As the Summit Education Initiative (SEI) continues their venture to improve the chances of children’s success in school and higher education, they also realize the importance of getting creatively involved in other types of projects along the way. And in doing so, discovering the outcomes and lasting effects of these efforts.
The Findley Project, started by Love Akron, is one of those.
SEI has walked with Love Akron through their latest start-up in transforming this local school for the past year.
Derran Wimer, Executive Director of SEI, acknowledges the importance of things like this not only on a personal level, but in his work as well.
“I’m personally invested in the Findley Project because it’s our church in Hudson that’s pretty heavily involved there with the volunteers. My wife’s very involved in a lot of different ways as well,” Wimer said.
Together, Love Akron and SEI are working on ways to unite different sectors of the community towards one cause – increasing children’s chances of success in the long run.
“We said wouldn’t it be awesome if we could have churches and parishes who adopt schools or imbed themselves in those schools and meet those needs? So we’ve been working to do that,” Wimer said.
And so far it’s been a very positive experience.
“It’s really growing,” Wimer shared.
A Higher Goal
“Right now its anecdotal stories that say that this is a good thing, but our ultimate goal would be to measure these investments of time and talent which are going to lead to greater successes with the kids,” Wimer shared.
In other words, it’s one thing to do good things, but it’s another to actually measure the outcomes and successes of what you’re doing. With so much time, energy and investment being put into this project, why not look into exactly how it is making a difference?
SEI has been working with Mark Ford, Director of Love Akron, to determine how to measure the impact of what they are doing.
Realizing What’s Possible
“It’s all very good. Love Akron’s been huge in generating interest,” Wimer said.
“It’s really a capacity-building year – understanding what we can do and what’s possible. We’re getting a pretty good sense of that,” he continued.
Monthly, their planning team meets to talk about the Findley Project.
“One of the things we have to figure out is how SEI can help them with measuring the impact,” Wimer said.
Some questions they find important to ask are: How many adults are engaged with the kids? How do the adults feel about the outreach? What’s the effect on the kids and their families?
“You want to measure on the output side. That’s where we need to get to and we’ll be working on that. It’s really very exciting,” Wimer shared.
Along with that major goal they are looking at where to go from Findley, in hopes to make this positive project one that spreads throughout the community.
“Our ultimate goal is to continue to work along that cluster to Innes (Community Learning Center), and then North High School over the next several years so that we’re investing in not just a school, but a community – a neighborhood,” Wimer said.
They’ve decided to stay in the North Hill area, truly making it not just an investment in the school, but an investment in the neighborhood.
At a recent meeting everyone liked the idea of focusing on Findley, then a year or two later going to Innes (a middle school just down the street on Tallmadge Ave.) to start a new work, while continuing the work at Findley. When this is accomplished they plan to go down the street a little further to North High School.
Wimer refers to this as their “roadmap”.
“We really believe in starting small with a good idea and really working it. Then, once you feel comfortable and confident that you’re meeting your goals and feel it’s something that can be scalable, then begin to do that, but do it in a controlled structured way so that you can continue to ensure the aspects of quality you want to have,” Wimer said.
“This team has a lot of enthusiasm and I just have to keep pulling on the reigns a little bit, you know, let’s make sure we’re doing this well before we start putting our efforts and energy into starting another one, while we’re still building the first one,” he continued.
Because this is no short term project- they see this lasting for years and years to come.
But for it to flourish, they will need a strong set of dedicated volunteers to lay the groundwork and be in it for the long haul.
It’s important for anyone interested in volunteering to know that.
“The people who are volunteering are making a commitment. This isn’t an in-and-out situation ‘well we’ll just serve Findley a couple of years’. There’s challenges they’ll face, but you’re making a commitment to the community and the families living in that community to be supportive,” Wimer said.
So far, stories from volunteers have been overwhelmingly positive.
This small seed planted has the potential of changing an entire neighborhood for the better.
“Mark Ford has a huge vision on where he’d like to take it,” Wimer said.
So, would you like to join in on this vision?
If you are interested in helping build a strong foundation, and offering your time/talent to this project¸ Love Akron is looking for dedicated volunteers.