Many Churches in the South Valley have extensive facilities with
kitchens, classrooms, meeting rooms and office space. But they are
vacant most of the week, used only on Sunday and perhaps briefly
another day. This is a valuable community resource being
Many Churches in the South Valley have extensive facilities with kitchens, classrooms, meeting rooms and office space. But they are vacant most of the week, used only on Sunday and perhaps briefly another day. This is a valuable community resource being wasted.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 431 Seventh St. in Hollister, has long recognized this problem and turned it into an opportunity. For many years, a house next to the Church on Monterey Street owned by the parish has been used during the week by The Children’s Montessori School, providing a quality preschool education for local residents.
Recently, however, that school has announced plans to move into another facility, and the leadership of St. Luke’s began planning what to do with this vacant space. After a good deal of discussion and study it was decided that the best use was to establish St. Luke’s Afterschool Academy.
Public schools all over California are being pressured by the hard economic times. State funding cuts are impacting programs: larger classes, fewer enrichment programs, less personal attention for students. Increased gang activity is resulting from cutbacks in supervised after school activities.
When it opens in February, the academy will offer many opportunities for Hollister students in grades four through eight:
– Help with homework
– Developing study skills
– Academic reinforcement through consultation with students’ teachers
– Access to a computer lab to increase computer skills
– Enrichment activities like drama, music and art
– Nutritional supplementation through daily snacks.
Applications have been submitted for grants to provide funding, and it is hoped fees can be kept low, with some scholarships available for low-income families. This spring’s pilot program will enroll only 10 to 12 students, but next year as many as 50 or 60 students could be accommodated in the 3,500-square-foot facility, which includes classrooms of various sizes, a large yard for outdoor activities and a kitchen.
Currently applications are being accepted for a program director/instructor responsible for the development and oversight of this program. According to the Rev. Amy Denny Zuniga, priest-in-charge of St. Luke’s Church, there has been a good deal of consultation with other afterschool programs, particularly the successful one operated by Santa Maria Urban Ministry in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood.
There is also need for volunteers from the community to help staff the program. After background checks and abuse prevention training, they will be asked to commit at least one afternoon a week to develop supportive relationships with students while preparing and serving snacks, tutoring or sharing personal talents like music, art, sports or hobbies.
Anyone who would like to support Hollister youth through this effort to strengthen students’ academic skills while providing wholesome activities to lessen the allure of gang activity and drug use should call (831) 637-7570 or e-mail [email protected]
Hollister’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was founded in 1876. Its classic gothic carpenter building features stained glass windows depicting saints and important moments in the life of Christ. Rev. Amy calls St. Luke’s “a wonderful, loving community that sees itself as a family” and invites local residents to attend the 8 or 10 a.m. Holy Eucharist celebrations “to experience the connection between God and community.”