Outreach, the extent to reach out or to reach further than!
Outreach is a critical piece to community engagement. Many of our stakeholders in Education are judged by stereotypes and prejudices that often prevent them from being partners of schools. School Districts across the Nation are struggling with how to effectively engage communities and families in order to enhance the way children learn. Most importantly, how to we educate and empower not only our students, but the families and communities that rear them is key in helping all students find success pathways.
How we as stakeholders are engaged, held accountable and connected as partners truly shapes the way our children learn and our school reach success. Community engagement isn’t a separate area of education, it’s a part of it’s heartbeat. This piece features the voice of Rev. Winifred Monique Byrd; ordained and trained minister, educator, and entrepreneur with over 20 years experience providing excellence in the development and execution of best practices in education and ministry. She shares her thoughts on the importance of outreach and community engagement to the improvements in education.
There are several ways faith based organizations such as churches can meet the needs of the children and families of their neighborhood schools. These essential spiritual and community institutions have the opportunity to provide character development, mentoring of young men and career/culture exposure.
Laypersons and clergy can provide important life skills to students, which our schools often do not have the time to fully explore with our young people. Our young men particularly, young men of color, needed assistance in overcoming life’s challenges. Some churches already provide mentoring programs for their young congregants, I believe mentoring can be replicated and implemented throughout our schools.
It is important for local churches to become a part of the planning process with schools and offer support to their efforts in educating the whole child. Children do not function well academically if they have not eaten. Many students and their parents rely solely on the breakfast and lunch as their source of nourishment throughout the year. During the summer, many suffer due to a lack of food. Local churches can fill this gap by providing hot/cold breakfast and lunch as well as a safe place to connect with other young people.
Some young people have not had the opportunity to explore through tangible means the world of culture and careers around them. Institutions of faith have another great opportunity to partner with our school systems and community to enhance the lives of young people. Members of organizations within the church can organize, facilitate, sponsor and chaperone field as well as virtual trips which expose the children to historical places and events, political and social change, as well as under exposed potential careers
During my tenure in Philadelphia, there was an increase in violence around our schools and innocent children were injured. The church where I grew up and ministered decided to join with the neighborhood middle school to create “Safe Corridor”. Men of our church walked with students in the neighborhood to school. They also became a presence around the middle school. This partnership with a local school was beneficial to the students and their families, it was also engaged the faith community in a more active and tangible role in our education system.