Spark. Grow. Unite.

2019-2020 CEEAS Initiatives

Announcing our Upcoming Initiatives for the 2020-21 School Year!

For the 2020-21 school year, we are excited to announce a full year’s worth of initiatives! From September through next summer, we will be sponsoring one initiative each month. We will offer initiatives that include topics in English, science, and the humanities, ones that include national competitions, and ones that explore themes of social justice. All of our initiatives present an opportunity for your students to engage with meaningful and relevant topics and include the chance to win prizes!

As has always been the case with our Initiatives, there will be no fees to participate or to use the materials, which will be made publicly available via our website. Check out the calendar below (you’ll notice some of our longstanding initiatives-- with a couple of new names-- and some brand new initiatives).
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Week 5 Daily Instructional Materials

Daily Instructional Materials for week 5 are here!
The daily instructional materials have been posted to our website. You can access them here: Website

Week 4 Daily Instructional Materials

Daily Instructional Materials for week 4 are here!
The daily instructional materials have been posted to our website. You can access them here: Website

Week 3 Daily Instructional Materials

Daily Instructional Materials for week 3 are here!
The daily instructional materials have been posted to our website. You can access them here: Website

Words Unlocked 2020 Postponed

In light of school closures due to coronavirus and schools doing their best to manage distance learning, we are postponing our 2020 Words Unlocked initiative. While this was a difficult decision to make, we are looking forward to sponsoring the event this Fall, when we will all hopefully be able to offer it to students in its entirety and best form.

In the meantime, our resources will still be available on our Words Unlocked website. We encourage you to still find ways to celebrate National Poetry Month this April in other creative ways.

Thank you for understanding. We are here and available to support you in other ways as you work to ensure your students receive the education they deserve.

-The CEEAS Team

Week 2: Daily Instructional Materials

Daily Instructional Materials for week 2 are here!
The daily instructional materials have been posted to our website. We know these are coming a little late tonight and apologize for any inconvenience. Moving forward, we will be working our hardest to make materials available Friday for the following week.

These lessons are designed to be high quality, relevant educational resources that are fully practitioner ready. For each day, it includes lessons in English, Social Studies, Math, Science, and now health/PE. We also include activities that support social and emotional learning, art, problem-solving and design thinking. The only technology needed to use these resources is that one person on site will need to access our website to download each day’s materials and print them.

Access materials on our website: HERE

Daily Instructional Materials & Letter Campaign

We are writing to share resources, offer our support, and highlight an opportunity to keep your students connected to the community during this difficult time.

Daily Instructional Materials are Here!

The daily instructional materials we promised last week are here! You can access the first set of materials on our website, here. For this first week, we have provided three days worth of materials (for tomorrow through Friday).

As mentioned, these lessons are designed to be high quality, relevant educational resources that are fully practitioner ready. For each day, we provide 45-minute lessons in English, Social Studies, Math and Science, as well as additional activities that support social and emotional learning, art, problem solving and design thinking. The only technology needed to use these resources is that one person on site will need to access our website to download each day’s materials and print them.

Office Hours

We are making ourselves available to you and your colleagues that are working to ensure education continues within your facilities. We are hosting office hours, during which you may schedule a call with us to discuss your current situation.

  • For support with the above daily lesson materials, you can schedule an office hour call with us by clicking here. Whoever is responsible for disseminating the resources and facilitating the teaching and learning, can sign up to speak with members of our team. We will help staff get comfortable with the materials.
  • For more general support in thinking about the possibilities for continuing to provide educational opportunities for your students online or with limited staff, click here.

Letter-Writing Campaign

We know that the current situation is scary and difficult to understand for many of the students we serve. We are starting a month-long letter-writing campaign where we will match your students with community volunteers who will write them letters over the next several weeks. We will then share the letter files with you electronically for you to share with your students. (We will ensure that these will be uplifting, brief, postcard type notes that will not raise security concerns).

We want to do all we can to let our students know they are not alone, and that they have people who care about them. Please consider signing up your school to receive postcards from our volunteers!

Click here to sign up your school for the letter campaign!

Daily Lessons: Instructional Materials to Help You Through the COVID-19 Shutdown

We know the next few weeks are going to be very challenging inside of your facilities. We also understand that in spite of best efforts, you may face teacher shortages and may not have access to the same set of robust, remote learning tools as community-based schools.

