St. Stephen’s Youth Programs was honored to share the story of our partnership with the Blackstone Innovation School at the New England Providence All Our Children Conference. All Our Children is a national network of school- church partnerships, of which St. Stephen’s is a founding member.
Our story began in 2010, when Blackstone’s test scores were in the lowest 5% of the state’s and the school started the Turnaround process. At our after-school program, we saw that our Blackstone students were struggling in reading. When we learned the Blackstone lacked a functional library, we could not overlook the opportunity for partnership. Today, the Blackstone Library, which is entirely staffed by volunteers, welcomes 19 classes on a weekly basis. Other school partners, such as City Year and Big Sisters, Big Brothers use the space as well.
In addition to sharing our story, our conference session focused on building relationships with the leaders in the room. Fifteen church and school leaders come from New Bedford, Salem, Lynn, and the Cape as well as New Hampshire and Connecticut to learn from our partnership and share their own successes and struggles. Across geographic areas, participants stated that their motivation for entering into a partnership with a public school was to provide the resources the school can’t prioritize. With increasing emphasis on standardized test scores, schools do not have the in-house resources to provide programming in reading, physical activity, and the arts. This is where community partners, both faith- based and secular, can step in.