St. Francis Community Services’ Youth Program at Southside Center provides a wide range of culturally and linguistically competent services tailored to meet the needs of children of immigrant families. The program provides after-school groups that use poetry, music, sports, games and other activities to promote social growth and development. Tutoring in reading and math helps students progress in school, and Summer Camp engages children when school is out. The Youth Program offers services that help children and youth build strong social skills, improve in school and avoid risky behaviors, such as trying drugs. The staff is bilingual, ensuring that Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking families can participate fully.
Youth in kindergarten through eighth grade come from all over the St. Louis metro area to participate in this program, as it offers them a safe place to explore a variety of activities and develop new skills.
In spring 2015, St. Francis received $120,000 —the first year of a generous two-year grant—from the Tilles Foundation to help the organization grow this valuable asset to the community. This grant was part of a collaborative effort with Catholic Charities of St. Louis and Queen of Peace Center. Specifically, the grant allows St. Francis to continue its previous tutoring and after-school activities; create new initiatives within the program such as soccer, arts, music, and chess; all while expanding the number of area children they are able to serve.
Enrollment in the youth program increased dramatically due to the funding from Tilles—from 55 to 91 children. Among these 91 youth, there are remarkable outcomes. 100% of the children who participated in the after-school program advanced to the next grade level in school. Sixty-four percent of the children who completed the program improved their reading skills, advancing an academic level.
Many inspiring examples of success can be seen through the strong relationships formed in the St. Francis youth program. An elite independent high school in the area routinely sends student volunteers to engage with the program participants. One of the enrollees, a young Vietnamese student coming from a disadvantaged family, began to form a bond with the high school volunteers. The volunteers began to encourage him to apply to their school. He applied, was accepted, and even received a scholarship to attend.
This student, now enrolled at an elite independent school, has significantly more educational opportunities available than at his neighborhood public school. He would not have imagined this possibility or known how to navigate the application system had he not been a part of our program. His future looks bright as he begins the next step of his educational career with St. Francis staff and his new friends standing beside him in encouragement.
For more information on St. Francis Community Services please visit www.sfcsstl.org