Wesley House Community Services: A haven hidden in plain sight

Jessica Carney-Perks

“Wow. This is going to hurt us all. But, I thank you for the time we had,” E. Colbert said.

These were the words of a grandmother that had finally found a center to support her elementary grandchildren during JCPS Non-Traditional Instruction, just for it to soon come to a close.

This center is Wesley House Community Services located on 5114 Preston Hwy, here in Louisville, Kentucky. A center that has been in operation for almost 120 years, serving English and Spanish-speaking communities in the local area.

The center currently offers a childcare service known as the WesKids Child Development, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for infants and toddlers.

Before the transition of CEO’s in the past year, the center had also facilitated an afterschool program for K-12.

The program, known as the Youth Brigade Academy, exposes youth to opportunities within the arts such as drama, music, and dance. In addition to these programs, the center offers workforce development and income tax assistance.

Following the surge of COVID-19, the center took several precautions to protect its participants and families.

From closing all programs in January 2020 to the installation of hand sanitizer dispensaries, logging temperatures for every person entering the building, implementing social distancing when possible and more avid cleaning regimens.

The center later reopened Aug. 22, 2020, for the launch of the Wesley House Community Services NTI Support Program.

The program included free assistance to students kindergarten through eighth grade with logging on and off of classes, completing assignments and improving their skills with platforms such as Google Classroom, Clever, Google Meets and Microsoft teams.

Students were provided breakfast, lunch, two snacks and a take-home meal every day when participating in the program.

According to Louisville Family Fun, there are only 2 other programs and camps of its kind in Louisville, Love City’s NTI Bridge Program and GradePower Learning.

Other programs range in price between $75 to $700 a week per child. In addition to fewer operating hours and days, no provided meals and no assistance with assignment completion, just assisting with logging on and off of virtual sessions.

Students varied in socioeconomic status, learning ability, comprehension, age, race and personality. Some students experienced episodes and breakdowns just at the sight of the join tab of their virtual meet.

As an employee during the operation of the program, I saw the frustration that bottled within the students when the internet connection was unstable or their teacher couldn’t hear them.

“Sometimes my hotspot doesn’t work when I’m at home. I can’t do my check-in if it doesn’t work,” a nine-year-old girl said.

I felt the anxiousness of trying to be on time for class but, a student can’t find the link to their live reading session.

I’ve heard students moan and groan about when their next break is, as they fidget and spin in their rolling chairs.

Or even feel the eraser end tapping my shoulder, as a student wanted to negotiate when they could finish homework then, play a game. “Teacher, teacher! Help me get on crazy games! Say it so, I can type it,” said a seven-year-old girl.

Before working with the center, I had never experienced or had to witness this quiet of a struggle. As a high school senior, I had familiarity with many of these platforms and more flexibility with this instruction.

Every assignment was a click away. I knew how to draft an email and get in contact with my teachers. I just knew. But, I couldn’t expect that from children who just learned how to count to 10 back in March.

I couldn’t fathom why so many students were behind in counting, reading and writing. However, blame couldn’t be placed on parents because they were never prepared for a setback such as a pandemic.

Parents and guardians have had to rearrange their lives to find methods to keep their children on track academically. Without financial means and consistent parental access to technology, it is hard to expect top tier mastery across the board.

Most of the elementary students found that NTI was “the most boring and long school ever,” a seven-year-old boy said. From being warped in a mask and strapped with headphones, this was not an experience of a lifetime.

Meanwhile, other middle school students loved this instruction. They would pop into class and get the work done with no questions asked. However, this didn’t mean they were actually grasping content and applying the information to real-world situations but, rather just “getting it done”.

As someone who was still in school, adjusting to working with children, and gathering the patience to become a sliver of a “teacher”, I saw just how important educators are in any space.

Accountability is difficult to appoint in these circumstances considering that the world is at the hands of a lethal virus. Many fear there will never be a normal to return to. From send-offs on the first day of school, holiday celebrations, proms, after school events or pep rallies in addition to the stress of not being able to hug a teacher or murmur in exhaustion.

Students are relying on parents, mentors, and educators to guide them along the course of success. This narrative isn’t a straight and narrow path for every student but, having programs such as Wesley House Community Services NTI Support Program are vital for youth academic growth and development.

By the conclusion of the program on October 1st, 2020, the program had serviced 15 students within the community.

The program concluded due to the lack of staff to assist with the program and the absence of Child Development teachers with experience in education or child care that could facilitate and lead the program with more attention.

Currently, the program is hoping to restart the afterschool program once school returns to in-person instruction. In the meantime, the center hopes to kick off the adult program services with G.RO.W., Getting Ready for Opportunities and Work, a program providing resources in job placement, mental, financial, and emotional wellness. As well as begin the giving away items from the “Wearhouse Thrift Store,” the Wesley House Community Services second-hand store as the center will open up space for something new during their “Clothes OUT and Invest IN” event on Oct. 10th, 2020 at noon.

If you are interested in volunteering, working with Wesley House Community Services, or accessing such resources, be sure to visit their website at https://wesleyhouseky.com/ or schedule an appointment at (502) 968-8231.