going on as well. Because suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people ages 10 to 26. But we know by making someone's day, by being kind, by listening, by being inclusive and celebrating other people's uniqueness, these are things that we can directly do that make a difference in the lives of other people. So I would encourage educators, if they'd like, to bring Project Positive to their school. We do have a format for that, and we'd be glad to collaborate. Thank you. That was a great question.

[27:32] Dr Diane: Good. And I was going to ask people to definitely check out Project Positive. And then the other thing I wanted to share is I've worked with you guys before on Character Counts and some of these ideas, and you know that in my new life, I do professional development with educators where I try to help connect diverse children's picture books to STEM and STEAM. 

But I can't resist a good children's picture book. And as you're talking, I'm finding myself thinking about the wonderful array of diverse books that are out there that would pair beautifully with Project Positive and with the mentoring you're doing. And so I wanted to share a few of those with our listeners, and then I'll put them in the show notes so they can check them out as well. But a couple that come to mind… Matt de la Pena just published a book called Patchwork. And Patchwork is a beautiful story about who you are, and who everybody sees you as as a child isn't necessarily who you grow up to be. And so it's about being in touch with your gifts and having those supports to be able to grow up to be whoever you want. He also has Love, which he wrote with Loren Long, which is just a beautiful book about the many different ways that love manifests in our lives. Another one I really love is All Because You Matter, which is by Tami Charles and Bryan Collier. It's a gorgeous book, and it's really about the I'm just me, who are you, and why do you matter? There's You Matter, which is Christian Robinson, which also sort of hits those same ideas. Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera and Lauren Castillo hits some of those same ideas in terms of mentoring. There's a book called Drawn Together (Minh Le and Dan Santat), which is about a grandfather and a child, and they're from totally different places. There are language barriers. There are generational barriers, but they find commonality through drawing. And it's a beautiful book. The illustrations are gorgeous. It's Dan Santat, and it's just absolutely beautiful. There's Trudy Ludwig, who did Brave Every Day and The Invisible Boy. Brave Every Day is about overcoming anxiety, and The Invisible Boy is about being seen and how the act of kindness helps a child who's invisible slowly become visible to other children within the classroom environment. And then there's The Day You Begin, which is Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez, which is about feeling uncomfortable coming into a situation, but how kindness and empathy can really help you become part of the group while recognizing your differences and celebrating them. And then the last book I was thinking about is After the Fall by Dan Santat. It's where Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall and how he suffers from post traumatic stress after the fact and has to put himself back together and find ways to heal and become a whole egg again. And there's a special surprise metamorphosis at the end. But there are just so many wonderful books and those are just a sampling of the books that are out there. But so many just beautiful books that I think pair gorgeously with the work that you guys are doing. With Project Positive, with the mentoring, with I'm Just Me, and I'll drop all of those into the show notes and share them with you.

[31:06] Rodney: Thank you.

[31:08] Tina: Oh, my goodness. I will have to start a collection of these books. Some of them were on my radar, others were not, but I love the concept. So thank you so much for sharing that.

[31:22] Dr Diane: You are welcome. We're going to take a short break and then when we come back, we're going to dive a little deeper into Tina and Rodney's Adventures in Learning.

 SIDE NOTE: On the break, we discussed some additional picture book titles that work well with Project Positive, mentoring, and I’m Just Me. Check out these additional titles.

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[32:48] All right, so welcome back. It is such a joy to have Tina and Rodney Culbreath with us today on the Adventures in Learning podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Diane, and I wanted to start by asking you all about your own Adventures in Learning. How did you get to where you are today? What's led you to where you are now?

[33:08] Rodney: I think for myself, just being able to be creative in my learning environment. Being allowed to be more creative. Not just for your test, but allow me to do projects. Allow me to learn about history or different things in a way that I can understand it. I can interpret it. And the teachers allowing me to have that freedom. Allowing me to have some of that personality shine through. Where I will be shy. But to create different projects and do different things. So I just think this for me, just having that adventure to learn and having those teachers willing to allow me to be free in that learning environment, in that space and seeing. Let me work in that space in a way, in a unique way. You might have these other directions, but I might do something that's totally different, something that's a gift, that you're kind of gifted at. And then seeing all the students work in their magical ways, I think that for me, that adventure in learning, that’s my adventure. And learning is just that simple thing of just allowing to be free in that learning space and to understand what someone is teaching you, but to put your own spin on it, too, that's, to me, it's just fun. I like seeing it with our students and the children that we work with. I love seeing that.

