After-School Program Gives Kids Hope for the Future

David doesn’t really fit in the classroom “box.” Shuffled between mom, aunt, sister, and grandma, he longs to spend more time with his dad. He wonders if the adults in his life have his best interest at heart. As a result, David doesn’t know how to trust anyone, especially an authority figure.

So it wasn’t unusual for Ashley Paavola, developer of Future Club, a program of All Nations Church in University City, Mo., to see David sitting in the hallway outside his classroom.

“David, are you okay?” she asked.

“The teacher is mad at me for talking,” he said.

“David, you can do something,” Paavola said. “Remember what we talked about in Future Club? About adaptability? You remember what it means?”

“Make a change to overcome a challenge,” David replied. They talked more, with Paavola encouraging him to adapt to the challenge of not talking in class. “I believe in you,” she said.

Future Club has shown David that there are some adults he can trust—adults to help him through hard times and give him another chance. As a result, David feels safe enough to dream about his future and discover his passions.

We Raise awarded Paavola a $10,000 Emerging Leader Grant in 2018 to start the after-school program designed to open up career and college possibilities for students in grades 2-5—developing valuable life skills and character traits along the way.

In University City, 68% of families live near the poverty line and many adults have only a high school education. Future Club is a critical opportunity for early intervention in students’ lives.

Paavola has continued her leadership journey with humility and love for the community. She says she checks in with leaders and students more often to make continuous improvements to Future Club. They’ve added a service component and saw higher parent involvement at the 2019 end-of-year showcase. And school staff has seen positive changes in Future Club students.

“We Raise gave us ‘legs’ to stand on and do things that are really tangible,” Paavola said. “We now can thank our volunteers with gift cards and provide shirts—all the little things that add credibility and give us a feeling of professionalism. We’re incredibly grateful.”

Your financial support helps We Raise make a difference in University City and other communities where children need encouragement to imagine a brighter future for themselves. Thank you.

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