Ward 12's Diamond in the Rough
Jones Road Family Development – Ward 12's Diamond in the Rough
When it comes to helping the children of Slavic Village do better in school, enhancing their lives with music and arts courses and feeding their bodies as well as their souls, Jones Road Family Development, in its own quiet, steadfast way, has made its mark on thousands of neighborhood youngsters for over 30 years.
From its headquarters at Jones Road Church, 8000 Jones Rd., in Slavic Village, its Literacy Through the Arts (LTA) program offers children and youth, aged 6 to 18 years, opportunities for after school tutoring, music and arts instruction, meals, youth employment and summer arts camp.
“We believe that learning to play an instrument, writing poetry, drawing and painting can all enhance a student's ability to learn other life skills,” said Founder and Executive Director Ione Parry.
She said most of her LTA students are African-American. The program provides a curriculum that not only emphasizes textbook knowledge but character development and equality for all.
Mrs. Parry remarked that the COVID-19 pandemic threw her programs a curve ball, but she and her talented staff of teachers and mentors were up to the challenge. They quickly adjusted by working with area school leadership teams to convert their programs into virtual learning opportunities until they are allowed to fully reopen safely.
Normally the after school program is held one day a week at Jones Road Church from late fall through the beginning of May. Daily curriculum includes an after-school snack, reading and homework assistance, art/music instruction (violin, percussion, Orff mallet instruments and movement), opportunities for reading theater/production, and a hot dinner meal before heading home.
Historically the summer academy lasts 6 weeks, Mondays through Fridays, for half-day sessions. Attendance at this popular event typically numbers about 200 youth, who are given breakfast and lunch along with instruction and fun activities that help the children learn and grow. Due to COVID-19, this past summer’s academy was held virtually.
Music and arts programs, with the help of peer tutors, serve as a pipeline for learning, increasing language development and memory recall while boosting self-esteem. Students build skills desired by future employers through their work as part of a team. Older children benefit as well by developing self-confidence and communication skills by tutoring the younger children.
And because most of the students come from families struggling to make ends meet, the academy cost is only $10 per child for the entire summer camp. That's why they rely heavily on donations and grant funding to keep their doors open.
In “normal times," the summer academy is located at Cleveland Central Catholic High School, which generously provides space and support services for the program. Like Central Catholic, LTA is an active member of Slavic Village P-16, an initiative which seeks to connect young people in Greater Cleveland with positive experiences and the caring adults they need to lead good lives, supplementing the parenting and education of our youth.
“Like everyone else, we are looking forward to getting back to normal,” said Mrs. Parry. “And funding is a constant challenge, although we have been fortunate to obtain financial support from the Third Federal Foundation and a number of other donors.”
She said LTA is exploring additional funding opportunities to be able to expand the after-school program at Jones Road and restart on-site tutoring at neighborhood schools.
Ward 12 is lucky to have this “diamond in the rough” program and LTA teachers who work tirelessly with neighborhood youth, helping to turn them into the “polished gems” they were meant to be.