We want to help.

Next week we will launch a website that will have high quality, relevant educational resources that are fully practitioner ready. For each day, we will provide 45-minute lessons in English, Social Studies, Math and Science, as well as additional activities that support social and emotional learning, art, problem solving and design thinking. The only technology needed to use these resources is that one person on site will need to access our website to download each day’s materials and print them.

We are designing these lessons so they can be used by secure care or teaching staff, knowing that many of you will be facing personnel challenges.

In addition, our team will host office hours. Whoever is responsible for disseminating the resources and facilitating the teaching and learning, can sign up to speak with members of our team. We will help staff get comfortable with the materials.

Each week’s activities will be organized around a central theme. The first week’s theme will be ‘strength’-- something we all need a lot of right now to get through this challenge together.

We will post the first set of resources next Tuesday, March 24th, which will include materials for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. For the following weeks, we will have five days of lessons. We will do this for 3.5 weeks, and longer if needed. We note that we will not be able to design different resources for individual states or school districts at this time. But we will deliver high quality, high engagement educational materials that are fully ready to use. We will be targeting 8th-10th grade content; they will be accessible to students reading at almost any grade level.

We will send an update out on Monday evening and then launch the website with the abbreviated first week of lessons on the afternoon of Tuesday, March 24th.

The CEEAS Team

P.S. We’ve been getting questions from many of you asking how other jurisdictions are responding to this situation. If you are willing to share what’s happening at your sites to help us gather this information, please fill out this form.

Request Funding for Books During COVID-19

As we are all working to find solutions during this unprecedented situation, we will do our best to periodically update you on any new resources or opportunities that may be helpful to your schools and students.

Today we want to share with you an opportunity to request funding for books to make remote learning possible at your schools. First Book is accepting requests from schools and community programs that want to provide books and reading materials to students. While completing this request form will not guarantee that you will receive funding at this time, First Book is working to fulfill as many requests as possible. It's a very quick form to complete, so we encourage you to submit it and please let us know if your request is filled.

Click here to access the form and submit your request.

We also encourage you to share this email with others in your community serving kids and families through this difficult time.


We are still very interested to hear from those of you who have carried out the Locking Up Our Own initiative at your schools. So if you have a moment to fill out this form and let us know how it went, or how it's going, we'd greatly appreciate it! Click here to complete the form.

JJ Education Resources for COVID-19

We know the last week has been a whirlwind with changes to our schools and communities happening each and every day due to COVID-19. We wanted to reach out and let you know that we are here to help you navigate those shifting winds of change. We have been gathering free online resources and references for online teaching and we have put them in one place, just for you! Click here to preview the resources that we have compiled. We are also available to help you think about the possibilities of continuing to provide educational opportunities to your students online or with limited staff this spring. Click here to set up a time to chat.

Above all else, we are grateful that you are a part of our community and want to do all that we can to help.


Kat and Christina

Unbound Winners 2020!!!

Locking Up Our Own Initiative is Underway!

Our suggested day one kickoff was yesterday, so we hope you all have launched the initiative at each of your schools! (Don't worry, it's not too late if you haven't yet). We're very excited and really want to hear from each of you on how this new set of curriculum and activities are working for your students. We've created this form so you can easily share with us how things are going-- if you fill it out by the end of the initiative you'll be entered to win a copy of the Locking Up Our Own book.

We're also looking forward to receiving submissions for student yard sign designs and draft letters to an elected official!

Thanks to everyone for offering this opportunity to your students!

Dear Teachers and Students,

Wow! You guys read sooooo many books this year! I really appreciate everyone's dedication to Unbound 2020. Prizes will be ordered this week and should arrive Tuesday and Wednesday next week. Check out ALL of the WINNERS in this post. You are so amazing!
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Congratulations to the WINNING Teams!!!

Team Beginning

1st Place: Wilson Creek, Missouri

2nd Place: Cypress School at OGA, Florida

Team Middle

1st Place: Lookout Mountain Academy, Colorado

2nd Place: Naselle Youth Camp School, Washington

Team End

1st Place: Virgie Binford Education Center, Virginia

2nd Place: CAPE Detention, Arizona

Drum roll...the WINNING team is THE END!!!

An average of 655.83 minutes a week!

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Most Inspired Award...

