It is estimated that more than 700 children who attend District 186 schools are children in transition. They may live in shelters, at a relative’s home, motels, cars, tents or in abandoned homes. The Matthew Project has been helping children in transition since 2013. Each year District 186 identifies students in transition and selects a school to partner with The Matthew Project. The vision of the directors of The Matthew Project is to provide a place where kids could come for mentoring, safety, a hot meal and tutoring.
After the first year of the project directors of The Matthew Project, realized there was a gap in learning and supervision during the summer months. Ann approached the YMCA to inquire about summer programming. After that first meeting Angie Sowle, CEO of the YMCA of Springfield, knew we had to find place for these children.
The first year the summer camp program was offered there were eight Matthew Kids, the second year there were fourteen and last year we had twenty-five children enrolled in the program. This summer we are excited to say we will be hosting up to forty Matthew Kids! Last year we incorporated junior counselors into the program. Brother and sister Amaurion and Adriana, who had been with us for the last two years, were promoted to junior counselors. Being a junior counselor gave them the opportunity to enrich, support and lead campers while gaining important life skills themselves. They served as role models to the younger campers and displayed qualities such as leadership, patience, preparation, and problem solving all while having fun. It was beneficial for both them and the YMCA. They will be back again this summer as junior counselors. When asked what they loved about the program they both said, “Being in charge.” Amaurion says, “In just two years, I can get a job at the YMCA.” Shelby Smith, Matthew Project coordinator for the YMCA says “Being a junior counselor gave them confidence to face all adversities and obstacles head on. They learned that with hard work, success follows.”
We have seen how this little bit of responsibility has transferred into their school lives. Amaurion made the football team at Southeast. He is also a member of the band. Adriana made the volleyball team at Jefferson Middle School. Both Amaurion and Adriana are excelling academically.
As kids grow up, they are greatly influenced by the environments in which they are raised. Children who have access to nurturing, stimulating and safe environments have fewer difficulties and experience better health, learning, relationships and well-being. We know that Adriana and Amaurion’s experiences through The Matthew Project and the YMCA summer camp have helped them develop into strong, capable and secure individuals who in turn give support and encouragement to other Strong Kids.