Swarthmore College has rich history of involvement with the Chester community and has developed relationships with several organizations over the years. Members of the class that produced this site also volunteered as part of classwork for the semester, and sometimes longer, with organizations which provide an ongoing relationship with the college and student volunteers.
Many of the students in the class got involved specifically with Dare2Soar, a student-run program in which Swarthmore students tutor and mentor primary school-age children in underserved communities in Chester, Pa. Through Dare2Soar, the class worked specifically with God’s House of Glory, TMT, Eastside Ministries, and the Community Action Agency of Delaware County, or CAADC. All besides the CAADC are Faith Based Ministries.
The CAADC mission, including affiliate corporations and partnerships, is to assist families and individuals to move toward economic self-sufficiency and reduce their dependence on public support through innovative approaches to programs including: provision of professional case management services, life skills training, employment training, provision of social services, and housing, community and economic development. Those in the class worked specifically within the CAADC tutoring program.
Students have also volunteered with organizations outside of Dare2Soar, including the College Access Center of Delaware County, or CACDC, Chester Youth Courts, and VITA.
The CACDC provides free college preparation services to high school students and adults, with plans to expand services to middle school students in the near future. Services range from college and career awareness, study skills development, tutoring, mentoring and assisting high school seniors and their parents with the college financial aid process.
The Chester Youth Courts program strives to nurture a respect for the rule of law among youths, helping to develop positive citizenship attitudes, encourage civic engagement, and promote educational success through a diversity of service learning opportunities, strategies and activities. Youth courts are structured to provide positive alternative sanctions for first-time offenders by providing a peer-driven sentencing mechanism that allows young people to take responsibility, to be held accountable, and to make restitution. Positive peer pressure is used in youth courts to exert influence over adolescent behavior.
In addition to imposing constructive sanctions for juvenile offenders, youth courts also offer a powerful set of civic opportunities for youth in the community. Youth volunteers actively learn the roles and responsibilities of the various parts of the judicial system. They act as law enforcement professionals, prosecuting and defense attorneys, clerks, bailiffs, jurors and even judges to gain experiential knowledge of the juvenile justice system. The youth respondents and volunteers acquire valuable understanding about police and probation officers, youth services workers, and court administration, paving a path for academic and career building opportunities. Follow the Chester Youth Court volunteers’ blog.
VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, offers training for volunteers in basic tax preparation, as well as the opportunity to prepare taxes for local families in Chester during tax season. VITA is a program sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service and is designed to encourage low-income families to access the Earned Income Tax Credit without having to pay for tax preparation services. VITA also helps families to avoid the predatory lending practices by some tax preparation companies. Delaware County Asset Development, a consortium of non-profit organizations and institutes of higher education, sponsors the training and supports the sites hosting the VITA program.