The Salvation Army’s After-School and Summer Program Prepares Youth for the Workforce
Talaya Martin-Smith is a 22-year-old graduate of Rosemont College with a degree in communications. She says if it wasn’t for The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia’s after-school and summer enrichment program, she wouldn’t be where she is now.
Martin-Smith is a production assistant for KYW Newsradio.
“I make sure everything gets on the air,” she said. “I work an overnight shift, do the countdown to start news and then get the anchors ready, make sure their connection to us is great … I also edit stories and audio they send over to us. I essentially run the show from behind the scenes.”
It started in the summer of 2011 when Martin-Smith was hired as a camp counselor for The Salvation Army Learning Zone at the Temple Corps Community Center in Philadelphia. Her job was to oversee the oldest age group of children enrolled in the program, who participated in reading, writing, math and arts activities that the Learning Zone offers through partnerships with various organizations.
Big Picture Alliance, one of the program partners, provides filmmaking, acting and directing classes to students in the program. When Martin-Smith saw teaching artists from Big Picture Alliance train the students, she quickly became drawn in to the lessons herself.
“Seeing that, it made me think, ‘I want to go into this field,’” she said. “The Salvation Army gave me my start as to what I wanted to do with my schooling.”
The Salvation Army has a longstanding commitment to helping underserved youth get a quality education. From its partnership with Walmart to provide school supplies, to local backpack distribution events and after-school enrichment programs, The Salvation Army supports children’s education year-round.
In Greater Philadelphia, The Salvation Army Learning Zone’s focus on work readiness allows local youth to express their creativity and gain self-confidence. According to Eileen Hence, Education and Compliance Consult for The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia, the program serves local at-risk youth who often lack the motivation and aplomb to push themselves.
“We serve the most at-risk children who often have behavioral problems and poor school attendance,” said Hence. “So, with these types of activities, students can build their self-esteem because we know that when you have fun educational activities and you can master them, then your self-esteem rises up to a different level.”
Students in grades K through 8 can enroll in The Salvation Army Philadelphia’s Learning Zone at four different locations – Tabernacle Corps, Temple Corps, Philadelphia West Corps, and the Philadelphia Citadel Corps. In addition to partnering with Big Picture Alliance for filmmaking and directing classes, the program also partners with The Clay Studio in Philadelphia for ceramic art classes, and Motivos Magazine for reading and writing activities, and contests.
Despite COVID-19 closing down other additional locations in Philadelphia, the Learning Zone program was still able to serve about 200 students over the pandemic’s time through virtual and socially-distant in-person options, with the help of funding sources like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.