I.E. was very inspired to read his first entire book. He had been trying to finish several books prior to the one he chose for Unbound, but just couldn't get into them. He enjoyed reading The Playlist For The Dead because he could relate to all of the characters.

Great job, I.E.!

Above and Beyond

Congratulations to Susan Boulay from Operation PAR. We are so impressed with the way she integrated Unbound into her ELA class we invited her to be a guest on our podcast. Check it out below.

Book Picture Contest

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Door Decorating Contest

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Bookmarks Contest!

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Published Book Reviews...

RFK Hadley - A. M.
Teens Inc- D. J.

Cypress OGA - R. T.
Cypress OGA - R.
Charles Britt - M. R.
CAPE - T. B.

Click below to check them out!

Don't Forget to Sign Up For Our Next Initiative

If you haven't signed up yet, it's not too late. Locking Up Our Own is a 10-day curriculum that you can use anytime during the month of March. Sign up here!

Locking Up Our Own Teacher Video Guide

Hitting pause on unbound for a quick update... March is next week! To help you all get started with the upcoming Locking Up Our Own initiative, we've posted a teacher video guide that walks you through all the resources and materials. You can view the video if you scroll down on our webpage, here. We've also added a special launch video from the author, James Forman Jr., to the lesson slides!

If you haven't signed up yet, it's not too late. Locking Up Our Own is a 10-day curriculum that you can use anytime during the month of March. Sign up here!

We can't wait for you to launch this new initiative at your schools and see how your students respond!


Thank you for sending in all your bookmarks! We have picked seven bookmark winners below!

Don't forget to get those tallies in...

Book reviews are due by Monday!

Most Inspired!

The Unbound readathon contest is a first for so many of our students. I am opening our Most Inspired form until this Friday. The nomination form is for a student who was most inspired by the Unbound readathon to overcome a challenge. I look forward to reading your submissions. We will recognize winners with a book prize!

Nomination Form: Most Inspired

Lookout Mountain

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Wilson Creek

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Lookout Mountain

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Owensboro Day Treatment

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Operation PAR

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Wilson Creek

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Cape Detention

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Thank you for all of your submission for the door decorating contest! See the winners below!

Next week is the bookmark competition.

Winner: Sierra Osage

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Winner: Wilson Creek

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Winner: Owensboro

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Honorable Mention: RFK

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Announcing Our Brand New Initiative for March!

We're taking a quick break from Unbound news to share out about our upcoming initiative for next month, Locking Up Our Own. (But there is a connection to Unbound... read below!)

This March, your students will have the opportunity to explore a chapter from James Forman Jr.’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Locking Up Our Own. In this 10-day unit, students will learn to better understand the origins of efforts to decrease gun violence and delve into current activism around the issue. Students will read a chapter of the book, participate in a mock city council meeting, research current policy ideas to reduce gun violence (including student activism like the March For Our Lives and #NeverAgain Movement), and draft a letter to an elected official.

As with our other initiatives, CEEAS will host a competition and offer the opportunity for students to receive feedback on their work. First, students can submit designs for yard signs encouraging the community to act to reduce gun violence. Second, we’ll be working with a group of volunteers to offer feedback to students on their draft letters to an elected official-- there may even be the chance to receive feedback from individuals with policy backgrounds!

Check out our website now for more information, including

  • Lesson Plans (Lessons are just 30 minutes, so you can fit them in!)
  • Presentation Slides
  • Suggested Calendar

Everything is ready for you to review and work into your teaching schedule!

If you're currently participating in Unbound, you can get ahead on the initiative by having your students read the chapter this month and count those reading minutes for Unbound!

We hope you consider joining us for this brand new and exciting initiative


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Congratulations to our photo winners!

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Check out the books you said you are reading this week!

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Turning in your tally sheet...

Tally sheets must be submitted using our tally sheet form. Click here to submit your tally sheet. This allows us to track the tally sheets in one place and not in separate emails.

Thank you!

First Week Tally Sheets Due Today!

Weekly Challenges!

Happy Monday!

Your first weekly challenge is due today! Please send your photos to We have gotten so many amazing submissions already! Keep them coming!

Coming Soon:

Weekly Challenge 2: Door Decoration Contest: Decorate a door in your school based on the setting of a book of your choice. Submit pictures to by Feb 17th.

Weekly Challenge 3: Bookmark Design Challenge: Design a bookmark in one of these four book genres fantasy, mystery, action/adventure, and comic book/graphic novel. Click here for a bookmark template and submit your entries via email at by Feb 24.

