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FirstWorks at The Corners Thrives by Building on Community Assets

The Corners of Highland Heights Community of Shalom faced a difficult decision last summer when it looked like FirstWorks, a long running after-school program, would not re-open with the new school year.

Recognizing what an important asset that the program was for the neighborhood, The Corners was determined to save FirstWorks. According to Fred Morton, The Corners' Shalom Zone coordinator, “The Corners’ purpose included strengthening the education of the children in our neighborhood, and we were committed to keeping the program running.”

As one of the Communities of Shalom trained and supported by the Center for Transforming Communities (CTC), The Corners had already created and implemented a day camp for FirstWorks, and was now ready to take on a more ambitious project. Following some modifications to the program, “FirstWorks at the Corners” was able to continue as a once a week enrichment program for 25 children from first through eighth grades in the Highland Heights neighborhood.

In addition to the capacity that The Corners built in two years of operation they were also able to leverage tremendous support from St. Luke’s UMC, Highland Heights UMC, Germantown UMC, the Junior League of Memphis, Valero, and many others.

One major change that The Corners worried might harm the program was to discontinue the transportation of the children to and from the church. Fortunately , the children’s parents were committed to the program and found ways to make sure their children attended weekly. This partnership with both FirstWorks and parents is essential to the success of the ministry.

In addition, FirstWorks recently initiated an exciting new way to work with families as they set future goals. Parents can use an online screening process to review their eligibility for government benefits to help stabilize their financial situation. Along the way, the process sparked dialog and education about other resources within the community, as well as uncovered resources right at FirstWorks that have proved extremely helpful to the parents.

For example, one job-seeking mother learned about dressing appropriately for an interview, and she was able to create a resume using the computers at FirstWorks.

“We will host the online screening again later in the semester for other parents, and look forward to the great possibilities that will emerge.” said Amy Pearson, Director of FirstWorks.

Parental involvement in their children’s success truly embodies the shalom values of inclusive, collaborative, and systemic change that will transform their neighborhood. The Center for Transforming Communities is quite proud that The Corners was prepared to take on this ambitious project to build shalom in their neighborhood; and looks forward to sharing more stories of success through FirstWorks at The Corners.

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