'I Think I Can'

The chief hope of the teen-age girls who came to our afternoon program at Sojourners Neighborhood Center last winter was that they would make it through school.

They were up against great odds. Many of the children in our neighborhood of Columbia Heights come from homes in which a single mother with few resources struggles to keep her family together in an over-crowded apartment. Money and energy go toward the basics: food, clothing, heat. Parents anguish that they cannot provide their sons and daughters with all the support they would like to, and the children repeatedly fail in school or are passed on without mastering the basic skills of their grade level.

One of our responses to this situation was to launch into a summer program that included a week of camp, Christian education, group and individual educational activities, arts and crafts, a reading program, library trips, and a class on how to understand the newspaper.

The children responded with enthusiasm. Rashidi, not yet in kindergarten, could not tell time or differentiate days, but he came promptly every morning, full of questions and ready to learn.

We had virtually no discipline problems with the 55 children who participated, and twice as many came on the days devoted to study as arrived to take part on the days for "fun." Nine-year-old Theodore explained, "The work we do here helps us because the only time we do work is in the winter time, and if we do it in the summer we can remember some stuff we did in the winter and be ready to go back to school." He was among the many who sat for hours quietly working on math or spelling games alone or in small groups.

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