Weekly Challenge 4: Book Reviews: Write a book review...only a select number of reviews will be published. Click here to download the template and here to submit a review by March 2.

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Unbound 2020 Teams

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Unbound First Weekly Contest!

We hope you all had an incredible launch day! We would like to introduce you to our first weekly contest. This year we are changing up our photo contest. We would like you to recreate the characters in a book for your photo. We will share our top three photos and send you prizes! Get creative! And please remember not to show any students' faces and please adhere to any other guidelines your school/facility might require.

To enter the contest, send your photos to by Feb 10.

If you have any questions send us an email!

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Happy Launch Day!!!

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SHOUTOUT to Vel R. Phillips School!

This school in Wauwatosa, WI made these incredible posters to promote Unbound in their school. The pictures are of teachers, the principal, and secure staff. WAY TO GO!!!!
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Unbound 2020 Team Selection

Unbound 2020 Team Selection

Unbound Launches Monday!

Unbound 2020 is officially here! Thank you all for waiting patiently for the resources to get started.

Unbound will officially start this Monday, Feb 3. Tomorrow I will share a video of a live drawing of the Unbound teams and this year's theme. Tune into this page tomorrow to watch the video with your students. Get students excited about Unbound by hanging this promo poster. Keep tabs on the when to turn in your weekly tallies using this year's calendar. Have students track their reading minutes by using these bookmarks. Add the minutes to the weekly tracker (*see below) and upload your data to the tally form each Monday. If you are NEW to Unbound, we recommend watching this video to get started.

This year we will be having new challenges so stay tuned...we will have three weekly challenges and will announce the first one this Monday.

Please DO NOT hesitate to reach out to us at to ask us all your questions!


Weekly Tracker

Weekly Tally Form

Unbound Poster

Monthly Calendar

Student Bookmarks

Weekly Report Form

Tracker and Submission Video

*The weekly tracker is a Google Sheet. When you click on the link it will make you your own copy. If you need an excel version just click File- Download as Excel. If you cannot open it at all please email us.

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February is around the corner... Sign up for Unbound Readathon!

Unbound is a month-long readathon for students in secure settings, that provides a framework and incentives for them to increase their engagement with books. This is one of our most popular initiatives… you won’t want to miss it! Sign up using the button below!

Unbound updates for 2020

After 5 years of sponsoring unbound, we’re changing things up a bit. This year, we won’t be offering book bundles to every school that signs up… but, we’re increasing our prizes, which include opportunities to win book bundles for your schools. This year is going to be great!

Donors Choose

If you’re looking to expand the book offerings at your school, we hope you’ll consider creating a DonorsChoose fundraiser. It’s a free and easy way to raise money to support projects in your classroom… we’ve had a few teachers already be successful in their fundraisers. Plus, if you share your fundraiser with us, we’ll do our best to share it! For more information on how to get started, read our guide here. We’ve also created a suggested booklist here.


It's not too late to join in on Uncovered!

There's still time for your students to write and submit stories for our journalism initiative, Uncovered. Read more details on this initiative below, and access our teacher resources HERE.

Uncovered is Here!

That's right, our new journalism initiative for January is here and we're launching it Monday 1/6!

We've created 5 days of curriculum to teach your students about writing articles for publication. All teacher resources are available on our website, here, including powerpoint slides, contest guidelines, and the contest calendar.

We are opening applications for student editors today! Student editors will be involved in helping to select which student works go into the publication, reading content submissions and editing for spelling, punctuation, and grammar, ensuring that all copy in the assigned section is of sound journalistic value and adheres to journalism ethics, contribute to decisions on the layout of the publication. Please have your students submit their application by Jan 9th. We will announce our student editors on Jan 10th. Click here to apply.

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Announcing our January Initiative!

We are excited to unveil our surprise January initiative, Uncovered, a nationwide journalism publication. Your students will learn about the art of journalism, how to uncover a newsworthy topic, and write an article. Students will also have an opportunity to submit articles for publication in a range of topics, and we’ll be selecting three applicants to act as student editors, with the chance to help determine what is fit to print! Uncovered will launch on January 6th, but we’re working to release the curriculum and project schedule before then. Stay posted for more information!

