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Summer Learning with CityYouth Ministries
by Cody Moore, photography by Kayla Broadway

Since its inception more than 20 years ago, CityYouth Ministries in Downtown Jonesboro has continued to assist underserved children in the community by nurturing them spiritually and academically. For the first time in two years, the nonprofit organization has plans to offer extended summer classes and activities for children to attend during their summer vacation.

Denise Snider, executive director of CityYouth Ministries, has worked with the Christian-based organization since June 2016 and is a firm believer in CityYouth’s overall mission.

“Our mission statement includes our desire to transform the lives of children and families in the Jonesboro community by reaching the physical, academic and, more importantly, the spiritual needs of each young person,” said Snider.

CityYouth offers an array of after-school academic classes during the school year, which are instructed by several local teachers who excel in teaching the Connections curriculum.

“We have certified teachers and therapists trained in science-based literacy interventions,” said Snider. “The Connections curriculum we use was written by a mother-daughter team from Jonesboro. It’s a nationally and state-wide acclaimed curriculum that works for all kinds of learners.”

In the past, CityYouth Ministries would host summer classes for children who might not have fully grasped certain subjects and lessons during the school year. Since facing a budget cut, CityYouth had to cut back summer hours that had been used for these classes in the past.

“Since accepting my tenure as director, we have made changes that align with a very tight budget,” said Snider. “Sadly, we had to cut back on the hours that CityYouth had been open and have done so for the last two summers.”

Before accepting the fact that CityYouth might not be able to assist students for as long as desired during the summer term, Snider and her employees came up with an idea to help fund CityYouth’s extended summer programming.

CityYouth Ministries hosted its Spring Fling event on May 3 at The Glass Factory in Downtown Jonesboro with all proceeds directly benefiting the summer programming.

“We were extremely pleased with the support and financial gifts that came from our first Spring Fling fundraising event,” said Snider. “All of the money raised will be used to pay bills and employees during the summer months. It will also pay for food and transportation for the children to and from our facility.”

After the success of the Spring Fling event and thanks to several donations, Snider and her employees made the decision to go through with the longer hours during the summer months.

“This summer, we are intentionally stepping out on faith to meet more closely the needs of the children and parents,” said Snider. “It is imperative that our students have the opportunity to have a place to learn, eat and experience enrichment opportunities during their summer vacation.”

Although classes and activities held in the summer are similar to those held during the fall term, the children in attendance will be served a delicious dinner instead of lunch. CityYouth will continue to have regular classes and interventions with main focuses on math, literacy and Bible classes. Special activities such as yoga, athletic training and field trips will also be available.

“Our summer programming will begin in stages; June 3 through June 7 will be slated for the children that participate in our intense literacy interventions,” said Snider. “We want to use this time to make sure that gains were made and holes that are still a part of the child’s sequence of learning are taught and mastered.

“We are open to all students June 10 through Aug. 1, with a two-week break in the middle of the schedule for staff planning and the July 4 holiday.”

Organizers predict CityYouth’s programming will assist more than 100 children this summer through classes and activities, all thanks to the Spring Fling proceeds and generous donations made by members of the community.

“We always need donations,” said Snider. “We also encourage our 365 program. For $365, a child can be sponsored for an entire year. That type of funding is most helpful. We are also always in need of other goods such as paper plates, plastic forks, spoons, cups, paper towels, as well as cleaning supplies.”

Snider adds that without the help from the Jonesboro community, being able to give these children the classes and extra help they need to thrive in their future wouldn’t be possible. Because of donations, CityYouth is able to help shape a positive future for the children they bring in.

“I am genuinely touched by the outpouring of kindness and generosity of the Jonesboro community since beginning my tenure as director,” said Snider. “The tremendously needed gifts have been humbling, and the staff of CityYouth is most thankful. CityYouth needs to expand to be able to serve more youth and older age groups.

“This is dependent on our community. I am confident that there will be those in our community that will see the needs, as well, and begin to provide a means for our needs to be met. We want to serve so that we can teach our youth to serve, as well, by equipping them with Christ, an academic ability and the desire to be a positive influence among their peers and their families.”

CityYouth Ministries, located at 118 Burke Ave., is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. To make a donation or to receive more information about registration, visit CityYouth Ministries in Downtown Jonesboro or call (870) 932-9398.