In June, the New York Times ran an article entitled, “The Families That Can’t Afford Summer.” Much of the heart of the piece rings true for families in our target community, Historic South Atlanta. Neighborhood youth leader Michelle Witherspoon acknowledges the challenges for many youth, saying, “Summer is often a more vulnerable time. Kids are home alone while parents are away at work.”
One of our measuring of flourishing neighborhoods is “Youth, Families, and Education.” We want to work with partners who can help stand in the gap for families and teens who need support during the summer months. Michelle and her youth work with Church on the Street has been a tremendous connection for our youth over the past few years and also this summer.
She hopes that summer programming for local teenagers would help them steer clear of gang activity, engage purposefully with others and their community, and continue to build the sense of community being established through the weekly youth group meetings. She has also loved the opportunities to introduce students to new places and experiences.
For this summer, the youth leadership team focused on partnerships and taking advantage of camps and programming already happening in our area. They continued their weekly youth group gatherings, which include a meal, activities and games, and a Bible lesson. They also participated in Baseball Camp with the FCA (Fellowship for Christian Athletes) and spent a week at God’s Farm from Atlanta Youth Project. This daycamp gave them the chance to tend goats, swim, try a ropes course, and more. The youth also went to Camp Grace for a week of overnight camp!
South Atlanta youth also shared local day trips and outings around Atlanta, including a horse farm and the Botanical Gardens. They hiked Stone Mountain, cheered at a Braves game, and went to the movies.
The Atlanta High Museum of Art hosted an exhibit, The Rise of Sneaker Culture, that students were excited to see. It boasted, “sneakers by Prada and other major fashion design houses and designers as well as those made in collaboration with artists including Damien Hirst and Kanye West.”
Summer can be a season of great memory-making, and the youth of South Atlanta have had many opportunities to share this summer. School starts next week, and we’re grateful for partners, like Michelle and other volunteers, who invest in the youth and families of our community year-round.