August 5th 2016

“I liked the “Each one, greet one” – getting to know others from different countries and all the activities to help us learn” said one of the participants in the 3rd annual I am a Leader workshop, July 26, held at Clarkston First Baptist Church. The twenty-eight participants sat in language groups with interpreters  and coaches to discuss “myths and truths” about dual – language learners and to develop their personal goals and action plans.


Shahed Waheeb, one of the coaches, translated the “Neighborhood Bingo” in Arabic, so the Arabic speakers from Sudan and Iraq networked in both Arabic and English. Neighborhood Bingo was a big hit as the participants walked around the room finding neighbors who had: a child(ren) at Indian Creek Elementary, had met a famous leader, liked the color blue, and other items on the “bingo”card. The goal was to complete the full card with signatures from those in the room.

IMG_20160723_105919 IMG_20160723_105947 What did that activity have to do with leadership, asked the facilitator. The response: “it helps you lose your fear about going up to strange people and having a conversation and finding out more about them. Good leaders listen.”

While the participants enjoyed mini-lectures, role plays, and small group discussions, their children enjoyed games and activities, supervised by Clarkston First Baptist Academy teachers in their child care center, located in the same building as the workshop.
“Good food, good conversation, learning, and laughter – that’s what we did,” said Malaika Wells, one of the organizers of the event. During the workshop, participants also generated SMART goals and will report on their progress at the next session.

The I am a Leader workshop series is sponsored by the Somali American Community Center and CDF Action and is made possible by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Partners include: New American Pathways, Women Watch Afrika, Refugee Literacy Program, and Clarkston First Baptist Church.

For more information: Email Roberta Malavenda, Executive Director, CDF Action:

Interested in supporting the I am a Leader program? Visit our GoFund Me page here.

July 19th 2016

We want to share a recent article that was published by Montessori Partnerships of Georgia that so wonderfully captures the recent Montessori workshop held in Clarkston. Over 60 early learning teachers and candidates for the Child Development Associate credential attended this event. This two day workshop was sponsored by the International Montessori Training Institute and CDF Action.

Childcare Providers Entranced by Montessori Workshop
by Anne Ledoux

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the first weekend workshop presented by Montessori Partnerships for Georgia in collaboration with CDF Action and the International Montessori Training Institute (IMTI). Joen Bettmann, the Director of Training at IMTI, was the featured presenter.
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The weekend was filled with exploration, play, and discovery. Close to sixty childcare providers, teachers, and early childcare trainees were in attendance, many with no previous Montessori experience. The diversity of the attendees was amazing and was highlighted by the need for simultaneous Arabic and Somali translators.

It was inspiring and reaffirming to witness the collective “ah-ha” moments of the attendees.

There were numerous times when a new Montessori concept caused a murmur to escalate into a whisper that took over the entire room. This was certainly the case when Joen challenged the attendees to change their mindset and refrain from thinking of what a child is doing as “wrong” but instead think of it as exploration.

The liveliest portion of the weekend came in response to the question, “How do you reconcile cooperation versus competition?” Non-competitive games and activities were introduced. Right away the group of women from Somalia was visibly enthusiastic and excited. Their translator explained that the game they were learning was very similar to a game that all Somali children play. Roberta Malavenda from CDF Action commented how nice it was to see so many of the attendees relaxing, having fun, and learning that many of the principles of Montessori are already a part of their culture and traditions. The games led to further discussions regarding intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards and how best to help our children develop intrinsic motivation. After the games came to an end everyone was gathered and we sang songs that truly cemented our coming together as a community.

As the workshop came to a close it was clear that many of the attendees were inspired and wanted more information. Questions arose such as:

  • “Where do you start when you want to introduce Montessori into an environment?”
  • “Will there be an opportunity to see Montessori in action?”
  • “Are there any Montessori schools that will open their doors for observation?”
  • “Will you be offering a follow-up workshop?”

The workshop was a remarkable experience. Not only did it introduce the principles and practices of Montessori to educators who had no previous knowledge of Montessori, but it was reaffirming to witness how Montessori speaks to people from such diverse cultures and circumstances. I am looking forward to attending and participating in the next workshop – I hope we don’t have to wait too long.

July 5th 2016

Will you consider supporting CDF and the I am a Leader program through this GoFundMe campaign? We hope you will! Please read below about how the women of Clarkston are working together to improve the lives of their families and their communities.


