When a church is welcomed onto a public school campus, it’s an honor to step in and serve. Since 2002, The Well has been involved with Susan B. Anthony Elementary School near downtown Fresno. This partnership was the inspiration to form Every Neighborhood Partnership (ENP) and help other churches partner with schools and neighborhoods in our city. With their continued support, the relationship between The Well and Susan B. has evolved into a strong local missional outreach that includes Saturday Sports and Literacy Mentoring.
“Many of these kids come from very challenging home environments,” explained Carol Young, who connects Well volunteers with opportunities to serve at the school. Among other effects, experiencing trauma can inhibit learning, but having adults who care can change the course of a child’s life. “When they have more people in their lives who truly care about them and believe they can do amazing things in life, they start believing it themselves.”
These volunteers from The Well run the weekly Saturday Sports program, giving kids from the neighborhood an opportunity for greenspace, games and crafts. “It’s just a time to play, to encourage them and tell them about Jesus in a very relaxed environment,” said Young. “At the end of the morning we gather to talk about a Bible verse and pray. We’ll ask kids, ‘Who wants to pray?’ And they pray. The whole morning is about having fun and pointing them to Jesus.”
During the week, Literacy Mentors work with kids in kindergarten through second grade, helping them learn their letters, letter sounds and sight words. Young said, “We work with all of the kids in each classroom because we want every one of them to know that people from The Well love them and want them to be successful in life.”
Tearing up, Young relayed the story of a boy who goes to Susan B. Due to some challenges, his mom can't be in his life right now, which led him to be angry and act out. Young and the other volunteers knew him from their involvement at the school. Aware of how he was struggling, they made an extra effort to build a deeper relationship with him. A lady who lives in the neighborhood and attends another church has also been there for him the past few years and became his foster mom for this season.
“He’s made a 180. He’s happier, he's doing better in school, he's reading, he’s participating,” said Young. “He is terribly sad that Mom’s not currently in his life. He deeply cares about her and he's probably been more of a parent to her than she was to him at times, but he’s in such a healthy place right now, and he knows he has a bunch of people who love him and believe in him. Had we not been in the neighborhood, we wouldn’t have been able to connect with him. There are a lot of stories like that. It’s truly about the church – lots of churches – being connected to serve in the neighborhoods of our city.”
Being involved in these kids’ lives is a blessing that goes both ways. “I ran into a couple kids last week who were at Saturday Sports and part of our mentoring program eight years ago, and they’re still like my kids. They’ll always be my kids.” Young continued, “I am blessed by the incredible opportunity we have to be the hands and feet of Jesus right here in our own city. It’s such a privilege.”
To get involved with Saturday Sports or become a Literacy Mentor at Susan B. Anthony, contact Carol Young at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow The Well/Susan B. Ministry Team on Instagram @wellsusanb.