St. James’ Summer Youth Program
The 2015 inaugural St. James’ Summer Youth Program was a huge success. For the first time, the church offered its youth an opportunity to take part in a small community comprised of church peers and caring adults, who nurtured through experiential education that promoted self-esteem, inclusion, and a foundation for building a faith in God. The program provided St. James’ children an opportunity to learn how to be more caring, understanding, be better equipped to stand up for what they know to be right, and learn some responsibility. These are qualities that help build a stronger church resulting in a cooperative community and a healthier society at large.
The summer program took place at St. James Episcopal Church in Tigard and on off-site fieldtrips. Sarah Beck, Church Vestry Member and Youth Leader, with one parent assistant, took a limit of ten youth members, ages 4 – 10 years, on a field trip every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM through July and August. Children were responsible for bringing a sack lunch, a car seat if needed, and a change of clothes. Church members provided snacks and volunteered to teach the children art, music, and science projects at least once a week.
We met at the church at 9:00 AM each day. The kids headed downstairs to play for twenty minutes, then Sarah Beck, a parent helper and all the children piled into the van and headed out on an adventure.
On hot days, we drove to downtown Portland to play in the city parks, fountains and playgrounds. We drove out into the rural countryside to go berry picking, feed farm animals, take scenic hikes and eat ice cream. The kids enjoyed days when we stayed close to home and played at their favorite indoor jungle gyms and bouncy houses. Yet the group equally enjoyed field trips to educational destinations, like the aquarium, art museum, zoo, community centers and the local county fair, just to name a few.
By the end of the summer, the St. James’ Summer Program quadrupled in participants and both children and parents alike had built a bond with one another. It became what is the beginning of a program that we will continue to grow from the inside out and eventually branch out into the local community and beyond.