Church is not only a place of worship for some high school students in Germantown, Pa. The First United Methodist Church of Germantown, also known as FUMCOG, enriches the lives of Germantown teens through an after school program that reaches students beyond the classroom.
When the dismissal bells ring at Germantown High School, many students leave for their homes or even an after school job, but some have the opportunity to cook, travel and experience Philadelphia’s rich history in theatre. The fourteen year-old FUMCOG after school program reaches Germantown High School students from the ninth through twelfth grades and teaches them the value of community service and eating healthy.
After school program founder and volunteer, Dr. Barbara Mitchell is a retired schoolteacher who believes in the potential that the students have. “There are kids here who are striving… I wish we could affect more kids at Germantown High,” Mitchell said.
Because the program is open to every grade in the high school, freshmen have the opportunity to work with upperclassmen and are positively influenced. “I’ve seen them encourage each other to go to school and stay in school” said Donna Miller, program volunteer.
While in the after school program, students are able to participate in the “Dinner for Eight” program where they prepare and cook their own meals.
This portion of the program is dedicated to eight specific students that sign up at the beginning of the academic school year. Throughout the program, students learn how to cook and also have the ability to learn discipline and responsibility, in, and out of, the kitchen. Students serve each other the prepared meals and Miller said, “they work with each other and… they grow a little” creating bonds that last longer than the time spent in the program. Some students in the program are needy but all-in-all, they attend the program for the companionship.
Another aspect of the program is the stained glass window portion. Stained glass professionals come to the after school program to teach the students how to cut and piece glass together to make windows. The windows are then donated to various places that are in need. Students have donated windows as close to home as New Orleans and as far away as South Africa. One of the values that the program tries to instill in the students is that, “no matter who you are, you can do service to other people,” Mitchell said.
Other opportunities that the after school program provides for the students are summer jobs through the Career Awareness Program, where students are able to meet with and speak to business professionals. The students also attend plays in Philadelphia area from Shakespeare to modern musicals. When asked what the main focus was behind creating the after school program for inner city youth, Dr. Mitchell said she wanted the students to stay in school and achieve the best that they can. “The neat thing about these kids is they’re so darn resilient,” Mitchell said after sharing humorous anecdotes from previous years.