Abigail is a Texan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She has been in the Heights since 2010 and began working at Streets Ministries shortly after moving here. Her official title is Middle School and Pathways Coordinator; but her unofficial title is Friend and Mentor to many young people in our neighborhood. I had the opportunity to sit-down with Abigail this week and she shared with me her passion for education and the community.
So Abigail, what impact has Streets had on the community?
The biggest impact that we have had is just providing a safe place for kids to come to and just “be”. When Streets first opened in the Heights we operated out of a church and it wasn’t open all the time. Since our new building was constructed the kids just pour in. Some of them come to socialize with their friends and some come to play basketball or soccer after school. Many of our kids get help with homework and receive one-on-one tutoring and mentoring in our Pathways program. One of the most important things that we can do is to build strong relationships with the kids. We have also built great relationships with the schools, which is huge.
Tell me about the Summer Institute program that Streets has.
The Summer Institute is one of the oldest programs that we have. It first began at the South Memphis location and has been happening every summer for the past 20 years. We take high school students and give them a college-like experience. It is a 5 week program and students must go through an application and interview process in order to participate. Monday through Thursday we go to the University of Memphis and the students take English, Math, Oral Communications and a Life-Skills class and an ACT Prep class, all in a college setting. In the afternoon, we bring them back to Streets where they complete their homework and prepare for the next day. It is a ton of work and we hold them to a very high standard; their work must be done well and on-time, no excuses. On Fridays, we focus on team building and community outreach activities. We want our students to be civic leaders and community-minded. During the 5th week the students visit an out-of-state college where they live on-campus and attend classes. Every student who has been through the Summer Institute program loved it and it really prepared them for college.
We realize that during the summer many students work to help support their families. That is why each student who participates in the Summer Institute gets paid for their time. We want to teach them that with hard work comes great rewards.
In your opinion what is the biggest problem facing our community?
Well, I can’t speak for the whole community, but with the students I think one of the biggest challenges is a general sense of apathy. Many students lack confidence in their intellectual abilities. Making them believe that it is possible for them to excel in school and in life is a challenge but its getting better. Every year it gets better! Also, I wish that parental involvement with the PTO was higher but that is getting better too.
What is our biggest asset?
This block! Streets is located on Graham and is right next door to the schools. Everyone is connected and everyone knows each other. They may not always like each other but they stick together. This is what community impact looks like. It has been such a blessing to be in the middle of it and the access that Streets has to the community has made such a positive impact, not only on the kids but the staff as well.
Thank you Abigail for all that you and the entire Streets staff is doing! We are so thankful that Streets Ministries has found a home in the Heights.