By Annabel Weiner
Everyone is part of the family at Peace Neighborhood Center- the staff, students, donors and volunteers. Peace Neighborhood is an organization where students are nurtured and offered help in academics.
Peace Neighborhood is celebrating its 40th year of helping the community. The center was initiated by Ann Arbor residents because of misunderstandings that came about between people who were on opposite ends of the economic scale. To release tension and to solve conflicts, Peace Neighborhood was formed. The center has evolved over the years and has added many more programs.
Today, Peace Neighborhood Center serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade. There is a Monday-Wednesday program for middle school students and a Tuesday-Thursday program for elementary school students. Both programs have similar schedules, but are adjusted for different ages. Many of the students, in both middle school and elementary school, are picked up from their school by Peace Neighborhood staff and brought back to the center. When they arrive, they are given the option of eating a full meal.
After their meal, they have organized activity time. The activities are different for elementary and middle school students. On Mondays, the organized activity for middle school students is attending a girls’ group or a boys’ group. Girls have one group called Sisters Together Achieving Real Success, or STARS, and the boys group is called Rising Suns. In these groups, they talk about things like their dreams and goals for the future. On Wednesdays they have college preparatory activities, such as learning about the financial aid processes and having speakers come in.
On Tuesdays, elementary school students have the chance to join a club of their choice that they stay in for the whole year. The clubs offered are music, dance, strategy games, kitchen science, and building. On Thursdays they meet according to grade level (first graders meet together, second graders meet together… etc.) and work on skills such as cooperation and team work. After these activities both age groups have the chance to work with volunteer tutors on homework and skills that they need help with.
Although it is Peace Neighborhood’s priority to serve economically or socially challenged families, they also help families who are better off. They understand that even if some families do not have economic or social problems, they still have needs.
Children Services Coordinator Terri Strom is in her 13th year working at the center. She started when she was a graduate student in the University of Michigan’s social work program and her children now attend the programs. She coordinates activities for elementary students and works with volunteers.
“Part of what we do is provide some advocacy and support to parents for kids who maybe need more assistance in school if they’re behind academically or are having behavior issues in school,” she said. “We’ll work with parents and the teachers and social workers at the schools to help them come up with plans and help reinforce that (at the Peace Neighborhood Center.) We do a lot of different things than just the programs that the kids come to,” said Strom.
Strom said she is impressed by how resilient the children are. “Because working here at Peace we see a lot of children who have to deal with a lot of things…that are hard,” she said. “If it’s drug use by their parents or parents being incarcerated, or abuse by family members or in their families – a wide range of things that kids have to deal with, and it’s amazing to see how resilient they are and how they keep going and how you still see them grow and change and become beautiful young people.”
Strom said the Peace Neighborhood staff considers their job more than just work. They take their jobs seriously and recognize each individual student. “It’s an important part of their lives,” she added.
Peace Neighborhood Center hosts a 40th Anniversary Block Party on June 23 from 5-8 p.m. on the front lawn of the center, 1111 N. Maple Road.
Annabel Weiner is on staff at The Communicator, Community High School’s student print and online publication (http://the-communicator.org/). This story was originally published in The Communicator online and is reprinted with permission.