Sunday, February 20, 2011

Changes at CitySquare in the Roseland Community

Fun times with new, lasting friends
We have and are going through some changes at CitySquare. Due to different funding constraints, along with figuring out the best way to move forward at CitySquare, I am sad to say that we will no longer have an Education Department, which also means that after school programming as it currently exists will be different as well.

Field trip to Texas Discovery Gardens
On May 20, 2011, the educational programming in the Roseland will come to a close. As many of you know, this has been my heart and soul for the last 13-15 years. My heart and passion for the kids will continue. The great thing about building long-term relationships with people is that they don't end...even when there are gaps in between the times we talk and see each other. I know I will continue to stay in contact with many and will probably end up running into some when I least expect it.

Though we were never really able to get the funding we needed to take the education programs to the level I would have liked, I am continuously surprised and humbled by the responses I get from kids (who are now older) that spent time in the program as well as tangential people who I never realized were so impacted by the program.

After I sent out an email to several friends, former volunteers, staff, etc, I received this response:
Thank you for the summer, Ms. Janet. My time with the [After School Academy] forever changed the way I look at things, how I think about life. Thank you for not giving up on some white country boy who had no idea what he was doing (still has no idea what he's doing, but he manages). The support from you and Danielle and the other teachers was just mind boggling, and I'll never forget any of it. I pray for the kids everyday and I hope they are growing in leaps and bounds. If you see them around tell them Mr. Chris hasn't forgot about them and that he's thinking of them.
Tasting new fruits and veggies
I met with a former staff member yesterday who was truly upset about the program going away because of how much she learned from being a part of it. As we talked, we discussed how the education program was always focused solely on the kids. I was always very adamant about the program being completely about the kids and pushed the staff to make their programming great. I didn't ever want the staff to think it was about them. I didn't want them to sit back while one of our kids fell through the cracks. But what I always knew was that our program was very much about the staff. The effects of the program had a dual effect.

Creating "wind turbines"
I received a very upset text message from a parent once she heard and, as I explained over text, she asked, "Is there something we could've done differently?" and when I explained to her that we were hoping to get a different organization to take our place she asked, "So is [the next group] gonna be the same as you do? I really need you guys."

Though we're all struggling with this decisions, what I've learned happens is what I call the "ripple effect." Over the last 15 years, there is no telling how many kids, teens, and adults have been involved in our education programs. Hundreds...maybe even close to a thousand. Some have stuck around longer than others. Some have been volunteers, some staff, and some participants. Because I stay in contact...or come back in contact...with many of them, I hear different stories about how they have continued their life as influenced by the program.

Of course, these "ripple effects" are extremely hard to track and really have no way of being put into an outcomes sheet that makes it fundable. As people have gone on, they may have moved to a different part of Dallas or even a different city or state. Yet I have talked to many of them who have gone on to work in or with non-profit organizations, major in education, work with kids, or just interact with their neighbors using ways and methods and structure that they learned within our Education Department. As they take this to Houston, Commerce, they transfer their knowledge of kids and families into the jobs where they work, they challenge their new employers to expect more of the kids...they influence a whole new set of kids.
Our weekly farm stand: low cost fresh produce

Though I am sad that our era of working solely and directly with kids is ending, I have a great peace about me knowing that what we did continues way beyond May 20, 2011. The Education Department will not end. It will continue. It will continue through the work and the relationships of Chris, Gary, Jessica, Rachel, Tiffany, Tameshia, Terrence, Danielle, Katrina, Deshaumbra, and so many others. That makes me happy. That makes me proud.

I will let you know what I will be doing in the next post.
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