Partnering Makes More Possible

Students in After School Matters dance program

Students in After School Matters dance program

Written by Rev. Barbara Cathey, Chicago Edgewater Presbyterian Church

Last summer Chicago Edgewater Presbyterian Church wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and youth in their Chicago neighborhood.  They did it by partnering with groups which had the same goal.

Inspired Youth, Inc. is an Edgewater organization focused on music and tutoring for children.  In the summer of 2013 they offered free keyboard lessons four days and two nights a week to almost 100 children.  Volunteers from the church and the community and beyond gave the lessons.

Music for Kids was founded five years ago by a young woman from Highland Park who was doing her student teaching with EPC’s former music director.   Children come every Saturday during the year and three afternoons a week in the summer to learn to play violin from skilled young adult volunteers.

After School Matters is a city-wide program for high school students founded by Maggie Daley.  Last summer 35 teenagers came to dance lessons and 25 came for improv training five days a week.

The church gave free space to each group, and a few volunteers.  Over 150 children and youth made music, danced and did improv.

Then the spirit of partnership expanded in an unexpected way.  The pre-school children in the Head Start program were sharing the gym  with the After School Matters high school dancers.  One day the dancers invited them to do stretches and warm-ups together.  The young children admired the teenagers and the teenagers enjoyed the children.  Instead of each group staying at its end of the gym, they came together.

The adult literacy program that meets at the church was on break when the teenagers from the Improv program were going into the theater  (yes, there’s also a professional theater group at the church).  “What are they doing?” a woman asked Rev. Barbara Cathey.  She did her best to explain to women from India what improv was.   “Would you like to come to their final show today?”  And a dozen women in saris sat in the front row as the teenagers did their show.

Partnering made it possible for Edgewater Presbyterian Church to impact the lives of many children and youth in the Edgewater neighborhood last summer.  And we expect to do the same and more next summer.

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