New Elementary Program Director Brings Passion and Experience

Our Elementary after-school program B.R.I.N.G. (Building Resilience in the Next Generation) has grown tremendously in the past few years.  With nearly 60 K-5 students attending, and more on the waiting list, we have been working hard to implement curriculum that focuses on developing resilience and support academics.  Last month we discussed how the research is showing the long-term effects of mentoring programs are one of the most predictive factors in breaking the cycle of poverty.  This energizes us even more for the important work with youth, which is truly the core of Sunshine Gospel Ministries. At the end of this summer, we had an opening to fill in leadership and were thrilled when fellow Woodlawn neighbor and teacher Marvanna Cash showed interest!  

Cash grew up in Woodlawn and nearby Hyde Park, attending Kenwood Academy High School.  Following that she went on to earn a double degree in English Literature, and Dramatic Arts Lawrence University, and  holds a masters of arts from Columbia College in Interdisciplinary Arts and Education. After teaching at Horizon Math and Science Academy, working at the Community Youth Development Institute and Ogden Elementary, she was feeling a pull to work in a different capacity to help support youth outside of the school setting.  She put a lot of prayer and reflection finding the next best fit for her next career move. She feels that many of her gifts in educational leadership, facilitation, theatre, and her passion for promoting positive self love/identity alongside instilling them in young people, will be valuable to the students in many ways. 

“In interviewing with Sunshine, I was really impressed with the intentionality shown in the interview.  Not only did they care about my background and experience, but they also wanted to ensure that whoever filled this position was really feeling called to this work,” Cash shared.  “I really believe in the work Sunshine is doing.” Cash brings a passion for exposing Woodlawn youth to the arts, which supplements the efforts that our Middle School programs have been doing.  Donnell Williams, Director of Middle School Programs shares, “Her passion for being the intermediate between the arts and also instilling self worth within the youth really excites me. She brings a high caliber of experience and knowledge, but is humble and willing to really collaborate with everyone.”

Cash saw first-hand working in the schools how the arts are often under-represented due to lack of funding.  Youth aren’t being exposed to various mediums of expression and how valuable the arts can be. They can be such a positive and healthy outlet for expression.  “As a village helping to raise these children, how are working together to keep kids on task?” she asks. For Cash, her vision for the Elementary Program is to continue focusing on developing resilience through working on the 40 Developmental Assets, part of the implementation of trauma-informed care practices at Sunshine.   This further helps build the potential God places in each child.  Cash also wants to be focusing more heavily on exposure to new things such as healthier approaches to nutrition,  strengthening cultural & historical knowledge for students, talent shows, improving social and interpersonal skills,   and acting. Sunshine is thrilled to have Marvanna’s energy, vision, and leadership this year!