Pennacle Foundation expands after school community program

The Pennacle Foundation has offered residential services and treatments for youth with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities since 1998. But now, with the founding of a new after-school program at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in off Vermont Avenue, the program’s leaders hope to expand their offerings to more students in the surrounding community.

Carolyn Ruffin is one of the program’s directors and administrators. She said she’s always seen a need for a special kind of youth center for the kids that Pennacle works with.

“One of the problems I was finding with the school and with other organizations that provide supportive services to the youth is that our kids are very special when it comes to behaviors and they don’t always fit into that square peg. They’re round,” Ruffin said.

So when St. Mark’s had some space available in the back of its building last summer, Ruffin jumped at the chance to take over the space and launch the youth center.

Three nights a week, around 11 middle and high school students come to St. Mark’s for food, free time, and some kind of special project. This month, they’re breaking into groups and researching different historical figures who have spent time in jail and learning what their lives were like post incarceration.

“They wrote about people from what they’re used to, like Tupac, and also Martin Luther King or someone from history, like Mandela,” said Ruffin.

Once a quarter, academic awards are given out for strong performances at school. Almost everyone gets something, Ruffin said, and those with 3.0 GPAs and above get special certificates printed and displayed on the wall.

In the coming months, the center will add a senior citizens program and set up a community service day on Saturdays. Over the winter holidays, the center was able to hold a holiday party. The students assembled bags of food and were able to offer one to every parent and child that walked through the door.

“Because one of the things I truly believe is that the kids need to learn about empowering their communities and giving back,” Ruffin said. “We want the kids to understand where they’re at, where they came from, and where they’re going.”

Listen to Adrian Nelson, one of the students involved with the Pennacle Foundation, talk about why he loves the after school program at St. Mark’s.


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