[34:40] Dr Diane: I was going to say it sounds like you've held onto that and carried it with you through to the work you do today.

[34:46] Rodney: Yes.

[34:47] Tina: Dr. Diane, he's actually holding back. Let him tell briefly about the GI. Joe man.

[34:53] Dr Diane: Do tell?

[34:54] Rodney: Oh, it was a project where we had to do a project on a war, whether it's Vietnam, World War Two or World War One. You had to pick, like, a war, and you had to do a project or your project on it. I decided to do mine with one sheet of paper. Right. Because I wasn't great to get up there to speak during that time. But I created this big, huge box, and I bought the GI. Joe man. I got grass out my yard, filled it up in the box. I took Christmas lights. I took red and green for the grass, and then I did blood for the red, like the explosions and things like that. And I got to use that as a project during high school, those type of things. Like you said, it carried on with me because I do those same types of project with students, giving them ways to be creative, like I said, being creative in your own space, in that learning space, it's just so special and so unique that it makes learning fun. Because learning is supposed to be fun.  It gets your brain thinking, but at the same time, in that space, you still want to have fun. And when you're having fun and you get excited, you achieve even things that you thought you couldn't achieve because you're having so much fun and you want to learn more.

[36:17] Dr Diane: There are so many studies that have shown that playful learning, not just for young children, but for adults, is part of how we thrive and we grasp new material, and it helps us think critically, too.

[36:32] Tina: Yes, absolutely. And I love your playfulness. I love your approach to learning, Dr. Diane. You always do a very great job transferring those STEM activities to real life things. When I see you work in your magic, I'm like, I want to do that, even as an adult. And that hasn't always been the case. My experiences in learning really didn't start for me until I had children because of some of my lived experiences. 

I'm not saying that my life was the absolute hardest of all time, but I'm saying that there were some really tough things that were happening and as a result, I was always in survival mode. Anything that was realistic, anything that was tangible, anything that was before me, I could relate to, I could grasp. But with those challenges, it did kind of put me into a mode where I would say, is this true? Is it not true? And if it's not true, I don't have time. I don't have time to play with the Barbie dolls and put the makeup on and imagine that she's going flying in a cloud way above with candy canes and like that from me, I couldn't grasp. So it wasn't until I had children that I actually got to. I was a young mom, so I was the cool young mom. I’d go on all the field trips. So October came and there I was on a hay ride and everybody said, I'm going with his mom, I'm going to go with her. I started to imagine and open up my mind to possibilities and things that even if they weren't real and in front of me, that I could still retrain my brain to have fun with learning and imagine. My learning experiences really didn't start until I had children of my own and was able to have a lot of playful learning with them and go in and volunteer for their class when they were doing assignments or imaginary things like leprechauns for St. Patrick's Day. Having little footprints of paint that the teachers would put on the desk and the kids would come back and say. Oh my God. There was a leprechaun. And I'd get all excited. I'm like, oh my goodness. So I really got involved with play, really at an older age and now I love it. I feel like I thrive in it. I'm not as imaginary as I could be, but I'm open to learning and experiencing and thriving as an adult with learning.

[39:27] Dr Diane: That makes sense. As you're talking, I'm realizing we've talked in the past about the impact childhood trauma can have on who we are as adults and sort of the need to address it and to work with it. How have you all found yourselves working with trauma and incorporating that into the work that you do now?

[39:50] Tina: Several different ways. We have a person centered approach to whole health and resiliency, wellness and mental health and through some of the initiatives that we're doing, like a trauma informed community network. So there are 26 trauma informed community networks across the state of Virginia. We are one of 26. And the goal for that is helping communities become more trauma informed and more trauma responsive and acknowledging that kids learn differently, kids have different experiences, and that kids that have experienced trauma do have some difficulties with trust learning and such. So we have community mobile workshops that help kids focus again on their strengths and their self awareness pieces, which really helps them open up and see that they're people, they're unique people and as they are, whether they've had things that have been challenging or not, building those resilience factors, the fact that things have happened to young kids is devastating. But the ability for them to bounce back and build skills that will help them become resilient and resilient adults that would then give those skills to their children so we really are one of my goals is helping to end generational cycles of trauma. 

