Reaching out to make a difference

Over the course of the school year, the Fargo Public Schools works with several non-profit organizations in partnerships that help the District achieve its educational mission. One of these – CHARISM – centers its efforts on outreach programs for low-income children and families, including the refugee populations within the District.

CHARISM was founded in 1994 by five area churches and Community Homes, a subsidized housing complex located near McCormick Park (southwest of Jefferson Elementary), to provide programming to low-income (and eventually, refugee) families in the neighborhood. Community needs shifted in the mid- to late-1990s, and CHARISM began offering programs to serve New Americans as well, such as English Language Learners (ELL), sewing, and computer classes.

In 2004, CHARISM opened a second facility in the Stonebridge neighborhood (in the Kennedy Elementary attendance area) further south to serve an additional population, and establish a “Multicultural Hub” where New American businesses could lease space and use common areas for events.

Today, CHARISM’s biggest impact on children in the Fargo Public Schools is through afterschool programming, tutoring, summer camps, and self-esteem and character-building projects:

Helping Children Learn is an afterschool mentoring program where students learn how to trust and build relationships. Fargo Public Schools serves as the referral for most of the 50 children who currently participate in HCL.

All-Stars Tutoring is an afterschool program that engages children one-to-one or in small groups with reading and math tutoring, all with intervention-trained staff. Due to the high percentage of ELL students the program serves, its methods are culturally sensitive, and include parent involvement. The District is also the primary referral for this program – also approximately 50 students.

CHARISM Summer Camps include the Playtown Day Camp and English Language Learners Day Camp. The Playtown Day Camp is four days a week in June and July for elementary-age children at McCormick Park. The ELL Day Camp, hosted at Stonebridge, is a weekday partnership with FPS each July. Campers are placed by the District, identified as those needing additional help developing their language skills. Approximately 100 students participate in these two camps; 60 of them in the ELL Day Camp.

CHARISM has two projects that are geared towards at-risk middle and high school students. Within the projects is a focus on relationships, positive decisions, planning for the future, character, and social issues. The projects also have a community service component, allowing students to develop leadership skills and a sense of self-worth. The Faces Project is geared towards young women, and includes a visual arts component with local artists. The Strength Project is geared towards young men. About 15 young men and women participate in each of these projects; they are students at Carl Ben Eielson and Discovery Middle Schools, and Davies High School, although there is not currently a group at Carl Ben this semester.

(All photos courtesy of CHARISM.)

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