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Sowing Seeds--Mind, Body and Soul

A week ago we were visited by staffers from By the Hand Club for Kids, an organization we've known and partnered with since 2012.

By the Hand, now in its 18th year, is a unique organization that is working (and growing) in four of Chicago's most under-resourced neighborhoods: Cabrini-Green, Altgeld-Murray, Austin and Englewood. How? Through after-school programs that emphasize academic excellence while nurturing the whole child--mind, body and soul.

By the Hand now has 5 clubs---safe places where kids go after school to get help with their homework, one-on-one instruction for improving reading skills, technology programs to help teach and motivate them, spiritual nourishment and a healthy meal. The Founder and Executive Director of By The Hand Club for Kids, Donnita Travis, describes the mission this way:

"Motivated by the love of Jesus we care for kids as our own, literally and figuratively taking them by the hand and walking alongside them----from the time they enroll all the way through college. We provide a safe place to learn during the most dangerous time of the day---the after-school hours when most crimes by and against youth are committed. And we meet their most pressing needs to break down barriers to learning and to develop their God-given talents."

There are many success stories By The Hand is justifiably proud to share. Here's one:

Pictured in this post is Makayla, an 8th grader at By The Hand--Englewood. Last year Makayla was reading at a 6th grade level. BTH helped Makayla through its technology-enabled blended learning program and a personalized reading coach. Makayla improved and made quick gains. Today she reads at a 12th grade reading level. And not only that, she has gained confidence and is a leader at BTH. Recently she helped lead her team to a second-place finish at BTH's Bible Bowl and she has volunteered to be a spokesperson on behalf of BTH and the kids it serves. Makayla says she loves the confidence she now has (which I think beams out from her photo) and she plans on pursuing her dream to become an attorney.

Here are some stats that show the tremendous success BTH has had. Last year:

  • 85% of students passed all of their classes (a record number)

  • 92% of high school seniors graduated from high school

  • 86% of graduates started their post-secondary education

  • 87,823 healthy meals were fed to BTH kids

  • 1,007 kids received dental exams; 363 were treated for advanced dental care

  • 862 kids had on-site eye exams; 381 got prescription eyeglasses

  • 88% of students came to know and love Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord

All in all, By The Hand loved and served 1,270 kids during the 2016-2017 school year.

By The Hand Club for Kids is truly changing lives. The FT Cares Foundation, along with First Trust Portfolios, is on its way to reaching $100,000 in donations through our five years of partnering with By The Hand Club for Kids. We are committed to the work BTH is doing, and to helping it reach its goal of serving 3,000 kids by 2026. By The Hand Club for Kids also created a school three years ago, called Moving Everest and located in the Austin neighborhood, which is also changing its students' lives. The "school-plus-after-school" model works, and students there are thriving.

Want to be a part of the work? Find more information HERE. The Foundation will be donating to By The Hand Club for Kids in March, our "Children's Health & Welfare" Month. We hope you'll be inspired to contribute as well.

I'll close with another quote from Donnita:

"One cannot overstate the impact of investing in the life of a child. As an acorn produces a tree that in turn produces many other trees---sowing seeds in our kids is life-transforming not only for them but for generations to come---producing an ever increasing harvest with eternal value."

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