Giving Kids a Shot at Success

FAIRGROUND—Mission: St. Louis’ goal is to empower the city’s most vulnerable residents and neighborhoods through education outreach, job placement, and community involvement.

Located in the 3100 block of N. Grand, it sponsors Beyond Charity, which offers home repairs and tax prep assistance, and Beyond Jobs, which supports job and leadership training. Beyond School, a partnership with AmeriCorps, hosts after-school activities for 3rd- to 8th-grade students with the goal of preparing them socially, emotionally, and academically for “high school and beyond.” 

Director of Beyond School, Erin Malone, says she creates structures and routines in order to provide purposeful and individualized support for students.

“Extracurricular activities are valuable for a number of reasons. First, it broadens perspective and develops the whole child,” Malone says. “Exposure to a variety of experiences helps young people to build relationships and connections.” She adds that this not only benefits academic learning, but supports social development and self-efficacy. 

Beyond School also provides a safe, supervised environment for students, and supports parents or guardians whose work schedules conflict with school schedules. Success Coach Alyssa Jarvis says she personally believes after-school programs are important, and she wishes she’d had access to one growing up. Many educators agree that after-school programs give kids structure, and it allows them to do things they might not do otherwise. 

“You can definitely see the progress they make in their language building, math, and reading,” Jarvis says. “And they get to do community service and go on field trips.” 

Jarvis adds that Beyond School fills in those gaps that other schools might miss.  During their “Crew Time,” kids have the opportunity to talk about everyday issues that a lot of youth face today. Last week’s session helped build on their social and emotional skills by allowing them to talk freely about their experiences with bullying. 

During “Enrichment Time,” an eight-week course taught Tuesdays and Thursdays, kids learn new skills: how to play soccer, or cook pizza, tacos, and cornbread. They have also taken drama and dance classes. Field trips have included a visit to a local pumpkin patch, and they have an upcoming field trip to the Magic House.

Mission: St. Louis has served the St. Louis region since 2008, and partnered with Beyond School in 2012. Since then, the program has served nearly 400 students in the St. Louis area.

Danielle Estrada, a 6th-grade student who participates with Beyond School, says she gets to do fun activities like make holiday cards and read books. 

Steven Lurea, a fifth grader at St. Louis Language Immersion School, says he learned the importance of listening to his teachers at school. He enjoys the Beyond School program because he has the chance to learn, and also to have a lot of fun. 

“They help us with our math, and on Fridays, we go on special field trips,” he says. “You can learn a lot, make good grades, and make new friends.”

To learn more about Mission: St. Louis and Beyond School, visit missionstl.org.

Ashley Winters

Ashley Winters is a staff reporter at The NorthSider. She's a north St. Louis native and a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. In the near future she plans to write and publish children's books. She can be reached at ashley.winters@thenorthsider.com

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