CLERGY CORNER: The value of community partnership

Posted on 28 May 2015 by LeslieM

Much ink and airtime has been given to the recent troubles of Baltimore, MD and its inner city residents in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death.

Pundits, politicians and the community alike have weighed in on the problems and causes of mistrust, aggression, violence and crime that permeate the minority communities of our urban cities. Thankfully, most agree that riots and looting are not the answer. Several meetings and gatherings of community leaders, politicians, clergy and citizens of Baltimore sought to identify solutions to problems that, in reality, affect far too many minority communities across America.

Many of those participating in the disturbance of Baltimore were young people. In fact, the initial protests that preceded the riot and looting involved high school students. Clearly, there is a problem affecting minority youth that needs to be addressed. Baltimore schools have a dropout rate of over 12 percent and a four-year graduation rate under 70 percent. Consequently, many solutions arising out of meetings focused on achieving better educational outcomes through greater parental involvement and community partnerships. Mentoring programs for youth, tutoring initiatives and career skills training are some of the efforts that many from within these communities are asking for.

Our city has not faced the challenges of other communities like Ferguson or Baltimore. There is a relatively healthy relationship between our communities and law enforcement, our citizens and government leaders, our faith leaders and city personnel. Our youth are served through various initiatives aimed at keeping them out of trouble, completing their education and becoming productive citizens. The involvement and even collaboration of faith-based programs, the business community, law enforcement and social service organizations is necessary to providing opportunities for all of our youth to succeed in life.

A few days ago, I was thrilled to witness and participate in a small, informal commencement activity for students served through our tutoring program. Since the 2010- 2011 school term, Cathedral Community Development Corporation has been offering after-school tutoring in Reading and Mathematics for children in grades 3 to 5. The program and curriculum have been developed by Rev. David Johnson, who retired from a career in education and was employed as a Broward County school principal. Several certified teachers have partnered with the program to address deficiencies among children in our local schools.

The success of the program has been seen in marked improvement among the children who participate. Pre- and post-testing reveals the gains made by each student in the respective classes. Parents consistently write to express their appreciation for the improvement of their children, and the impact of the program. Through strategic partnerships and grants from several organizations, the program has been able to continue each school term, but much more could be done with a significant donation. Some of the children demonstrate below average reading skills, and specialized staff would enable personalized instruction for those who are struggling.

We would love to include other grade levels as well. Some of our local schools need all the help they can get in raising the proficiency level of our children. Insufficient resources hinder expansion and further development, but Director Johnson has worked wonders with what has been provided over the past several years.

Major funding would be a boost to our program and the children of this community. As more and more communities take ownership of the issues facing the less fortunate around them, productive partnerships can be formed to the benefit of both those who are served as well as those who serve. As Proverbs 11, verse 17 states, “The merciful man does good for his own soul.”

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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