Growing Graduates: Local Missions Go Deeper


At a young age, boys and girls often picture themselves being firemen or nurses someday, but what happens to those dreams when they struggle through school and struggle through life in a dysfunctional family? “As we mentor and work with students in the nearby schools,” notes Chapelwood UMC’s local missions coordinator Amy Taylor, “we are realizing many students don’t even know how to dream about what they want to become.”


As a result, only 36% of graduates in the Spring Branch ISD near Chapelwood UMC do anything to further their education beyond high school. Spurred by Bishop Huie’s challenge to make an impact through unique school partnerships, Chapelwood has recently decided to go deeper with their involvement by committing to help the district try to double that statistic in the next five years. The initiative is called T-2-4 since the ideal scenario would include graduates going to technical institutes (T), some pursue two-year degrees (2) and others four-year colleges (4). “In today’s society,” Amy explains, “some type of post-high school certification or diploma is almost a necessity for getting a job that pays above minimum wage and breaking the cycle of poverty.”


Rather than continue to search out new ministries, the Core Serving Team decided to go deeper within Spring Branch and group current activities into three categories to boost students’ success:

1)  Mentoring (providing a direct line to academic success)

2)  Confidence/Character Building (nurturing interests, hobbies, talents)

3)  Family (trying to reduce turmoil in families to help students stay in school)


“Believe it or not, there are families that move every three months to obtain a month-free special in an apartment,” adds Amy, “and that is very disruptive to a student, so one of our strategies is to provide families with resources through the Memorial Assistance Ministries and Westside Homeless outreach.”


The T-2-4 Initiative has inspired Chapelwood to add an extra dimension to many of its existing programs. Amy says, “If we take students to an Astros game, for example, we try to add the career aspect to the field trip – beyond the obvious one of professional baseball player. We have helped students see the concessions, and marketing, and ticket takers as possible careers they could attain. And when we took them on a grocery store tour, they were excited to learn that many of the top HEB managers got to their position with a two-year degree.”


Chapelwood volunteers like Allison Gower are thrilled with the opportunities to impact a very real statistic. “Chapelwood has found that SBISD is the hub of the community, a trusted entity with families. Therefore, by partnering, we become a partner as well, for parents and students.” Chapelwood’s middle school mentoring program S.W.A.P. (Students with Amazing Potential) will now be focusing on the types of careers and jobs that can be won via technical and two-year degrees. And, for various sports ministries (pictured here in Basketball, Softball and Soccer) she says, “this program will strategically use practices and games to form a connection with families so that we can understand and therefore strengthen the students' academic environment and form connections with the students via Communities In Schools and the SpringBoard Mentoring program.” Afterschool programs like Newspring Art Studio, will give students a way to earn money that can be set aside for funding of higher learning. “The district will be measuring outcomes in five years,” adds Allison, “but I know we are already having a significant impact on a new audience of youth in our neighborhood.