Woman’s passion is enriching the lives of Dayton children

The impact Dormetria Thompson’s work has on Dayton children can be seen both before and after classes at Fairview Elementary School.

Thompson is known for organizing monthly “clap-ins” before school to help the kids grades K-6 lift their chins and get excited about school with cheers and high-fives. Thompson said she got the idea from other schools that bring in community groups on the first day of school.

“Why are we not doing this more?” she asked, and started organizing clap-ins one Monday a month.

“I picked Monday on purpose,” said Thompson, a former teacher with experience working with kids with socio-emotional needs.

“From my previous experience as a teacher. This is a day when we don’t know what this student, as they enter this building, we don’t know what their experience has been, and it may not have been the best,” she said.

“Just seeing those scholars’ transformation just from somebody taking a little more extra time, it’s been really amazing.”

These clap-ins spurred Nicole Carter to nominate Thompson as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem – saying it leads children to dancing, instead of moping, into the classroom.

“The cheering encourages students to get and remain excited about school,” Carter said.

Thompson’s impact on children is even more profound after school. Thompson helped build and runs the Scholars of HOPE after school and summer program, in its fifth year at Fairview Elementary School and first year at Edwin Joel Brown Middle School.

Scholars of HOPE is provided by Omega Community Development Corporation in partnership with Dayton Public Schools. It involves evidence-based curriculum, family engagement, wrap-around services, and enrichment activities for several hours after school each day.

Ingrid Handy, a Fairview teacher who also works for the after-school program, said it’s evident that Thompson is motivated by her love for the students. And that, in turn, motivates program staff to do their best.

“She has an excitement for everything. She is passionate about it,” Handy said.

Thompson’s zeal was evident as she showed a reporter around at Fairview on a recent Friday, the day the program focuses on enrichment activities. Thompson matched the young children’s energy, switching from stern, to patient, to encouraging as each student and situation required.

The children were broken into groups. In a wide hallway, a dozen young kids sat shoeless on yoga mats. Instructor Erica Collins led them in breathing exercises, having surprising success getting such young kids to sit still and focus on their breathing.

Collins started reading them a book about mindfulness.

“A pause is being in the moment and giving yourself a break,” she read. “There’s no wrong way to pause, so it’s hard to make a mistake.”

Literacy is woven through the program. The instructor of a gardening class read to students as they waited for the rain to subside so they could clear garden beds for kale and collard greens. The kids munched on apples with candy dipping sauce.

“Fruit is nature’s candy,” said instructor Jazmon Stewart. “I wanted you guys to see that fruit and veggies can be good too. They can taste good. They can taste sweet. Are you guys liking the snack so far?”

“Yes,” the young scholars responded.

At a martial arts class next door, kids could be heard shouting “hiya” in unison. A group in another classroom learned the basics of theater arts.

Anna Ford, a retired court bailiff who has worked with the Scholars of HOPE program since the beginning, said one of the best parts of the program Thompson built is how it involves the community.

“Some of these children would not have the opportunity to learn how to play chess, to do martial arts, to do drama or gardening,” Ford said. “I think that’s one thing our children lack is opportunity.”

Thompson is a woman of faith. She said she was blessed to have a great education growing up, and passing along that blessing — especially to those in the program facing poverty and other family challenges — is a calling.

“I know that I’m called to plant healthy seeds in the lives of young people,” she said.

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