What if you could make a BIG difference in the life of a child, help strengthen our city and grow personally and spiritually, all at once; and it would only require 24 hours of your time – the equivalent of a day? Well, it’s true; and that’s the simple, yet powerful ask from STREETS Ministries, a local nonprofit that’s been changing lives since 1987.
What started with founder Ken Bennett’s conviction and mission to “engage, encourage and equip youth to achieve their potential by realizing their God-given purpose” has evolved over the last thirty years from the humble beginning of only “a van, a basketball, and a heart to trust God on a daily basis” to a vibrant organization with two community centers serving almost 400 students a day. STREETS has a downtown location at 430 Vance Avenue and one in Graham Heights at 1304 N. Graham Street. Both centers are filled with love, laughter, smiles, and lots of energy and ambition during the summer and in the afternoons during the school year. There are large gyms for basketball, soccer and volleyball; rooms filled with ping pong and pool tables; a stage to perform; a music room to create; computer stations for learning; and rooms dedicated to studying, reading, and other things, like ACT test preparation. Take a tour and see for yourself, but the purpose is to give kids a positive place where they can go after school and during the summers; a place filled with opportunities to learn and grow and with resources to help them find their path to academic, spiritual and physical achievement.
STREETS is having success. Their STREETS Smart 2nd graders reading on grade level increased from 3% to 49% in one school year. This past school year’s statistics are about to be finalized, but are projected to be even better, increasing from about 13% to over 70%. In 2016, nearly 90% of STREETS’s seniors graduated from high school, as well, which outpaced their peers at similar schools. These are just a few of the academic successes, but the stories go deeper when you consider the power of their Pathways mentorship program, which pairs students with adult mentors, men with young men and women with young women, to share and learn in a structured environment. The commitment is only four hours per month over the course of six months during the school year. That can be an hour each week or divvied up however works best for you and your student. It’s a relatively small amount of time that can transform the life of a local youth and provide them with a larger outlook on life. It’s also a chance for you to grow and be a part of the good taking place in our city. Consider becoming a mentor and learning more about STREETS Ministries by visiting streetsministries.org.