The collaboration of private nonprofit agencies and government-sponsored services has a long and rich history in the United States. It has allowed a kind of flexibility not found in public bureaucracies. At the same time, by supporting services through their tax dollars, the people living in a service area have a special stake in the quality of services provided.
Chester Eastside, Inc., is currently partnering with the City of Chester and the Chester Upland School District to provide two important services: GED preparation for people seeking to complete their high school education and Parents First, workshops for parents to help their children succeed in school.
Relationships born out of necessity.
When Chester Eastside was forced to leave its former home in the old Third Presbyterian Church building, it was fortunate to be invited to use space on the basement level of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Other nonprofit agencies, including the Boys and Girls Club of Chester and the Chester Student Center – helped out. But it soon became evident that we needed extra space and facilities for some of our programs. That’s when we reached out to two entities of local government: The City of Chester and the Chester Upland School District.
Not only were these institutions able to accommodate two of our programs, but they would provide additional resources and help to extend our reach to more people in the community. For their part, our partnering institutions benefited from the program expertise and experience that Chester Eastside brought to the bargain: A win-win all around.
GED: making up for lost time.
A high school education is a virtual necessity these days, nowhere more so than in Chester, where those seeking jobs or advanced education already face huge challenges in a competitive world. High school dropouts have a much higher unemployment rate than those with a diploma, and the jobs that are available for them tend to be low-paying and dead-end.
Enter the GED (General Education Development) testing service: a way for those who dropped out of school to complete their high school education. Not only do school dropouts lack the final year or more of high school, but typically they were already facing major challenges with schoolwork. So for starters, it’s no easy task to get back into academe, sometimes years after they left school. Add to this the fact that the payoff is at least a year away, usually a good bit more than that; and then not guaranteed. As against a job of any kind, where the pay starts flowing within the first few weeks, GED is a sacrifice only the most determined are able or willing to make. On top of all this is the student’s own doubts about his or her ability to do it. The remarkable thing is that there are those who take on the challenge and stick with it.
Our GED program meets four mornings a week. When forced to leave the old building, we needed two things in particular: computers (all GED testing is done by computer) and a quiet space away from the noise of the Food Center and other Chester Eastside activities. City Hall had just what we needed: a room with computers and plenty of space. They were delighted to have the computers put to good use. Plus they are slated to become a GED testing center, the nearest alternative being at the main campus of Delaware County Community College, many miles away.
So because of the public-private collaboration, several adults are currently working on their GED who might otherwise not be.
Parents First: helping parents help their children succeed in school.
The Parents First program is based on three well-documented premises: (1) school is the major pathway by which people move up in the world; (2) the earliest years in school are the most important, and (3) the parent is the child’s first and in many ways most important teacher. The program consists of ten weekly workshops for parents of children in pre-kindergarten through third grade. We also provide a hot meal and child care. There are bonus items as an inducement to parents to participate. With professional workshop leaders and child care personnel, the program tends to be expensive.
When Chester Eastside was forced to leave its original home, finding suitable space for Parents First became a major challenge. We found a willing partner in the Chester Upland School District, since it fit in with their goal of involving parents in their children’s education, one for which they received federal funds.
So was born a new partnership between Chester Eastside and the School District, which provides space in one of its school buildings, underwriting the cost of security and custodial personnel; the hot meal; and some bonus items.
Once again, partnering with the public sector has made it possible for Chester Eastside to offer a vital service to the community.