Stronger children for a better tomorrow
September 23, 2019 | posted by J. Antonio Fernández
Topics: Catholic Charities
Stronger children for a better tomorrow
Children are our future. Loving our children today produces loving adults tomorrow that are kind, compassionate, and productive. Every child deserves a loving and safe home that encourages them to reach their greatest potential. Not only does that child grow up to be a contributing member of society, but that child grows up to help our community thrive.
Even Mother Teresa recognizes that “if you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” According to the bible, children are our greatest gift. A strong family centered in faith is the best environment for a child to grow. The child learns the virtues of our faith as Catholics. They learn family values and service to each other. And equally as important, they pass their character on to those around them.
Guadalupe Community Center hosts the After School and Summer Youth Program for at-risk children in the second poorest zip code in the city. The children face adversity in their homes, at school, and in their community at large. It is the role of our youth program to feed them, care for them, educate them, mentor them, and strengthen them. During the school year, staff and volunteers provide tutoring and mentoring to ensure academic success. But during the summer, they have the opportunity to enjoy the time off with their friends having fun and building character.
The average summer camp in San Antonio can cost $150 a week, but Guadalupe Community Center provides it for free to our students at six locations around the city. While it has limited availability, and a 150-plus waiting list, the goal is to offer a summer refuge for kids who may not otherwise have the opportunity. From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., children receive meals, academic reinforcement, materials, activities, and even field trips while parents are working to achieve or maintain self-sufficiency. For that portion of the day, their children are engaged in healthy, productive activities while being provided meals and other basic necessities.
There are many aspects of the Summer Youth Program that make it special in transforming the life and changing the future of a child. The program offers academic reinforcement like reading and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) activities so they continue to strengthen their education from one school year to the next. But, they also receive access to physical activities like water balloon tic-tac-toe, fine arts experiences like choir class, and also field trips to museums. These all build strong students, but we also want to build strong individuals.
The children are provided meals and learn about proper, balanced nutrition through the Common Threads’ Small Bites initiative to make healthy snacks, learn to follow recipe directions, and manage dexterity for mixing and stirring skills. All three educate and empower a child to own the life they want to have.
Character building is also an important component of the program as our children listen to motivational speakers and sessions about the importance of honesty, punctuality, and responsibility. Their spirit is strengthened by group counseling, led by the Catholic Charities Counseling Program, to learn how to cope with adversity, manage stress, and even grieve for parents who become incarcerated.
While the summer youth are enjoying their summer camps, parents are required to be an active participant in their child’s life at Guadalupe Community Center. Every month, Family Night invites parents to learn about the path to self-sufficiency through financial literacy, family budgeting, behavioral counseling, and even victim advocacy seminars from Catholic Charities programs like Financial Wellness, Counseling, and Caritas Legal Services.
After School and Summery Youth Program Director, Manuel Garcia, says, “We know our children are faced with adversity. The odds are stacked against them and we want them to know this is your situation, but it is not your forever. We welcome them, comfort them, teach them, and expand their horizons so they can expect more from their future.”
For more information about the After School and Summer Youth Program, contact Guadalupe Community Center at (210) 226-6178.