During FCS' strategic planning process, we began to reevaluate and reestablish our community development model. We listened to the community, and we assessed our eight components. We saw a need for new youth development programs to be investing in the South Atlanta.
At the same time, Atlanta Navigators were launching their urban youth initiatives and looking across the city for partnerships. After much prayer and several conversations between FCS and The Navigators, we partnered to bring The Navigators' after-school program into our target community of South Atlanta.
The Navigator's Urban Youth Director Matthew Maxwell says he and other volunteers meet students when school lets out, and they walk together to FCS' Gateway Building for the afternoon. Homework, plus additional math and reading exercises, takes first priority. Kids sit down by grade to complete their assignments.
This routine is not without its challenges, however. "Establishing the importance of completing homework and doing it correctly has been stressed. And each day the kids resist doing their homework a little less," Maxwell says. "They are starting to see if they put a little effort into it they can do it and do it well. It’s fun to watch their confidence and belief in themselves and their abilities grow each day."
After homework, it's snack time and clean up. Then students enjoy crafts or a time to play games like kickball, dodgeball, or soccer. These typical after school activities open opportunities for life lessons, staff connection, and discipleship.
Recently, one student became angry when one of the games didn't go his way. In frustration, he kicked a hole in a wooden door. As a consequence and process of restoration, he was expected to help replace the broken door.
Maxwell says, "We spent a day together during his Spring Break, purchased a door at Home Depot, and replaced the broken one with the new one. He had the opportunity to work with his hands, use power tools, and renew something that was broken. We also had the chance to get lunch and spend time together. This is where life-on-life discipleship really happens."
Maxwell hopes the program will serve local students and help them mature their math and reading skills. There is also a desire to help kids connect in at Community Life Church's youth group, which also meets in the same building.
The after school program also seeks to broaden students' range of opportunities in experiences. They are already planning field trips to Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home and museum, college campuses, summer camps, and more.
Youth development is a crucial element of neighborhood transformation. At FCS, we know we cannot meet all the needs of the neighborhood alone. We are grateful for partners like Matthew Maxwell and The Navigators, so we can work together to support and encourage youth in our South Atlanta neighborhood.