For over ten years, Episcopal Community Services (ECS) has been making a positive impact in the lives of youth with its Out of School Time Program (OST). Seventeen-year-old Chase has been involved with OST since the program’s beginning and considers it “a great experience,” crediting the homework help and activities such as sports, drawing and reading. “There’s a lot of exposure here for the world of a teenager.”
Today, Chase is an OST intern, spending much of his time assisting the staff with “whatever they need help with that day,” as he puts it.From accompanying kids from one activity to the next, to helping distribute breakfast, lunch and snacks, Chase is OST’s right-hand-man. Along with his daily responsibilities, he is “a friend to a lot of the kids,” but more importantly, a role model to his younger classmates.
“I’ve built a lot of relationships with the kids here, especially the ones that don’t always feel comfortable talking at home about the issues they’re facing” Chase said. “Here, they feel comfortable around me, so we can just sit down and have an open discussion. I like for kids to be comfortable because it’s good to get your feelings out … if it’s to me, your parents or your friends, as long as you have someone to talk to.”
Chase says it is friendships that especially keep him involved with ECS OST. “I’ve been interning since I was 13. As soon as I left the program, I became an intern. I just like coming back. This is my second family.”
Students “get to interact with different people on a different level” than they do during regular school hours. “Some kids might be in 6th grade and others in the 8th. They might not have a lot of interaction in school, but at summer camp, they’re all together and can learn from each other. And they have fun.”
Much like the Feltonville neighborhood itself, ECS OST is made up of a diverse population. “Some kids might not meet people of different ethnic backgrounds, but when you come here, you have a mixture of everybody. [The participants] get exposed to diversity,” Chase said.
OST introduces students to activities that can eventually become lifelong passions. The program aims to ‘plant the seed’ early in its participants’ lives, helping shape their futures. Outside of school, Chase is a sports fan – both on and off the field. “I play basketball, run cross country and track. I just competed in the state championship at Shippensburg University for the 110m hurdles, and I plan on carrying that over into next year.”
“If it weren’t for the program, to be honest, a lot of the kids here would be getting into some trouble. When you already have problems at home, you have no outlet – nowhere to go,” Chase said. “Your mind is left roaming, and when your mind roams, bad things tend to happen. This program keeps kids from getting into trouble. That’s why I like it. It keeps kids out of trouble and lets parents know their child isn’t getting into anything they wouldn’t want them to. Everything is positive.” His positive outlook is also what drives him in life, living by the “early bird catches the worm” mantra.
“Why waste a good day? You may as well get up early, do what you do and have fun. Have fun, play your sports, go to school, get an education, and strive to achieve the goals you set in life.”