Remember how it felt to head back to school each fall? Buying those new school supplies, meeting your teacher, finding your friends after a long summer? For many students, heading back to school is an exciting time of year (we know it is for parents!)
For students in our neighborhood, going back to school isn't always that exciting. Imagine you're an English language learner and already failing your first progress reports. Or facing teachers that aren't creating learning environments, who don't seem to care about you or your success. Navigating the normal perils of high school, but adding gangs, racial profiling, and turf wars to the mix.
These are all things we've seen or heard from our students this fall as they return to school. Southeastern and City Heights are home to 7 of the top 10 most avoided neighborhood schools, and none of our schools make the top 10 best neighborhood schools list.
But God has UrbanLife right in the thick of it! We are supporting our students and our local schools... by volunteering as Class Advisors, working with ASB leadership, or coaching and raising money for athletics teams. And when students need a break from homework, we've got safe spaces for them to learn about Jesus, make some new friends, and be loved on by our staff and volunteers.
Here are some of the ways we get involved on campus and beyond:
Volunteering on campus: One of our UrbanLife distinctives is Incarnational Ministry... taking a cue from Jesus and not waiting for students to come to us, but heading out to where they are...usually on campus! So Romin is the Crawford 2017 Class Advisor, trying to find the best place for prom, encouraging class leaders, and in general being an adult who cares about students and their senior year. Cindy is busy at Horace Mann, volunteering in an AVID class and making connections with middle schoolers. Amanda has been at Lincoln tutoring ESL students. And our favorite? Kathy Pham, Hoover High's lunchtime DJ. #spinningforjesus
Athletic support and involvement: City Heights Runners provides amazing support to the athletics departments of Wilson Middle, Hoover and now Crawford High school, mainly focused on Track & Field + Cross Country but also affecting other sports like wrestling and football. UrbanLife staff and volunteers coach teams, raise money, and even provide gear and trips that wouldn't be offered to these athletes. The impact is felt on middle and high school campuses and beyond, as we help athletes apply for college, connect with sports teams and coaches on campus, and even drive them hours to help register, move into dorms, and get settled.
UCAN academic support: The UrbanLife College Achievement Network is there to fill in the gaps for students not at grade level, struggling to see themselves continuing their education past high school, or just needing a little extra homework help that they may not get at home. This year, UCAN will focus on our runners and helping everyone be and stay eligible. There is also tutoring happening through our UL Farm internships. And as we head into the college application season, UCAN will gather students from all throughout UrbanLife, taking them to college fairs, FAFSA info sessions, college tours and more.
In truth, all of our programs are designed to support our students and continue to develop them as leaders in their neighborhoods. Our youth groups give them safe spaces to blow off steam from a heavy school week, play silly games, and hear about Jesus. UrbanLife Farms and Tables gives them job skills that will serve them now, and long after they graduate. Tutoring and running teams provide opportunities that otherwise wouldn't exist.
We love students, and we want each one to succeed. But more than that, we want each student to know they are loved and cherished by Jesus, and that UrbanLife is one of their biggest fans.