And so through our preventative programs, our workshops, our mobile workshops, community events and with the Trauma Informed Community Network, we have four founding organizations. So as a trauma informed community network, we're very aware that we can't do everything as one organization. So we actually have collaborated with and there are four founding organizations for the Trauma Informed Community network. The name of the network is called Triumph over Trauma. Northern Shenandoah Valley Resiliency Initiative. And in that are the founding organizations are Warren Coalition, United Way, Northwestern, and I'm Just Me movement is the backbone organization for the Trauma Informed Community Network. I know that reducing the amount of trauma or children that experience trauma is important and we also know that the parental piece is huge for this because sometimes parents themselves have been traumatized and they may not have the skills to actually give or help their children build. So it really is an approach — parent, child, community. Not one organization can solve all the problems, but a collaborative effort with several can definitely make a world a difference.

[43:14] Dr Diane: Excellent. So one last question for the two of you. What currently brings you joy?

[43:22] Tina: Mine is instant — my little feisty, sassy, zesty, opinionated, spectacular, self confident granddaughter. When I see her it brings me joy because I know that all of the things that I have learned, done, I can funnel through her and she is a leader even at her ripe little age.

[43:57] Dr Diane: How about you Rodney?

[43:59] Rodney: Mine is all the relationships that you come across in doing this work, all the young children you meet, all the youth you meet, young adults you meet, families you meet. And seeing that we are trying to find ways to support in our communities by collaborating with people, that brings me joy. When I can see those things come together to try to solve some of the issues and things that have happened even since COVID, just to see how we can bounce back as a community and put in our best foot and efforts forward to ensure that we can be in this together for them. That brings me satisfaction when I can see that happening, when I see everybody coming to the table wanting to be a part of something great and for their community. So that brings me joy.

[44:59] Dr Diane: Excellent. And what is your next grand adventure?

[45:05] Tina: Oh goodness, well, I can jump in and say some of our grand adventures are continuing to help with civic engagement and young people become the next leaders, helping them use their voices to make change with historical and systemic racism and social justice issues, helping them organize your thoughts and such. So I can tap on that just a little bit. But we do have some leadership seminars and leadership workshops and resources to help young people be proactive and not talk about all of the problems that be part of the solution. And I'll let Rodney share one of our biggest adventures that we have.

[45:56] Rodney: I think one of our biggest adventures is bringing a professional basketball team to Winchester, the Valley Vipers. I think that's a great adventure, not just for us, but I think for our community, for our young people, our young men who are looking for opportunities to continue to play basketball, but not only basketball, but further and teaching them the brand themselves to be active and engaging in your community. Those are the things that we want to bring with the basketball team and hopefully to continue to get that support in our community because it's not me and Tina's adventure alone, but it's a community adventure and we want everybody to come on that adventure with us and let's take that journey together.

[46:48] Dr Diane: I love that. So if you're ready to join Tina and Rodney in their many adventures, how should they contact you?

[46:56] Tina: Okay, so for the many adventures that you want to contact us, we have a couple of emails and a couple of resources and you can drop those in the chat. I can also share them with you. Anything that’s I'm Just Me related, anything that's related to peer support, mentoring, parent enrichment, recovery with mental health and substance use disorder, those kind of things would be with I’m Just Me. Now, if you're talking about the basketball team, we have a separate email for that and that is vavipers@gmail.com. So anything basketball can definitely be directed towards the email that I shared. 

I also want to share that our goal at I'm Just Me is to promote inclusion, diversity and self pride, as well as helping people overcome adversity. And we foster a commitment to young people that promote self pride, self acceptance, overcoming obstacles, limiting beliefs, avoiding those prosocial friendships, strong interpersonal skills, and reassertion of a sense of hope in the future. And some of those things that we're doing with our I'm Just Me effort as a nonprofit organization will still carry over into basketball. We will still have community engagement. We will still be building up these young men because they're not basketball players only. This is a basketball business, but it's not a business that only does basketball. We have a community service approach, a community engagement approach. We actually have four community partners which we have on board to help with our next adventure with basketball.

[48:52] Dr Diane: Well, I am so excited to see where this next adventure takes the two of you. We'll make sure we put all that contact information in the show notes. And thank you so much for joining us on the Adventures in Learning podcast today. I'm your host, Dr. Diane, and you have been listening to Tina and Rodney Culbreath of the I'm Just Me Movement. Thanks for being here.

[49:12] Rodney: Thank you.

[49:13] Tina: We love you, Dr. Diane. Thanks for all that you do.

[49:19] Dr Diane: You've been listening to the Adventures in Learning podcast with your host, Dr. Diane. If you like what you're hearing, please subscribe, download and let us know what you think and please tell a friend. If you want the full show notes and the pictures, please go to drdianeadventures.com. We look forward to you joining us on our next adventure.

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