Sending Some Love Update:

For all schools that ordered book bundles, all have been ordered and should arrive by end of today. As a reminder, you can find suggestions for how to record on our website. Also, please consider sharing your student recordings with us via this portal. We love receiving these and sharing them through our newsletter. If your students have more feedback on the project, you please submit that as well!

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Sign up for our December Initiative!

Sending Some Love is back again for the 2019 holiday season! This project is a great way for our young people in confinement to have an opportunity to be merry, connect with loved ones, and combat their feelings of loneliness and isolation during the holiday season.

Participants are recorded as they read a holiday book aloud. They then send the recording and the book, as a gift, to a child—perhaps their own child, a younger sibling at home, or a child at a nearby daycare center.

If you work in a secure youth facility and are interested in signing up for Sending Some Love, please visit our website for more information and register below CEEAS will provide book bundles to the first 60 school sites that register! Don't wait, get your students excited about the holidays and sending some love home now!
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November: DIY Initiative Month

Thank you to all the teachers and students who participated in Unsung. November is a ‘Do It Yourself’ Initiative. We have lots of former initiatives to choose from, and we encourage you to explore some of the options below:


Start from Scratch: This curriculum teaches students how to use Scratch to design animations. The animations are centered around restorative justice and can be a great therapeutic storytelling device.

Code Combat: Do you have your own Code Combat licenses? Host a school-wide competition for a week-long coding initiative. See which students are most inclined to pick up the skills of Python in this game based coding program. Don’t have licenses? Write a donorschoose or email us to purchase some.


Cardboard Challenge: This challenge is one that anyone can launch in their school. Reach out to the cafeteria and ask them to save all of their cardboard boxes for your students. After that, you are ready to engaging students in this STEAM activity to build arcade games out of cardboard boxes. View the website for some additional materials that can enhance their building process. This is a FAN FAVORITE! Looking for a way to securely cut cardboard?...try these safe cardboard knives. Don’t forget to watch the video!

Academic Bowl

Academic Bowl: This is a wonderful way to build a sense of community in your school. Select some questions and run a school-wide Academic Bowl. We suggest you use LIVE Quizizz mode to conduct the rounds. Don’t forget that your questions can be anything...academic, sports, theme based on holidays, or pop-culture. Order some trophies and watch those brains go to work!

Please share your work with us! We think giving students feedback on their work is a critical part of the learning process. If you have selected a project and send us your top three final products, we will get some of our reviewers to provide your students with written feedback.

If you are excited about incorporating all of these ideas into one need to worry, there is another DIY month in May!

We will be back in late November for our December initiative, Sending Some Love!

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The Unsung 2019 Album!!!

Below you will find the individual songs from this year's top five winners. Click here to listen to it as a playlist on YouTube. We will be publishing the songs to iTunes and Spotify this year! Please share the songs with anyone and everyone!!!

**We will include 3rd place soon.

Unsung 2019 1st Place War
Unsung 2019 2nd Place Diary of Changed Man
Unsung 2019 3rd Place Flashback
Unsung 2019 4th Place Juvenile Life
Unsung 2019 5th Place Pick Up the Love

Unsung 2019 Top Five Album Dropping Tomorrow!!!

A shout-out to Christina for using our student-created art from Douglas County Youth Center in Nebraska to create this year's album cover. We will send you our YouTube playlist so you can enjoy the top five songs and share them with everyone!
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Unsung Top Five Winners!!!

Congratulations!!! We are in the process of pushing the songs out so you can all listen to them. We are so proud of all the students and teachers involved in Unsung.

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Unsung Podcast!

Christina and I were asked to be a part of a podcast to talk about Unsung. Below is the YouTube video. We shared three songs from this year's submissions. We hope you enjoy it!
Odo Sound Podcast Episode 6 - UNSUNG with Kat and Christina

A story from Houston...

This week I was working with teachers in the Houston Detention Center. After our training, I got to see this incredible banner that the students designed for their gallery walk about Unsung. Valerie shared a story with me and I asked if we could videotape it. Thankfully, she agreed and I wanted to share it with you guys. I also got to meet two of the students who made it into the top ten and they serenaded me. I really appreciate all that you do!

We have incredible sponsors who make all of this work possible. These stories help us bring them into the classroom with you and see the impact of Spark Grow Unite! Keep them coming!!

Impact of Unsung: The Voices of Youth Justice

Your Top Ten Finalists...

