BCAUSEICAN mentors children in the Greater Washington, D.C. area, teaching them financial and computer literacy and how to eat healthy and live healthier lives. The nonprofit was founded by three men who were born and raised in this community and believe they have something to give back. This is exactly the kind of mission we can get behind at Kars4Kids and we were thrilled to be able to help BCAUSEICAN with a small grant, to the tune of $750. Because anything for the kids, right?
That’s how we feel, at any rate, and we thought you might like to know more about this organization. To that end, Kars4Kids spoke to Renaissance man Ron Nicholson, Founder, Board Member, and Program Manager of BCAUSEICAN. An IT professional, Ron has experience working with children as a former youth leader in his congregation, and he’s also somewhat of a fitness expert as a spin instructor and basketball coach. (Can you see why we called him a “Renaissance man?”) Ron was kind enough to give us the lowdown on BCAUSEICAN:
Kars4Kids: Your mentoring workshops offer activities not usually available to this sector. Can you tell us what these activities might be?
Ron Nicholson: Our mentoring program is a mix of foundational concepts like being a good citizen, dealing with peer pressure, and establishing goals and career plans, and topical subjects like cyberbullying awareness, interacting with law enforcement, and hypersexual imagery and language. We’re constantly developing new sessions and activities that focus on helping our young people be the best possible representation of themselves and members of our communities.
Kars4Kids: How long does your computer literacy workshop run and what can kids do after completing this workshop?
Ron Nicholson: Well, our wonderful computer literacy workshops and education sessions vary in duration. We offer 2-hour focused workshops that immerse kids in things like coding and scripting, app design, and using Microsoft Office applications. And we also have a curriculum for summer and after-school programs that cover a broad range of subjects from social media tips and safety, building and repairing laptops, networking, and cybersecurity.
Kars4Kids: Can you describe the Stock Market Challenge? It looks like your preparation course is popular, since registration is closed. Why are kids attracted to this challenge?
Ron Nicholson: There are various stock market challenges and stock market games sponsored by companies on both local and national levels, and what we offer through our financial literacy program is a stock market education class that informs students about the basic operation and objectives of the stock market, definitions of terms and lingo, and we even have a fantastic simulation that allows kids to trade real stocks in real time. It’s very exciting and we’ve found that participants in the class perform better because they know how to recognize good stocks and read the clues for growth and loss.
Our goal in offering this education extends beyond participation in challenges, though. What we hope to do is open kids up to wealth-building opportunities and career options that have traditionally been closed to them.
Kars4Kids: What happens if a child wants to attend a workshop or a fair with a fee, but can’t afford it? Are there scholarships available?
Ron Nicholson: One of the great things about our programs is that we aim to reach the widest audience possible. A mainstay of our mission is that we want to bridge the divide that is created when a child’s financial situation prevents him or her from leveraging opportunities and education that are readily available to kids in “better” ZIP codes. To us, the lack of money does not mean a lack of opportunity. The majority, if not all, of our events and activities are free for children that want to attend. BCAUSEICAN relies heavily on sponsorship, donations, and gifts from individuals and companies that believe in and support our mission and our community’s children.
Thanks to generous donations, we’re able to provide laptops and school supplies, field trips, holiday toys, books, nutritious meals, and we can do so much more and reach so many more kids with the continued financial support of our friends and partners.
Kars4Kids: What about your Health and Wellness Program? Tell us what a child might learn from the experience?
Ron Nicholson: The Health and Wellness program is one of my favorites. I’ve seen firsthand how a steady diet of fast food and sugary drinks are affecting our children who oftentimes don’t know any better. We aim to not only educate kids, but their parents as well about shopping for nutritious ingredients, preparing quick healthy meals, and even finding the best options on a McDonald’s value menu. Also, we offer opportunities for kids to play again – get off the sofa, get away from the video game and go outside and play kickball, play tag, toss a football. Incorporating even a little bit of daily activity promotes great physical health, improved mental health, encourages team behavior and healthy competition.
Kars4Kids: One of your foci is “social and behavioral comportment.” How do you manage to impart these skills to the youth in your programs?
Ron Nicholson: That stems from our mentoring program, but we exercise this instruction in all our interactions with the kids. How do you treat your friends so they feel respected? How should you behave in the presence of adults and authority figures? Why is it important to present yourself in a clean and tidy manner? What does a tattoo on your neck indicate to the person who’s interviewing you for a job? Does your vocabulary reflect your intelligence? Those are some of the thought-provoking exercises and discussions we have to get kids thinking about how they are perceived by themselves and others.
Kars4Kids: Tell us about one or more of your success stories.
Ron Nicholson: One of my most memorable kids is one that we recently had in a computer literacy after-school program at a local rec center. The first time we met her, it seemed like her attitude came through the door before she participated in any activity: she was very disengaged and very negative. I had to ask a counselor to remove her from the class for being so disruptive.
She came back the next week and I had a chance to speak with her after class and she shared some information with me that gave me valuable insight to some of the issues we were dealing with. We developed trust and rapport and after twelve weeks of classes, she became one our better students. We both grew from the experience.
Kars4Kids: What do you think your impact is on the wider Prince George’s County community?
Ron Nicholson: That’s a great question. We like to think we’re having a broad and deep impact on all the lives we touch. We measure it in better feedback from parents, teachers, coaches, and we see it in the behavior of the kids. While we’re not working directly with any one county agency to track metrics and gauge improvements in academic or social performance, we are working with families and kids one day at a time to see that each day brings some new knowledge or exposure or hope. That’s how we like to measure our impact.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for BCAUSEICAN?
Ron Nicholson: What’s next is wide open. We’re still a pretty young organization, and we’re working really hard to expand our presence here locally. And maybe within the next five years we can see our program branching out to kids and families in other areas.
Right now, one of our founders is based in Chicago, and we’ve had some pretty good success with reaching out to get some of our classes running there. I’m looking forward to growing there.
And with the continued generous support of our donors, friends, and sponsors, we can reach more kids and have them believe that they CAN, too. That’s our goal!