Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Summer That Wasn't

Today, instead of being full of kids painting, making slime, rehearsing plays, and playing soccer, Clay Elementary will be empty.

For the first time since 2008, the Education Exchange Corps will not be spending the summer educating children in the city of St. Louis.

Until very recently, Clay Elementary was known as a Community Education Center. A handful of schools in St. Louis received this designation. The idea was for these schools to be community hubs, being open for extended hours most days of the year to provide needed services to kids and families. Members of the community could take GED classes, receive counseling and health care, and know their kids would be supervised before and after school. 

This summer, these Community Education Centers closed. They will still be schools, but the services they once provided to their communities will no longer be offered. At Clay, we were one of those services. 

Many of these schools' partners are left at a loss, needing to find new ways to serve the kids and families they've grown so close to. We will be taking this summer to figure out what our next steps will be. But, although we'll be back, many people who served the school district, its students, and their communities won't be. These are the people who served as the Community Education Coordinators and the Community Collaborative Specialists for the district.

Mr. Gardner, Clay's Community Collaborative Specialist, served the school district for two decades. He was a constant face at Clay Elementary. He knew the families--kids' siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins. He knew where the kids lived, what organizations were in the neighborhood, when the group of older boys would come to the school to play basketball, which families needed a little extra help.

When he first heard about our program, he called me immediately. He had to have us in his school working with his kids. Over these last three years, we have had the pleasure of working closely with him. He was a no-nonsense educator who served as a necessary authority figure for so many children at his school, and he cared deeply about the well-being of so many in the Hyde Park neighborhood. His departure will be a terrible loss for the community. I'm sure the same is true for so many of the others who will be leaving with him. It's a tragedy that these dedicated folks will no longer be involved in the education of their kids.

For our program, this will be the summer that wasn't. But the empty schools won't stay empty for long. Unfortunately, the empty Community Education offices will, even though the communities are still in need.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps