The Church of the Brethren sponsors the Culture Club as a part of their ministry. Culture Club operates from 3:30 – 5:30 every weekday. During the summer and school holidays, Culture Club offers all day activities. In addition to providing tutoring and in-house programs, Culture Club members perform regular, supervised, volunteer activities in the community. Children between the ages of 5 and 15 are eligible to participate, although the regular weekday participants are all in middle school. While there is not a limit to the number of students who can enroll in Culture Club at a time, an average of 6 students attend Culture Club regularly during the 2012/13 school year.
Ms. Dawn Blackman is the program director. She creates original activities and programs for the students and further enriches the experience of Culture Club members through community service projects. The Church of the Brethren provides the space for Culture Club activities including a kitchen, tables for homework and games, and the computer lab. Students pay a small program fee to participate in Culture Club. Before we started our project, the computer lab had five semi-functioning computers and one all-in-one printer. The computer lab is set up in the back of the Church basement on a raised platform. All of the computers are on tables that are against the walls. The computers are arranged in this way so that Ms. Blackman can see the computer screens at all times. The large computer monitors took up most of the space on the table leaving little room for students to place notebooks or paper or for multiple students to work at a single computer station.
The space also includes a clothing closet, a food pantry, and a lending library. While the activities of Culture Club do not directly involve the clothing closet, food pantry, or lending library, students occasionally assist Dawn with the task of inventory or organization. The computers are primarily used by the students during the after school hours, but adults also have access to the computers on Wednesday evenings or whenever Dawn is available. Many adults use the computers to apply for jobs.
Activities and Outputs
While Culture Club primarily functions as an after school program, it also encompasses a variety of other activities and programs facilitated by Ms. Blackman. Students who attend the after school program receive a snack, help with homework, and access to the computers for homework or games. A tutor is available twice a week to provide additional homework help. Culture Club members also cultivate the community garden, sell their extra produce from the garden, make soup for the hungry, and take field trips to the library, the University of Illinois, and other locations in Urbana Champaign. Ms. Blackman has a small group of students, the Young Bakers, who learn through experimentation in the kitchen. Culture Club also co-hosts a family fun night along with Deliverance Temple Apostolic on the last Saturday of each month where families can play board games, work puzzles, eat snacks, and have fun.
Some of the measurable outputs include program attendance for the after school program, the number of garden beds, the number of gardeners, the amount of soup distributed to the hungry, and the profit of the students’ produce sales. The students who make a profit from the produce sales are required to donate a portion to charity, and a portion for garden supplies. The amount donated to charity could also be measured. For the other activities that are only tangentially related to culture club, one can measure the amount of clothing distributed from the clothing closet, the amount of food distributed from the food pantry, the amount of books lent from the lending library, and the number of job applications completed by adult computer users.
The short-term objectives for all of Culture Club’s activities include providing a safe place for students to go after school and during school holidays, feeding hungry students, motivating students to attend class and complete homework. The intermediate and long-term outcomes of Culture Club’s activities include supporting the academic pursuits of the students, reinforcing classroom content through constructive activities, teaching life skills that students do not learn in the classroom, and enriching the culture experience of the students through volunteering in the community. The impact of all of these outcomes is to build community and create peace one child at a time.