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This month, Little Lights celebrates and says goodbye to Program Coordinator Dominique Scruggs. Dominique grew up as a student in Little Lights’ programs and returned as an adult, where he most recently served as the site leader of the Hilltop Center in Ward 8. Below, Dominique reflects on his time at Little Lights.

How have you been involved with Little Lights throughout your life?

As a kid, and becoming an adult, Little Lights has always been a blessing to me. From participating in  Camp Heaven, Camp Hope and Afterschool programs as a kid, I have always felt that I was loved and wanted because of the times I had during Little Lights. I was able to be comfortable with myself and be myself around others because of how volunteers and staff at Little Lights cared about me and my feelings. Little Lights was my grounding as a kid and I wouldn’t be as comfortable with the world today if it wasn’t for them. 

In the spring and summer of 2015, I was able to intern with Little Lights as a Communications Intern and Program Assistant. It was an amazing experience as I was able to write stories on students I grew up with and even capture beautiful Summer Lights photos as I took on duties as a photographer. Little Lights gave me the opportunity to work with Amy and Naomi who I believed took my talents to the next level when it came to writing and photography. So, I am forever grateful for that opportunity. I also Interned in 2018 under Cierra as a Program Coordinator and Cierra has blessed me with many learning opportunities and talents that I never knew I had. Cierra taught me the power of patience. Patience was my key to becoming a successful Program Coordinator. I will always thank Cierra for shaping me into the Program Coordinator that I have become. 

In the Fall of  2018, I was able to become the Program Coordinator of the amazing Hilltop Center. This was maybe one of my happiest accomplishments with Little Lights. Being at Hilltop has taught me so much in life. I truly loved the students I worked with and I truly loved the community as a whole. They accepted me as family and I am blessed to be a part of the Benning Terrace and Benning Heights Community. Words cannot explain how much this community has meant to me, but I know that even though I’m leaving Little Lights, these families will always see me as family. That’s the bond and trust I have built over the past 4 years while being the Program Coordinator of the Hilltop Center.

What will you miss the most about working at Little Lights?

Of course, I will definitely miss my students most, they kept me smiling each and every day. They have become a shining light within my life and not being able to see them everyday will be hard. However, I know that they’ll call me 24/7 like they do now. I will surely miss the community and the families I have bonded with over the years. These families put trust in me from day one and I am very appreciative of that. Lastly, I will miss my coworkers and staff members. Little Lights always finds the right people to become a staff member at Little Lights and our full-time staff are so supportive, caring, and acceptable. I love them all and will miss them very much.

What advice do you have for your students as they continue to grow and mature?

I always tell my students to be themselves and block out any negativity that is trying to turn around their lives. The students that I have worked with are some of the smartest students I’ve ever met and as long as they continue to lead themselves in the right direction spiritually, physically, and mentally, they will grow and mature into young great men and women within their communities and within their lives.

What will you be doing in your next role?

In the next steps of my journey, I will be taking my talents to KIPP DC’s Aim Academy to become a 6th grade Homeroom Teacher. I have been wanting to teach for a long time now and KIPP has given me a great opportunity to teach at their schools. My main focus will be on the implementations of Social – Emotional Learning strategies and activities which Little Lights has already prepared me for. I am excited but nervous to start my career in teaching but with God, I know I’ll do well. In addition to teaching, I have started my own Non-Profit Organization (YES Foundation DC) that focuses on Gun Violence, Social-Emotional Learning, Education, and Sports within youth growing up in underserved communities. I take pride in the communities I grew up in which has led me to building more opportunities and resources within our communities here in DC. I have a ton on my plate, but Little Lights has prepared me well enough to succeed at all aspects of my life. 

We are excited to welcome Courtenay Oliver as the new site leader of the Hilltop Center! Like Dominique, Courtenay also grew up attending Little Lights programs as a student. “Growing up in Little Lights was amazing … I decided to return because I wanted to be a part of something great. Little Lights impacts many different families in Washington DC and I also want to be a part of that. Making a difference is what I long for being a part of at such a wonderful organization,” Courtenay said.

We look forward to seeing how Courtenay will continue the work of empowering students in the Benning Terrace and Benning Heights community!