ELKHART — Representatives from more than 37 local non-profit organizations, 40 faith-based groups and Elkhart Community Schools met at a youth summit Thursday morning, March 7, to talk about how they can help serve Elkhart’s kids better together.
“If you think about public education, if you start in 1910, decade after decade, legislation is passed, things happen that increase the demands on our schools,” Elkhart Superintendent Rob Haworth said. Those responsibilities include not only academic, but social and medical ones as well. “We’re up to taking that challenge, but we only have 180 days, and in those 180 days, we only have seven hours.”
During the summit, Haworth spoke in more detail to the group about some of those challenges. Paul Baldwin, a local pastor, spoke to the group about his work with Help With Love, an initiative started in Mishawaka that helps churches partner with local schools in providing tutors, mentors, care kits and whatever a particular school may need. Elkhart Community Schools representatives also shared about particular ways organizations can get involved with the school system, including the 2013 Lemonade Day program, Elkhart schools’ volunteer program and by hosting a summer food program site.
Elkhart already does a great job of having non-profits work with schools, Haworth said, but asked people to think about how to take that collaboration even further.
At the end of the program, Haworth asked those at the summit to fill out a card stating if they were interested in joining in the effort and listing what youth programs their group already offers and what issues they see as the greatest ones facing local kids.
Haworth said his staff will assemble all of the responses and work with the groups to prioritize needs. Then, those involved will develop an action plan on how to address those needs.
Several local non-profit leaders were excited about what could come out of the initial event.
“I think it was a great morning,” Haworth said, “but it’s only a start. How do we address a challenge and come back in a year and say ‘this summit made a difference and here’s how we know it made a difference.’”
He hopes this was the first of many annual youth summits focused on working together for local kids.
“We would like to be able to work together,” he told the group. “How do we make schools that are in Elkhart, Elkhart Community Schools?”