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More than homework

Ministering through an after-school program

Since its founding in 1998, Esmirna BIC in Miami, Fla., has been committed to reaching the most vulnerable in society. Located in an area heavily populated by migrant-working families, the congregation sensed a need to offer their community a quality, affordable after-school program for children.

So in 2001, the church established Peace Community Development Center (CDC). Now a fully accredited, incorporated program funded in part by The Children’s Trust of Miami Dade County, Peace CDC serves over 150 kids daily at two unique locations, including a seven-week-long summer camp.

José Rodriguez, founder and program director of Peace CDC and pastor of Esmirna BIC, desires to see kids excel. “We keep asking ourselves, ‘How can we impact the next generation? How can we help children succeed?’” he asks.

Because many of the program’s parents do not natively speak English, it is often difficult for them to assist their children with homework. Furthermore, many after-school programs hosted by local schools are cost-prohibitive for migrant-working families.

Each day, children attending Peace CDC enjoy a snack, receive assistance with homework, work closely with a state-certified reading teacher, and engage in physically and socially stimulating free time. Because the program’s teachers and instructors are bilingual, they’re able to work with children in English and communicate to parents in Spanish. To engage youth on a spiritual level, Peace CDC holds an optional Bible study course every Friday, which most kids elect to attend.

And all of this costs parents nearly half of a traditional after-school program. Following a structured curriculum, the vast majority of children attending Peace CDC excel both academically and socially. Over 95% of their children pass Florida’s state assessments, and about 86% demonstrate improved reading and literacy skills.

As they look to the future, José and Peace CDC’s leadership plan to expand their offerings, pouring into a new generation of leaders through youth sports teams, mentoring programs, and community-service projects.

This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2016 issue of In Part magazine.

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