Incarnate Word Foundation provides funding to St. Louis area grade school summer programs, helping families during COVID-19 closures.
Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Cecilia – two St Louis area Catholic parishes with thriving Hispanic communities – are hosting summer programs for children. These programs provide tutoring, socially distanced activities, and a much-needed break during long summer days for parents and students.
Sister Cathy Doherty, SSND, pastoral associate at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish near Ferguson, Missouri, overseas their school’s 5-week program. Students from Pre-K through eighth grade can attend in one-hour sessions from 9 to noon every day. All children wear masks, with up to four in one classroom, and only 12 children in the school building at one time. Three teachers are on-site tutoring the students, who register for a two-week term. With social distancing, “the kids would like to get up and help,” said Sr. Cathy, “now they can’t. But then after the first day, the children understood.” Our Lady of Guadalupe also hosts a modified version of their Shakespeare program. Usually a 10-week summer offering, it is now online. “The Shakespeare program has been a long tradition for our incoming 8th-grade students, and we were so sad to think it couldn’t be offered this year. With the help of our grant from the foundation, we’re able to host it. Some students come to school to use our computers to be a part of the program. The funding has been such a blessing to us!” said Sr. Cathy.
At St. Cecilia Parish in St. Louis City, Yolanda Diaz, director of the parish preschool, runs their summer program for ages 5 through 12. “We’ve actually wanted to do a summer program for over a year now,” said Yolanda. “This year, with the needs of the pandemic and funding from IWF, it became a reality.” Bringing together volunteers and teachers to tutor and engage students, “is a big help to parents who need to get to work these days. The kids are happy,” reports Yolanda, “they want to come.” The July through early August program hosts 14 children using the gym, a large cafeteria area, and other classrooms for safe interaction and social distancing. “Older students serve as volunteers, and are very engaged with the younger ones,” said Yolanda. Teachers tutor students in both English and Spanish, to help with reading and grammar, and developing language skills beyond the conversational level. “Teachers are excited by the possibility to tutor the children and help them improve in their reading and writing,” said Yolanda. “It’s a blessing for the children and families during a very challenging summer.”
All students and teachers are happy to be back and in school together, again. The students want to stay longer when their time is up and look forward to coming back the next day. While decisions are being made for the fall semester, students and teachers at these two parishes are grateful to be together – for now – even at a distance.