KALAMAZOO – The criteria for admission into an academic after school program operated at the New Genesis Education Center is simple.
“We don’t let a child into the program unless the parent knows they also have to be involved,” said Ervin Armstrong, executive director of New Genesis and associate pastor at the Christian Life Center. “Parental involvement is what makes us different. We see our parents every day.”
Parents are required to have their children in the program at least three days a week, and to commit themselves to a high level of involvement, Armstrong said.
Students are selected by administrators and staff at Woodward Elementary School which New Genesis adopted when it opened ten years ago at North Christian Elementary School. Armstrong said Pastor Joel Brooks, with Christian Life Center, came up with the idea for the Center, now located on Cobb Street.
Christian Life Center owns the Cobb Street building and is responsible for 80 percent of New Genesis’ funding. The remaining 20 percent comes through programming, grants, and monthly contributions.
The Center’s five employees are part-time. Armstrong said their jobs begin in August before the school year begins and follow the school calendar.
Each year 50 students from Woodward are enrolled in the program and stay with it until they enter middle school. The children arrive at New Genesis at 3:30 p.m. during the week and receive a snack before starting their homework. Those who finish early participate in a reading/literacy program.
A contact from Woodward brings homework folders for each child. Work is closely monitored by staff and volunteers with New Genesis.
“When the ‘Kalamazoo Promise’ began we changed our focus to elementary and early childhood,” Armstrong said. “Over the course of many years we are preparing them to take full advantage of the ‘Kalamazoo Promise’ and go on to college.”
Those children who don’t have a computer are given one to take and use at home. Additionally, parents who successfully complete technology classes offered at New Genesis also get a computer. A fee of $50 is charged for each 4-week session.
“Our goal is to become a certified Microsoft satellite site for the community,” Armstrong said.
The majority of the students in the after school program enroll in the eight-week summer camp which operates week days at the Christian Life Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and focuses on academics and technology. The $60 cost of the camp includes breakfast, lunch, and a snack. Close to half the children receive scholarships to attend the camp.
Although Armstrong said he feels fortunate for the financial and in-kind support New Genesis receives, he said the organization’s biggest challenge is operating the same level of programming in the face of ongoing funding cuts. He said he is partnering with other groups to fill in the gaps.
Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, the local chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons, the local 4-H, Prevention Works, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, and Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University are among the organizations that provide assistance to New Genesis.
“A volunteer-driven organization”
“We are a totally volunteer-driven organization,” Armstrong said. “I’m in the best of both worlds. I love reaching out to people.”
The one-of-a-kind wrap-around program bases its success on test scores for its children. Students are tested at the beginning and end of each school year and, so far, the results have been positive.
“It’s one thing to have a good idea, but you need to be able to see the outcomes,” Armstrong said.
For more information about New Genesis, visit their website: http://www.newgenesisinc.org/