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The scores are coming in...

Be on the lookout for this email! We have had two out of the twenty-five reviewers turn in their scores. If your song receives a perfect score we will be sending you an email with a Perfect Score Certificate.

Next Wednesday we will announce the top ten finalists. We can tell there is going to be a lot of competition already. We really appreciate how hard you have all worked on your songs. We have listened to every song in the contest and we are blown away by your talent!

ANNOUNCING a Finalist Reviewer from the NBA!!!

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Greg Taylor Senior Vice President, Player Development National Basketball Association

As Senior Vice President of Player Development for the National Basketball Association (NBA), Greg Taylor manages the league's initiatives that promote the personal, professional and social development of NBA players. He is responsible for NBA programs designed to orientate and educate rookies during their transition into the league, and advise team directors on overall player development, including best practices for managing off-the-court player matters. Taylor also leads yearlong programs assisting players in continuing education, financial management and career transition throughout their NBA careers and beyond.

Prior to joining the NBA in February 2013, Taylor served as President and CEO of the Foundation for Newark's Future, working to forge private and public sector partnerships to support education reform policies in Newark, N.J. During his tenure, Taylor led the foundation in several groundbreaking investments that transformed and improved educational opportunities for children in Newark.

Taylor also worked as Vice President for Programs of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where he led a series of innovative initiatives that empowered community leaders and organizations through early childhood education, racial equity and family economic security programs. He has also been a longtime youth basketball coach and is a current board member of both Athletes for Hope and the Newark Charter School Fund.

Taylor received his B.A. from Hunter College, City University of New York and his J.D. from the Bloomington School of Law at Indiana University. He is a native of New York City.

YJAM Feature on Unsung!!

Check out this piece from YJAM about Unsung. It features some lyrics from our launch contest and great artwork made by you!

October 7th is the LAST day to SUBMIT songs!

You are no longer Unsung! Submit your songs below to enter the contest.

I will be visiting a school tomorrow and your email response may be delayed. Best of luck!!!

The Submission Portal is OPEN!!

The submission portal is open and will close on October 7th at midnight. Each school may submit up to three songs.

Submission Portal

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Announcing Marcy Mistrett...

Marcy Mistrett has been the CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice since 2014. The Campaign for Youth Justice advocates to end youth being charged, sentenced and incarcerated as adults. In the decade since the organization opened, more than 35 states have changed their laws making it more difficult to treat children as adults by launching campaigns that are anchored in the experiences of the youth and families most impacted by these harmful policies.

Trained in social work, Marcy began her career working in community-based legal aid with court-involved youth. She worked as part of the legal team capturing psycho-social histories and contributing to mitigation reports for youth, particularly youth tried as adults. After 7 years in direct service, Marcy worked at a national funding collaborative, the Institute for Community Peace, focused on developing community-based responses to violence prevention. As the Director of Training and Evaluation, Marcy trained grantees on effective coalition building, promising practices in violence prevention, resident engagement, structural racism, and sustainability strategies. Marcy also oversaw $2 million in evaluation grants to measure the collective impact of the community-driven initiatives.

Marcy left the Institute for Community Peace to open the D.C. office of The Posse Foundation, a national college success and leadership program that identified and trained young, urban leaders from diverse backgrounds, leveraged full-tuition college scholarships at top tier colleges and universities, and supported them through college graduation and into careers, with a 90% graduation rate.

Prior to coming to CFYJ, Marcy was the Executive Director of a cooperative, play-based preschool in Washington DC and partner at Onward Consulting, a non-profit consulting practice in the District. She has her BA from American University and her AM in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

Introducing...Amy Lopez!

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New Final Reviewer: Amy Lopez!

Amy Lopez began her career as a public-school teacher and then administrator in Texas, her home state. She found her way into correctional education as the Principal at the Al Price juvenile facility and then Superintendent of Education for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. In 2015, Ms. Lopez was recruited to initiate education reforms for the 160,000 inmates in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice by the Windham School District, and in 2016 was appointed by Obama-era Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to build a school district within the Federal Bureau of Prisons where she served as the FBOP Chief Education Administrator. Ms. Lopez’s career includes serving as the Deputy Director of College and Career Readiness, Professional Development, and Special Projects for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and the Director of Programs for the Lone Star Justice Alliance. For three decades, she has focused on serving youth and adult students in public and confined settings, as well as the staff who work with them. Her approach to providing educational and career readiness opportunities to students and staff is innovative, motivating, and effective. She has served on the U. S. Department of Justice’s Leadership Excellence and Achievement Program as a mentor, on the White House Leadership Development committee, and on a variety of reentry and workforce councils in Texas and for the federal government. Ms. Lopez is a frequently-invited guest speaker and lecturer on leadership, correctional education, and incarcerated youth. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University, earned her M.Ed. from Lubbock Christian University, and is currently a Doctoral candidate at Sam Houston State University.

