Article by Sarah Thompson, Director of Communications & Volunteer Mobilization
When 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.
S.A.N.D. Elementary School on Main Street in Hartford knows well the benefits that are reaped from partnering with a local church. Their neighbors, House of Restoration Church, have engaged with the school for many years, but through Urban Alliance's Next Generation initiative, the two were recently able to establish a formal partnership.
Two summers ago, Urban Alliance helped facilitate a meeting between the church and school to create a plan for supporting the 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 Pastor Miriam Torres from House of Restoration Church. “This was an effort from our church families, and many made donations.”
“We are a diverse group of families from Hartford,” explained S.A.N.D. school principal Gerardo Heredia, who has been with the school for many 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 for the students at S.A.N.D.
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 becoming a reality. 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.
“The partnership allows us to build community within our community,” shared Heredia, “which is our school theme.”
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.
But sadly, many schools are still waiting for churches and parachurch organizations to partner with, including 13 Hartford Public Schools, 6 New Britain Public Schools, one East Hartford Public School and one Manchester Public School.
With support from Urban Alliance through the Next Generation initiative,partnerships can be made with ease. Support, resources and guidance are available, but remain stagnant without the willingness for churches and parachurch organizations to respond to the call.
If your church or parachurch organization is in Connecticut and would like to learn more about partnering with a local school, please contact Rosaicela Rodriguez, UA's Director of Implementation, Child & Youth Initiatives.