By Heather Ivery
The parents of Stewpot children want the best for them and believe in their potential. So do we. It is our privilege to help provide Stewpot children with new opportunities to help them overcome the challenges that often come with living in poverty. Stewpot’s After-school and Summer Camp programs offer a safe, nurturing environment, at no charge, for children whose parents cannot afford to pay for such programs.
This school year we’re working with 54 elementary students and 41 junior high and high school students.
We don’t babysit
Aside from homework help each afternoon, Stewpot kids also receive one-on-one tutoring in subjects they’re having trouble with and assistance with class projects. But our focus is not solely on improving our student’s educational skills. We also focus on engaging the entire family to combat issues that plague our community and cause many young people to not complete their education.
Communication seminars on preventing teen pregnancy are provided during which a trained counselor guides both male and female students, and their parents, through conversations. Family counseling is offered by a licensed social worker.
Parents are also given help when trying to navigate the school system. Often, the parents of our students do not know the options available to their children in the public school system. Our staff acts as liaison between the schools and parents to empower them to help make sure they’re able to get whatever special help their child may need.
The hours of the day after school and before parents come home can be a lonely and sometimes dangerous time for children. Many studies have shown that latchkey children get into trouble during these hours or suffer emotionally. We combat this by providing a place for our students to thrive socially during these hours.
While there ‘s certainly plenty of effort put into school work, a large part of the afternoon is spent in play: whether it be on the playground; organized through the Northminster Baptist Church basketball team for our boys; or the NBA “Time to Play” program. Supervised playtime offers students the chance to learn important social skills in a safe, fun environment.
Leading by example
Under the watchful eyes of Stewpot employees, these programs are mostly staffed with high school and college students from local schools. Some have grown up in our After-school Program and view working at Stewpot as a way of giving back to their community. Others just want the chance to help improve the lives of young people.
Interacting daily with people who are on track to graduate high school or are attending college is just one more way we’re instilling in our students that education is important. This is evident in that every senior that has been in our program over the last 5 years has graduated from high school and most have gone on to college or vocational school.
Summer Camp will be starting in June. This seven-week program provides over 150 students with the same things our After-school Program does – but all-day. In addition to lots of fun, time is spent sharpening reading and math skills, so that they retain as much as they can of what they learned during the school year. Summer also gives us a chance to provide exposure to local museums, vacation Bible schools, sporting events, plays and more. Providing opportunities to young people to see what is available to them outside their struggling community helps shape a more diverse worldview, which will benefit them throughout their lives.
Summer Camp costs $300 per child, and is offered at no charge to the family. It is totally funded through donations.
The parents from our community who entrust their children to us have given us both a blessing and a huge responsibility. We believe, along with these parents, in the potential that these children hold. We are grateful for the chance to help nurture and grow the future.