Rosa Parks Children and Youth Program
The Rosa Parks Children and Youth Program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit uses after-school tutoring, art therapy, a garden club, and access to an extensive lending library to stretch children’s minds, stimulate creativity, and offer alternatives to violence.
In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
Rosa Parks Children and Youth Program Director Nancyann Turner:
We use the arts as a way to discourage and decrease violence; we build community with our families and volunteers: we have a strong support system for our moms and grandmothers; and we have a great diversity among our volunteers so that our children are exposed to various cultures.
We use the arts as a way to discourage and decrease violence; we build community with our families and volunteers...
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
The many benefits that come from building a strong alliance among the mothers and families—and how important strong support of all the volunteers is. Each year we have tried to add one more activity for the families to do together. We're involved in building a community here. We've started a mother's support group, and we find the more they are invited to the small things the more they come to the big things. A lot of the moms are single moms, and we end being a support for them.
When it comes to our volunteers, we never take our volunteers for granted. We've tried to develop in-service opportunities for them. We do workshops like what racism is, and what the urban child needs. We have a wonderful volunteer pool: it's black and white, city and suburb, but often they don't know each other well because they only know the people who come on the same night they do. Because of our in-service nights, they have gotten to know each other. At the end of the year, the kids themselves write a nice speech and give each volunteer a rose. We're not just teaching skills, we're building relationships.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
Trying to set goals and determine priorities since we cannot do everything. We are still working on this, but we have had difficulty in getting help for evaluation of programs and creating surveys to help determine needs. We are willing to make changes in our programs. Not just to change for change sake, but for substantive reasons, or new and better ways to meet children’s needs.
What really differentiates this program?
I don’t think about how we are different, but some of our very special aspects are the use of the arts in the expression of feelings and conflicts. We do not just do activities, but promote healing and therapeutic experiences. We have trained art therapists and many teachers helping us.
What are the keys to success for your program?
We do not just do activities, but promote healing and therapeutic experiences.
Many staff and volunteers have been here for years and so there is a great deal of trust. Our volunteers are treated with great respect, as are the parents and grandparents. We have a very supportive director and other staff not involved with the children who are very supportive of the program.
How does your program organize the resources needed to make programs happen?
We have great leadership who help promote the program; we have periodic newsletters and calendars that feature or at least include the children’s program; and we have lots of “word of mouth” through former participants, schools, colleges, volunteers and other staff. Another valuable resource is the regular placement of university and college interns with our program.