Have you noticed some energetic kids bouncing around the firepit area in the early evenings? Have you seen a smiling young woman calmly rounding them up and ushering them out to their waiting parents at the end of the day? Who are they, you ask?
CCSI (Central Community Services, Inc.), Central’s non-profit for the purpose of expanding community outreach, is in an exciting time of expansion! We have been in the after-school tutoring business since 1996, operating two afternoons a week with part time staff and a host of volunteers. This fall, St. Paul Public Schools moved over half of their elementary schools to an early start/early release model meaning that the children in these schools are released at 2:00pm. Secondary schools have moved to a later release time meaning that the older siblings are no longer home to help care for these children. We saw this as a golden opportunity to expand our program from 2 to 5 days a week, and from 2 ½ hours a day to 4 hours a day.
Several things have happened in anticipation of this expansion. Last spring, we took over a second classroom on the second floor of the 1962 building. We now have dedicated art space, a “family room” complete with couches and a tv, and an administrative and resource area that is connected to our classrooms. Everything we need is in this self-contained space.
Secondly, we have hired a full-time program coordinator and lead teacher. Grace Koehn is a Bethel grad with two years teaching experience. She is married and lives right up the road in Roseville. She has already demonstrated her great capabilities and heart for children in the 4 weeks we have been open. Joining her is Maria Given, a recent high school grad and alum of After School @ Central. Maria brings great energy and a good work ethic to our program. We also have a student worker provided by Bethel University. His name is Jacob Diehl. Jacob is a business/poli-sci major with a heart for city ministry. He lives in Northeast Minneapolis. We continue to rely on our faithful Central volunteers, Brian Bjerke, Vonnie Halvorsen, and Becky Seaberg. They are joined by two other Bethel service learning students.
Because we are open five days a week, children who go to SPPS in bussing zone E can be bussed directly to our site. This is a huge benefit to families as well as us. We also take students outside of bussing zone E and will arrange van transportation for those students if the need arises. We have also initiated a small fee for our program asking families to contribute what they can. We will not turn anyone away because of inability to pay, but hope to empower families to buy in and invest in quality opportunities for their children.
What does a day at After School @ Central look like? We start with snack time, of course! Next we gather on the carpet and share about our day. By 3p.m. the younger kids are running and playing in the play room and the older kids are completing homework and working on academic skills. At 3:30, the older kids get to play while the younger kids focus on reading and writing and beginning math. 4-5:00 is free time for iPads, board games, play-doh, and art, alternating with journaling. By 5:00, some have gone home, and the structured part of our day has ended. More games and crafts fill the time until 6:00.
We love that we can support kids in our community and the families they come from on a daily basis. We are finding that the needs go far beyond academic skills. We can model the love of Jesus everyday by providing safe, caring adults and giving our whole attention to each child and their specific needs.
How can you help?
Volunteer! We can always use more volunteers – even one day a week for 2-3 hours is a tremendous help. And the rewards are great! If you can read or play Candy Land, you are qualified!
Pray! We covet your prayers as we continue to grow our numbers and recruit more children to participate.
Spread the word! Tell your friends and neighbors!
Give! We have taken a huge leap of faith in hiring more staff for more hours. Your financial support is always welcome – after your regular giving to Central, that is!
One final note: Give to the Max Day is coming up on Thursday, Nov. 16. It is our biggest fundraising event of the year. On this day, your financial gift will be matched by our Central Foundation and other friends of our ministry. Be on the lookout for more details on this great day of giving in Minnesota!
Visit our website: www.ccsimn.com, to register for our program, to volunteer, or to give. We couldn’t do any of what we do without our vital and valuable partner, Central Baptist Church! Thank you!