Article by Sarah Thompson, Director of Communications & Volunteer Mobilization
When two neighborhood cornerstones join forces, students are able to receive support with resources and relationships that help them to develop the character and skills they need to succeed in their schools and communities.
And, the efforts between House of Restoration Church and SAND School in Hartford’s North End are ongoing examples that these types of partnerships work.
The church, a stone’s throw away from SAND, has engaged with the school for many years, but by participating in Urban Alliance’s Next Generation initiative, they were able to establish a formal partnership with the school.
“We were looking to make a greater impact in our community and decided to support our community school,” explained House of Restoration Church’s Pastor Miriam Torres.
Last summer, Urban Alliance helped the church meet with school leaders to create a plan for supporting their students, which led to the uncovering of a need for school supplies.
“We did a summer drive and collected backpacks, uniforms, gift cards and school supplies,” shared Torres. “This was an effort from our church families, and many made donations.”
“We are a diverse group of families from Hartford,” explained SAND school principal Gerardo Heredia, who has been with the school for five years. “Due to various budget difficulties, it has been difficult to sustain supplies. Quickly, House of Restoration gathered school supplies.”
Principal Heredia was invited to the church to receive the large lot of donated supplies, where the church also prayed for the school and made a commitment to hold yearly clothing and supply drives each year for the students at SAND.
Leaders from House of Restoration Church also noticed that the school’s hallways needed painting, but learned that budget restraints would prevent a fresh coat of paint from happening. So, they stepped in and filled the gap by providing painting supplies.
“We believe that if the school is kept up it would promote an atmosphere and attitude of growth and learning,” said Torres.
As with many urban schools where the vast majority of students come from hardworking yet low-income families, many do not have access to enough school supplies, experience stress associated with living in poverty, come from single-parent families, and live in neighborhoods with high crime rates. Yet, relationships with caring adults help buffer children from these challenges and can significantly contribute to their positive emotional, academic and relational development.
In addition to the more tangible solutions for supporting the students at SAND, House of Restoration challenged them to achieve perfect attendance by donating two bicycles as an end-of-year incentive. With this charge to meet academic and behavioral expectations, students received a boost of encouragement that continues to have a ripple effect.
“Our middle-school students have worked together to maintain high behavior expectations,” said Heredia. “In doing so, they are able to dress down on Fridays with the vision of also fundraising for their end-of-year trip. Using the House of Restoration example, students are donating their raised funds to a local charity. It’s an awesome turnaround mindset.”
For Pastor Torres and the members at House of Restoration Church, it is important to not just preach the Gospel, but to live it out. And, the effects of the partnership have been influential in both directions.
“It has been positive for our church families because they are able to see how they have made a difference in the lives of many students in our community,” said Torres.
With a solid foundation of partnership set, this church-school duo has set the stage for ongoing relationships that benefit students in countless ways.
“The partnership allows us to build community within our community,” shared Heredia, “which is our school theme.”
If your church or ministry organization would like to explore the possibility of partnering with a school, contact Rosaicela Rodriguez, Urban Alliance’s Director of Implementation, Children & Youth Initiatives, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.986.6052.
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