In 2005, Dan and Amy McElwain were working with middle-school-age youth in an urban church and were alarmed by how many of them could not read. These kids had slipped through the cracks in the public school system; somehow the system had failed them. Imagine a 6th grader who can’t read. How much harder every single class would be for them, from social studies to science. Everything would seem impossible to these children.
So, after much thought and research, Dan and Amy, with the help of The Street School Network, started an urban Christian school in the basement of a church, with six students in attendance.
Since then, The Bridge Avenue School (TBAS) has slowly and intentionally grown, with seventeen students now enrolled. The school serves students ages 10-15 who have previously been unsuccessful in other Cleveland schools, both public and private. Students and families must commit to three years of learning at TBAS, a non-public charter school, before going on to high school. Up until last year, they received nearly 100% of their funding from individual donations.
The school’s primary focus is on literacy; they teach reading using the Wilson Language program and students learn math at their own pace using the Saxon math program. Students also have access to a computer lab, a dance studio, an art room and a common area with lots of books and a giant Lego table.
With only three paid staff members, volunteers play a huge role in the success of TBAS students. The school currently has twenty volunteers who work one-on-one just to practice reading. This time is invaluable and could mean the difference between failure and success in a child’s life.
Walking through the doors of TBAS, I was pleasantly surprised by the smell of home-cooked tacos. Through the Lunch Provider Program, individuals and small groups provide a daily hot lunch for the students, ensuring that every child has at least one balanced meal a day to fuel their learning.
Donate school supplies: The school is always in need of pencils, copy paper, notebooks, erasers, backpacks, etc. If you’re thrifty, why not wait until the back-to-school supplies go on clearance, then stock up for yourself and drop some extras off at TBAS?
Donate your culinary skills: Coordinate a group of friends or coworkers to put together a meal once a month for the students.
Donate your time: TBAS counts on volunteers to keep the school going. From tutoring to office work, there is a place for you.
Click here for some other ways to help.