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“Let the little children come unto me.”
The Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys (BWS), a private school of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, has just begun its sixth year of providing tuition-free education to boys from low-income families in Southeast DC. St. Paul’s Commission on Mission (CoM) provided BWS some support during its start-up years and earlier in 2013 formally adopted the school as one of the parish’s official outreach ministries. The Commission’s goal is to engage more intensively with BWS and identify opportunities for St. Paul’s to become part of its success story.
The boys who entered the just-inaugurated school in 2008 are now fourth graders, beneficiaries of the quality education they have received in the classroom and in a structured, safe, and fun after-school program. Currently there are about 80 students in junior kindergarten through fourth grade, an average class being less than 15 with a student/teacher ratio of 8:1. With rigorous academics, family involvement, Christian formation, and a social curriculum that links character building and academic success, the Bishop Walker School is opening the doors of opportunity to its students.
The parish’s past and current support to BWS has included some financial, volunteer, and material assistance. We funded and provided chaperones for a school field trip, and for the past two years, a St. Paul’s volunteer has supported the school’s chapel and music program and accompanied the boys on piano at their musical events. Last spring CB Wooldridge loaned his stash of Mardi Gras decorations for the school’s around-the-world Carneval celebration. Another parishioner donated a keyboard for the 2nd grade piano workshop. More recently, five intrepid gardeners participated in the BWS Garden Work Day on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s March on Washington speech, getting the campus ready for the new school year. The CoM also designated the proceeds from the parish picnic for BWS, added some additional funds, and sent a check for $2000 to the school for its 2013/14 school year. St. Paul’s and BWS do indeed seem to have a future together.
There are many ways we at St. Paul’s can support the work that goes on every day at the school. BWS participates in the Boxtops for Education Program and gets ten cents for every coupon it collects. See http://boxtops4education.com for a complete list of participating companies. Place your coupons in the designated envelope on the CoM bulletin board and they’ll get to BWS. Another way to support BWS is by signing up for the Giant Food A+ program. Giant cardholders may sign up on the store’s website and designate BWS (school code is 08457) as your school of choice, and Giant will donate a percentage of your monthly purchase total to BWS. Please note that you must sign up each year if BWS is to benefit.
There are many volunteer opportunities at BWS, some of which are quite flexible and can be done on your own time. Are you a handyperson? BWS needs someone to do simple repairs such as touch-up painting or door knob repairs. Can you spare one lunch hour a month? BWS needs men of all ages and backgrounds to have lunch with a class and then share a hobby or interest with the boys. Do you love working with books? BWS needs volunteers to catalogue its library books using its new software program. Are you someone who loves to mentor and can make a year-long commitment? Men 21 and older are needed to be role models and confidants to individual boys with whom they share a similar interest. Can you welcome visitors and perform basic administrative duties? BWS needs receptionist coverage at its new Washington View campus and is hoping to have enough volunteers so that shifts will be available at your preferred day and time. Are you an accomplished musician? Some BWS boys are eager to learn an instrument, perhaps the very one you can teach them to play. Are you someone whose profession might reveal opportunities for the boys to pursue? Perhaps you could volunteer to sponsor a class field trip to your place of work. Moreover, there are onetime opportunities such as the recent garden workday sponsored by the Perennial Garden Club of Washington for which parishioners can volunteer their time. The CM will keep the parish apprised.
For those who want to do more and purchase much needed items, bishopwalkerschool.org has a wish list of both equipment and musical instruments that the school could use right now. Of course, it takes money to run the school—with each grade added, routine annual operating costs increase by $200,000—so financial donations are always welcome. You can donate directly or designate a gift to be sent via the Commission on Mission (make your check payable to St. Paul’s with CoM-BWS on the memo line) and we will add your donation to funds sent by the parish as a whole.
Check the BWS website or contact bws [at] stpauls-kst.com for more information.