Lisa Wise ('20), Chief Rooster, Flock DC and Ebony Harris, Principal, Templeton Elementary School
July 31, 2020
“It was clear when we walked through that door that we could be helpful.”
Lisa Wise (‘20) - owner, Flock DC has always understood the value of education. Growing up in rural Idaho, in a small one-bedroom house, Lisa experienced her share of barriers.
“I got a very poor education growing up. We were under-resourced as a family. We moved a lot, so I was dropped into many schools.” Lisa remembers.
Lisa grew up very aware her education was lacking. And had her access to education been better, life might have been less of a struggle. So, when an opportunity arrived to help students in need. Lisa didn’t waste time. That opportunity came on November 21, 2019.
Ebony Harris is the principal of Templeton Elementary School. She recalls that day she met Lisa. “I remember everything about meeting Lisa. She has inspired me more than she will ever know. She doesn’t know the extent of what all she has done for our school.”
A few days before Ebony first met Lisa, she received an email from Dr. Monica E. Goldson (’18), Chief Executive Officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools. Monica asked if Ebony’s school would host LGW leaders for a school visit. Lisa visited Templeton that day with her Signature Program class and met Ebony for the first time.
“I remember that conversation so well, everyone was touring the school and we got a chance to talk. I am an entrepreneur in the property management world. People don’t always have the best impressions of our work,” said Lisa.
Lisa learned that Ebony’s grandmother happens to live in a building around the corner from Flock DC. They were bonding over troubles in the building under the current owner – who didn’t have an interest in taking good care of communities. Their model is purely profit-driven. By the time the conversation got around to Templeton, Lisa had already decided to help. The needs at the school were vast.
“Many of my students are coming from war-torn countries and are unaccompanied minors. They are suffering from PTSD,” says Ebony. Templeton serves a community of more than 1,000 students from over 30 countries, speaking 26 different languages. The school is home to a large number of immigrants and refugees. Poverty for some of the kids is extreme.
Ebony had developed several community partnerships before, but this new partnership has provided unique supports to the school. It has helped her to bring certain aspects of the school vision to fruition.
Flock DC’s partnership with Templeton has been very impactful. “We are a purpose-driven, values-based company, Templeton plays such an essential role in the community and their needs are exceptionally great. We felt good about offering resources but even better about doing so without them having to ask.” The commitment to purpose propelled her forward.
Lisa and Ebony started with some immediate challenges. Someone had offered to donate a refrigerator, but the school had no way of picking it up. Lisa’s team arranged for pick-up and delivery to the school. Now two refrigerators serve the faculty and staff that pack lunches every day. But that effort was just the entry point.
Lisa and Flock DC helped support the school in other ways as well. There were bigger needs to address. Many of the students could not afford new uniforms as those issued earlier in the year were too small or too worn. Flock DC provided 80 uniforms in December. It didn’t stop at uniforms. Lisa and her team aimed to meet any ask as quickly as possible. From school supplies to art materials, Flock offered whatever they could. Every time Ebony reached out to Lisa via email, help was on its way within 24 hours.
The partnership blossomed. Ebony had created a cultural diversity team to begin the process of becoming a more culturally responsive school. The teams had a wish list that included 20 different books. Lisa and her team purchased a copy of the books for each of the 38 classrooms, one for the school library and copies for the parents to borrow.
Some students were struggling greatly with emotional trauma. Ebony and her team had envisioned creating a mindfulness program to be used by staff and students both during and after school. The school was in need of amenities like yoga mats, scent diffusers and colorful tapestries to provide a peaceful place for the children. The school had previously applied for a grant to purchase the items but was unable to secure funding for everything that was needed. Everything we had on a list to create a mindfulness space, she purchased for us,” recalls Ebony.
In the wake of coronavirus, teachers have been getting more of the appreciation they deserve. But even before our entire world changed, Lisa was showing teachers how much she cared.
“I never had money to give my teachers a summer retreat outside of the school building. Everything we did as a group happened in the “cafetorium,” which is what we jokingly call it.” Lisa let us use her office spaces on U Street and in Bloomingdale to have a break from the norm. We can now walk down U Street and actually enjoy ourselves after summer planning and have dinner, do some yoga. She has truly, truly helped us.”
Every time the teachers walked into the Flock space in Bloomingdale; they would find a new stack of books donated by the team at Flock DC or from a donation drive staff members took on themselves. Templeton later gifted the books to parents.
"This partnership helps me see that there are really some kind and loving people in the world who care about others beyond themselves. Whenever you have some level of success you need to reach back and pull others up. Some people get to a certain point and forget their roots, but Lisa is a prime example that there are still people in the world who want to make the DMV a better place, one project and one organization at a time,” says Ebony.
Templeton Elementary school will never be the same. The mindfulness club has begun, and the mindfulness space will be fully implemented during the 2020-2021 school year. The cultural diversity team has shared their plan with neighboring schools, including the book list. They look forward to getting back to school. And right now, the kids are sheltering at home with more resources to get through this pandemic. Templeton will continue to need support as this challenging time for schools poses new hardships for children and teachers.