Camp shows promise in area’s at-risk youth

Workshops help kids feel good about what the can accomplish.

Presented by the Springfield Promise Neighborhood committee, the event was designed to bring the neighborhood together and get them moving in what organizers hope is a positive direction during the school year by showing them what Summer Art Camp kids accomplished this week.

The school, selected as the pilot site for the Springfield Promise Neighborhood project for about 400 students starting this academic year, hosted the festivities that featured artwork and music .

Springfield Promise Neighborhood partnered with Project Jericho, a collaborative program between the Clark State Community College Performing Arts Center and Job and Family Services of Clark County, to provide performing arts workshops to at-risk youth and families from the neighborhood this week.

“This is a bottom-up approach,” said Bob Welker, project director on the Promise Team and a retired Wittenberg University education professor. The intent, he said, is to not only teach kids in a different way within the school setting, but change the way they grow up in their community.

A mural created over the week and vandalized Wednesday night by three juveniles, for example, did not stop those trying to change the atmosphere in the neighborhood. Instead, the mural was patched and the celebration went on.

“I told the kids that when you see the mural from the road, you can’t see the damage,” said Mike Wilson, principal of Lincoln Elementary. “The vision is so much bigger.”

The Springfield Promise Neighborhood aims to replicate the success of Geoffrey Canada’s highly-praised Harlem Children’s Zone.

Springfield applied for a federal grant competition that would have provided start-up capital for one of 20 Promise Neighborhoods nationwide, but learned in 2010 it had not been selected.

Unlike Canada’s celebrated program, Springfield’s take on the Promise Neighborhood will work with the public school system instead of a charter school like Harlem Children’s Zone.

Since then, organizations including the Springfield Foundation have collaborated to provide seed money in the amount of about $300,000 over three years toward the project.

“We want to create a picture for how to recreate the neighborhood as a thriving place,” said Eric Smith, neighborhood coordinator with the Promise Team. “These opportunities give us the chance to change the mind set of the neighborhood.”

Smith has been working with the community to garner their support and involvement. One such way was the creation of the Springfield Promise Neighborhood Association, active in gathering community support and buy-in outside of the school.

“It takes a commitment,” Smith said.

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