Emerging Leader and Fellow Staff Literally Take Students By The Hand
Imagine the power of leading at-risk children “by the hand” every day after school, every year from kindergarten through college, loving and nurturing them mind, body, and soul.
That’s exactly what By The Hand Club For Kids (BTH) in Chicago does. Daniel Bell, the Social-Emotional Learning Specialist for BTH received an Emerging Leader Grant from We Raise Foundation in 2021 for his all-in dedication at the Christ-centered after-school program.
Bell and a staff of close to 150 people work across five club sites that serve more than 1,700 kids in the Altgeld Gardens, Austin, Cabrini-Green, and Englewood neighborhoods. Almost all the students referred to the program are struggling academically. They’re referred by their teachers and bussed to the after-school sites. There, they receive academic support, literacy intervention, healthy meals, vision and dental care, and spiritual discipleship. They can explore their talents and interests to prepare for college and career.
“I’m biased,” Bell said, “but I tell people all the time that I don’t know an organization that does as much. We’re very holistic in how we support our kids and their families.”
The We Raise Grant allowed BTH to purchase the Second Step Curriculum, which was a huge, immediate need. Second Step is an evidence-based social and emotional learning curriculum that takes a holistic approach to help build supportive communities for every child. This curriculum helps students grow skills in the areas of self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social-awareness and relationship skills. Each classroom at BTH uses one lesson every week to teach these skills.
Bell, who has a License in Clinical Social Work, is a 2017 graduate of Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Counseling/Human Services. He holds a Master of Social Work from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich. After graduating from Moody, he worked as a Prevention Specialist at Catholic Charities of Shiawassee & Genesee Counties in Michigan.
That experience prepared him for and dovetailed perfectly with his current position. Yet he couldn’t do any of his work without his faith.
“My faith is everything in this position,” he said. “As a staff, we understand our mission is the Gospel and that’s our number one goal, to raise kids to know Jesus first and foremost.”
Just one example of a student who has benefitted from BTH is Ryan, currently in fifth grade. Ryan had a very troubled past and many struggles. He caused a lot of disruption in class, and when triggered by another student would get so overwhelmed with emotion that he would basically shut down completely.
“I’ve worked with Ryan for two years and have seen him make so many strides,” Bell said. “I told him this year it was time to step up and be a leader in his classroom and to his friends. This young man has been incredible. He’s learning to be consistent with how he responds to stressful situations. He’s very smart and is helping other students with their literacy. He’s truly stepping up and being a leader.
“I’m so grateful for all the support We Raise Foundation has provided,” said Bell. “It’s clear that We Raise is committed to supporting the mission of BTH and my leadership development.”
Due to the visionary support of We Raise donors, countless students like Ryan can go from feeling troubled, alone, and directionless, to having a figural and literal hand to hold for years and years.