On a cold Wednesday afternoon, a group of 20 middle school students gathers at Sunshine Gospel Ministries as Made for More Co-Director Jazlyn Anderson moves amidst the animated conversations, games, and homework. She calls all the students to the middle of the room and practices some calming breathing techniques before opening in prayer. “We try to incorporate therapeutic techniques such as breathing, circle time, and identifying feelings into our daily routines with the kids,” she says. This is part of the effort of Sunshine Gospel Ministries to incorporate Trauma Informed Care Practices into all the youth programming. As the staff has been learning the past two years, trauma affects the function of the brain and how it responds and acknowledging this and giving youth tools to identify and cope with their environment has proven beneficial.
The Made for More program was developed from Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Anderson and Co-Director Donnell Williams exude passion for weaving this concept into all facets of the program. “We want to reassure our kids daily that they are made for more in every form, shape, and fashion,” Anderson says. In a world where so many messages are trying to tell them who they are or are not, it is important to establish their true identity and purpose in Christ, especially during the middle school years.
Three afternoons a week from 3:30-6:30 students from 3 different local Woodlawn schools come to the Sunshine building to receive homework help, Bible discussion and prayer, extracurriculars such as dance or art, and themed discussions. In February, the kids focused on learning about black historical figures. They had trivia each day to learn about important heroes of black history such as local Woodlawn legend Francis Cress Welsey, psychologist and author of the Isis Papers, and civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Other themes that have been covered this year are Black Excellence, Ladies and Gentlemen, RESPECT, and Financial Literacy. This month, Made for More students have been covering Communication. Activities have centered around team-building and improving communication and listening skills.
All of the activities the staff run are to support building more resilience in the youth and strengthen their character. Williams and Anderson put thoughtfulness and intentionality into all aspects of the programming. This includes building relationships with parents and schools to holistically support the students. Currently, they work primarily with Fiske Elementary 6th-8th graders. Williams shares, “There is a lot of need in the other schools as well. We have started building relationships with the administration but we lack the capacity both space and staffing-wise to be able to expand beyond our current numbers.” Sunshine is prayerfully moving forward with a plan to expand all of our youth programs to serve 500 Woodlawn-area youth.