News - GC Students Unite To Provide Positive Alternatives to East St. Louis Youth

GC Students Unite To Provide Positive Alternatives to East St. Louis Youth

GC Students Unite To Provide Positive Alternatives to East St. Louis Youth

A group of Greenville College seniors decided to make a difference in the East St. Louis community last semester as they participated in COR 401, the capstone course of the College's core program. The group established a club they christened Connect Four, designed to offer after-school programs for youth in East St. Louis as an alternative to the gang related activities that often entrap youth in the city at an early age.

The core program is designed to expose students to multiple views and perspectives enabling them to respond with maturity to the complexities of the contemporary world. Specifically, they are equipped to deal with issues relating to cultural, religious and ideological diversity. The fourth and final course of this program, referred to as COR 401, requires students to approach a real world issue within the framework of a biblical worldview. Students spent the Fall 2009 semester developing a project to address how Christians should respond to a violent culture. 

The Connect Four group created a club student-run club to assist high school students in East St. Louis with the transition into college. The club's mission is a natural progression of the work Dr. Teresa Holden, Assistant Professor of History/Political Science and French, has undertaken for the past five years at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center, a center established to provide the youth, adults, and families of the Metro-East St. Louis region with the resources to improve their quality of life. Dr. Holden created an after-school tutoring and ACT prep course to help East St. Louis high school students gain admission to higher education opportunities and had GC students aid this effort. She is now the sponsor of Connect Four.  

GC students were shocked to learn of the closing of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in July 2009, and established Connect Four to ensure that Greenville College maintained a connection with the East St. Louis community. The Center, which opened in 2000, provided an educational supplement to the student's education, as well as inspired them to become involved within their community. Connect Four hopes to fill the gap created by the close of the Center.

Connect Four travels from Greenville to the JJK Center to spend two hours after school with students from East St. Louis every Tuesday and Friday. The club primarily concentrates on academics on Tuesdays and recreational activities on Fridays. Connect Four's efforts center around four main goals which form the foundation of the program; tutoring, enrichment/skills development, activating and mentoring.  

One Saturday each month the group also sponsors an event that combines activities and enrichment, putting more emphasis on the latter. Past events included a GC student panel that answered college related questions from students in East St. Louis, as well as a science presentation by representatives from the American Chemistry Society; Dr. Darrell Iler, a GC professor who grew up in East St. Louis, and GC senior Phu Nguyen. Both events were a great success. In the future, the club hopes to bring the students to the Greenville campus for a VIP tour.

The program hopes to bridge the gap between the Greenville College community and East St. Louis by providing GC students with the unique opportunity to build relationships with students in East St. Louis, while investing in their academic and individual future. The club also aspires to bring the idea of service to the students, allowing them to contribute to the improvement of their own community.

Connect Four has now expanded beyond the original project of the COR 401 seniors, and operates on the efforts of 15-20 regular GC student volunteers. The new group is headed up by students Reginald Aaron and Neasha Morrow, who were some of the first members of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee program.  It is their hope to create a sustainable, student-run organization; an objective for which they need the involvement of the Greenville College student community. Any and all GC students are encouraged to join and use their talents and interests toward fulfilling the purpose of Connect Four. If interested, the group travels to East St. Louis every Tuesday at 2:30p.m., and heads back to campus at 5p.m. Make a difference in your life by helping the youth of East St. Louis make a difference in theirs!  

This story was published on March 03, 2010

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