National Summer Learning Day at an Oasis of Hope in Indianapolis

The program at Westminster Neighborhood Services serves as an oasis of hope, providing a safe and nurturing environment for children. (Photo courtesy Westminster Neighborhood Services)

The program at Westminster Neighborhood Services serves as an oasis of hope, providing a safe and nurturing environment for children. (Photo courtesy Westminster Neighborhood Services)

“Something on the inside, working on the outside. Oh, what a change in my life!”

These words from a song I used to sing in church rang through my ears as I walked through the halls of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. This church, situated on the corner of State and Sturm Roads, houses one of the hidden treasures of the Near Eastside of Indianapolis.

Recently, I spent National Summer Learning Day witnessing some of the work being done by Westminster Neighborhood Services, Inc. (WNS). Summer Learning Day activities happen across the country annually, with events highlighting the importance of keeping all children learning, safe and healthy every summer.

WNS has established relationships with a wide range of partners, such as the public library, museum, churches, local government, the business community, civic groups and many individuals to provide supportive services to families in the community.

Courtney Williams, the Education Director brings the organization, energy, enthusiasm and compassion which is required to keep all of the young people engaged. WNS has also recently added a chaplain to the staff to help with some of the socio–emotional needs of the children.

The activities of the day included a presentation to the middle schoolers from the local prosecutor’s office on preventing gun violence. The pictures were a little graphic for me, so I joined the younger kids in the community garden and on the playground.

My visit ended with observing a Project Esteem roundtable discussion. The students explored appropriate ways to resolve conflict. At the conclusion of the session, I greeted the group on behalf of President Obama and Secretary King and encouraged them to identify people in their lives who help them to develop positive self-esteem. The answers ranged from family members, mother, father, sisters, brothers, to Ms. Courtney and the WNS staff. One young woman drew our attention when she said she had always believed black people could not achieve success until 2008 when President Obama won the election. After that she has been able to see that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. That was the perfect way to end a session on building self-esteem.

To stay up to date on other activities in my office, follow us on Twitter @EdPartners.

To learn more about National Summer Learning Day, please visit this link: https://www.ed.gov/news/media-advisories/ed-celebrates-summer-learning-day-visits-ten-summer-sites.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell is the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.