Thirty women in Clarkston, GA, most of us former refugees, are beginning an “I am a Leader” training program. Most of us already kept our families together through escape from danger in our homelands, several years in refugee camps, resettling in the US, and are now wanting to build further upon our skills and strengthen our voices so that we can make even more difference for ourselves, our children, our schools and our community.

The “I am a Leader” program is bringing us together to learn to work more effectively with women of other nationalities. We have Somali, Iraqi, Bhutanese, Sudanese and American women who have agreed to work together to learn even more about leading our families and impacting our communities. We are going to share our cultures with each other, learn from each other, share our stories and share our dreams. We are learning to trust new people, in a new land, and learning how to work together as strong women. At the end of the training we will form small groups and cooperate on projects to help the community .

Support I am a Leader Today

Most of us are mothers, with young children, and plan to become more involved with our children’s schools. Some hope to develop art projects to highlight the cultures of our homelands. We will work closely with our children’s teachers so our children are learning more both at home and at school. We want to improve our schools!

A couple of us are leading conversations with our neighbors in our apartment complexes to improve our living conditions. We want to make the play areas and community rooms more attractive for more people to use.

Earlier groups of women in this program started an effort, and succeeded, in refurbishing a teacher’s lounge at a local elementary school. Another group brought together a large project and created a school mural describing the hopes and dreams of young people and their families. Words such as “learning”, “trust”, “joy”, and “do your best”, in several different languages, formed the trunk of a large, and strong, tree.

One previous group created a multicultural “welcoming” committee at a local child care center, ensuring that all ethnic groups felt welcomed at the center. This even led to additional ethnic staff being hired!

We are planning on each project costing about $500 – $600, and there will be 7 – 10 groups of us working together. We need about $5,000 to complete all the projects. Our group projects will begin in August. Please help us work together and learn to become even stronger leaders!

Thank you for your support of the I am a Leader program! 

Clarkston Development Foundation – CDF Action, is working with us on this project. CDF Action works to connect and engage the diverse residents of Clarkston by helping residents recognize and develop their assets and assist them in creating activities and services that benefit the community. All donations given through CDF Action, a registered 501(c)(3) charity, are tax deductible.

June 27th 2016

“Families will support what they help create.”

That was the take away message from those who attended the Clarkston Families Decide session presented by CDF Action at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) Family and Community Engagement Conference. The conference was held in Pittsburgh, PA on June 20 – 23, 2016 and was truly an honor to attend.

friends in PITTAccording to one of the participants, “This session was unique. As a result of the Clarkston Families Decide process, families who spoke many languages made decisions about how to use funds to support their ideas about early learning.”

Attending the conference were Dr. Linda Grant, Early Learning, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Zainab Ali, Masters degree, Early Childhood, and consultant with CDF Action, and Roberta Malavenda, Executive Director CDF Action.

photoOver 1,500 participants attended the third annual IEL Conference on Family Engagement which featured outstanding plenaries and workshop sessions, including speakers who presented the Pittsburgh education story and sessions by the National League of Cities and Teaching for Change.  For more information on IEL and the Conference visit their website here.

To download the PowerPoint presentation given by CDF at this conference, click here.


June 21st 2016
The Clarkston 4th Annual Tell Me a Story! festival drew more than 250 children and adults to a day long literacy and storytelling event May 21, 2016 at the Clarkston Community Center.
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Children enjoyed literacy activities facilitated by the Carlos Museum, the reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear by families and staff from New American Pathways, and an ABC spoon game developed by Scottdale Early Learning Center! There were a multitude of additional activities from over 10 other community partners.
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Not to be missed was the ever famous, Cat in the Hat.
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Stories from around the world were featured in the Angora Hall, hosted by Gwen and Laverne from Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia. Also featured was Ms. Glitter, drumming, songs (and more stories!) in many different languages!
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The festival was developed by the Clarkston Early Learning Network to promote the power of storytelling and reading at an early age as well as the importance of speaking, talking, and singing to young children in their home language.
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The event was the kick off of the DeKalb Summer Reading Partnership, and Dr. Sandra Ford, District Health Director with DeKalb County Board of Health, was on hand to greet and meet participants.
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A big THANK YOU to Virginia Reese Photography for capturing this event! Interested in volunteering for next year?  Contact CDF Action today!

The fourth annual festival sponsors include DeKalb Habitat for Humanity, Clarkston Library, Refugee Family Literacy Project, Clarkston Community Center, DeKalb County, and over 15 other organizations and groups. The event was funded this year with a grant from Rubbermaid, New American Pathways, and CDF Action.