Returning from last year...Aloe Blacc!

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Aloe Blacc

With the release of his major-label debut Lift Your Spirit, Aloe Blacc moved and inspired audiences across the globe through his powerful fusion of soul, folk, R&B, and pop. Arriving in 2014, the Grammy Award-nominated album spanned from feel-good anthems like the platinum-selling single “The Man” to intensely charged tracks like Blacc’s acoustic version of “Wake Me Up”—the massive hit he sang and co-wrote for Swedish DJ Avicii, which topped the charts in more than 100 countries. Now at work on the follow-up to Lift Your Spirit, the L.A.-born rapper/singer/songwriter has expanded his emotional terrain to capture an even more personal element of the human experience.

Coming Soon!!!

Next week we will introduce you to a new finalist reviewer each day of the week. We have some really BIG names to share with you this year.

***The submission portal will open October 1st!

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Student Art Inspired by Unsung- Douglas County Youth Center, Nebraska

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S.M. at Hogan Street in Missouri won the Launch Contest! Ms. Rosen's class will get a microphone and S will get a lyric journal. We are looking forward to seeing what you create for the contest!

Only 15 labeled as a menace

Pulled into the streets, watched my homies rest in peace

Talking to my family once a week

In a cell starving, nothing to eat.

In and out of court, with a judge who hate me

Look me in the eye while she say im guilty.

Then its back to the cell, with no one to hold

My counselors say they care, but they don’t really know me.

Justice is corrupt, and that ain’t even just for me

Everybody got a situation, we just want to be free.

Launching Unsung:

Unsung will officially start on September 16th!

We will be kicking off the first week with a launch contest. Click here to access the additional launch materials. The winning student and classroom will each receive a prize! Students will receive a lyric journal and you will receive a microphone for your classroom to help record your students’ songs! (one entry per student) The launch contest submission window closes September 20th.

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The deadline for submitting songs to the overall Unsung Contest is October 7.

We will announce the top ten finalists on October 17th and the top five winners on October 24th.

Please note the following change in contest rules: Schools will be allowed to submit a maximum of three (3) songs. We encourage schools to host an internal song contest amongst your students to determine your top three for entry into our overall contest.

Soundtrap accounts are coming soon. All schools will have their student accounts by September 16th!

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A huge CONGRATULATIONS to Hope Shepard at the Cypress School in Florida. She had her Donors Choose project fully funded! Don’t forget to create your Donors Choose fundraiser and share it with us-- we’ll do our best to help you get funded.
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Launching Unsung Materials

We are so excited to launch the Unsung materials!

Don't forget to sign up.

Get started with the contest materials:

We have created a series of activities that are completely customizable to meet the needs of your students or the time you have available for the initiative. You do not have to complete all of the activities and you can add to them to bring in additional standards and content.

Curriculum Activities- Google Slideshow

***Need a Powerpoint version? Email us:

Teacher Video Guide-



Click below to learn more about the contest guidelines:

Contest Guidelines

Get ready for the technology:

Technology Guidelines

Technology Video-



If you don’t have the technology or the internet...don’t worry! We don’t want access to technology to be a barrier for students. You are welcome to participate and capture your student’s songs and submit MP3 files. Some schools are going to record on a teacher computer or a tablet with a microphone. Get creative!


We are looking forward to working with you this year. As we prepare our launch of Spark. Grow. Unite. we would like to help you connect to all the resources. Follow the steps below to get started.

Checklist to Get Started:

  1. Sign up here!
  2. Bookmark our Website
  3. Bookmark the S'more.
  4. Join our Slack Community.

We will be in touch soon!

-Kat and Christina

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Spark. Grow. Unite.

Bringing Highly Engaging, Culturally Relevant, and Technology Enhanced Curricula to Teachers in JJ Facilities All Year Long