DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – An initiative here is attacking poverty from the ground up and directors say its mission is more important than ever.
Monday marked the last week of Miracle Makers’ 2017 summer session and students at Ruskin school were eager to start their day at the camp with breakfast, followed by group sing-along songs.
Miracle Makers started in 1998 as the ‘flagship’ program of East End Community Services. It offers after school and summer programs to the disadvantaged children living in inner East Dayton.
“We create a space that has caring adults, we created a space where they’re engaged and can see themselves as successful learners,” said Miracle Makers director Ellen Mays.
The program primarily focuses on the Ruskin neighborhood, where more than 60 percent the school age children are living at or below the poverty level. Mays said Miracle Makers gives those children equal opportunities to their more privileged peers.
“Miracle Makers gives every possible opportunity to these kids that kids in other, more affluent neighborhoods, have. To us it’s a social justice. It’s social justice and human rights in action,” Mays said.
Academically, Mays and East End credit Miracle Makers with helping Ruskin grown from an under-performing school to the second best scoring in Dayton Public Schools. However, Mays said the initiative has broader implications than classroom skills.
“We’re not just about academic achievement,” she said. “We’re really looking at the span of a child’s life and that kind of success.”
Aside from providing students a place to spend their time, East Ends said Miracle Makers meets a community need for a safe, nurturing environment.
In between songs and lessons Monday, Kindergarten instructor Jason McIntosh was leading a group of 5 year olds in a meditation-like breathing exercise he calls ‘mindfulness.’
“Usually through mindfulness, by the end of the year, I’m able to get them to be like, ‘I’m responsible for me, I’m in control of myself.’ And that’s been awesome. That’ been a great thing to see kids just kind of take charge of their own self,” McIntosh said.
Mays said the program is gaining importance as the opioid epidemic tightens its grip on the Miami Valley. The Ruskin-Twin Tower neighborhood, in particular, is struggling mightily with addiction. Mays said she hopes the Miracle Makers can be a bright spot and source of pride for the neighborhood.
“Miracle Makers, and Ruskin in general and East End, is an anchor in the community,” she said. “We’re everything positive, we’re everything optimistic, we are everything helpful, we are everything kind, we are everything giving.”
Thursday, July 27th, Miracle Makers MakerCamp 2017 invites community members to a school Maker Faire. The event will showcase the program’s mission and feature student work. It takes place from 1:30-3:00 p.m. at Ruskin Neighborhood School.
You can learn more about East End Community Services and Miracle Makers here.