From Monday through Friday, armed with book bags filled to the brim with homework assignments, parental approval requests, and notices of upcoming school events, children, ranging from kindergarten through 5th grade, arrive at the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church.
While parents are still at work, the young students, hailing from schools such as Sunnyside, Cheswick Christian Academy, St. Benedict the Moor and other Pittsburgh educational facilities, dismount the Rodman bus with a renewed energy. The second chapter of their day is about to begin as the Rodman After School Program gets underway.
The state licensed, nonprofit corporation, known as RASP, specializes in after school child care, geared to meet the needs of working parents.
The employees are in place and ready to render encouragement, homework assistance and one-on-one tutoring for those in need. The study program includes math, Black history, music education and a myriad of lessons that comprise the curriculum. Promoting academic and spiritual enrichment, the educational training also includes daily devotions, loving discipline and various group activities, as well as a warm meal supplied by the Allegheny County Feeding Program. Over the years, partnerships have been formed with organizations such as the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and the University of Pittsburgh-Special Programs Office, to name a few.
On the evening of June 12, under the dynamic leadership of director Mona Morphis, RASP presented “Celebrate Success!,” a special event honoring the program’s enrollees. Held at The Union Project-Great Hall, located in the East Liberty section of the city, the fun-filled event included an awards presentation for the children. Opening the festivity with a rendition of “The Negro National Anthem,” the children also entertained parents, grandparents and guests with “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Included in the evening’s event was a silent auction offering a variety of treasures.
A ‘Taste of Pittsburgh’s Best Chefs” was a highlight as Chef Andrew Allen, of Showcase Barbecue, showcased his delicious down-home soul cuisine, including his renowned barbeque ribs. Located at 6800 Frankstown Ave., “Drew’ left no one disappointed. Always true to her craft and gifted with a unique flair for presentation, Paulette Blanks, co-owner/Caterer of Divine Delectables, turned simple melon cuts into a dramatic island display.
“Investing in the Future” is not just a phrase of meaningless words to the staff members and volunteers of this program. Those words encompass the fervor of the many leaders who are dedicated to making a future of promise into an uncompromising reality for children within the Pittsburgh community.
One of those leaders is the founder of Rodman’s after school program and was the keynote speaker for the evening. Over a decade ago, Deacon Charles “Chuck” Taylor recognized the need for a program that would provide positive challenges for the many children he saw on the streets who were involved in non-productive activities. As the former Youth Program director/Youth leader of “The Street,” Taylor, a committed community volunteer, worked diligently to provide a vital program to meet the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Founded in 1999, the after school program continues to play an essential part in the lives of working parents faced with the issue of childcare. Many children are left home alone until the end of the work schedule…a valid concern of many parents. Taylor reported that, according to a study by the U. S. Department of Education and the U. S. Department of Justice, students in after school programs have fewer behavioral and social problems.
“These programs, also provide the students with more self-confidence and new and better ways to handle conflicts,” he said. “The Harvard Family Research Project states that children from low-income families are able to overcome the injustices and unfairness exhibited in the public school system.”
Evident is Taylor’s mission of love and passion for young people as he strives to provide an environment that is safe, nurturing and educational for all children.
Whether it is a long day in corporate America, handling the issues of others in the service industry or working in the industrial field, parents find that the services offered by the after school program solve the most important challenge they face throughout the work week. Iesha Parks’ seven year old daughter, London, finds the program to be “family oriented, helpful and provides a very nice environment.” Parks is extremely satisfied with RASP and loves the fact that “transportation from school to the church is provided. The program, definitely meets my expectations. London loves the program and is very happy with her new friends.”
Reverend Dr. Darryl T. Canady, senior pastor of the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church, is committed to investing in the future of tomorrow’s leaders. When Morphis and her staff greet the children of Rodman’s After School Program, they do so with the love of Christ, the devotion of John and the patience of Job.
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