The History, Our Fall Session, and What the Future Holds…

This post is filled with pictures and video of our full Fall Session. However, I would like to start with a little history for those who are new, and share some exciting information of what is coming up!

The idea to connect to the youth in our neighborhood was born from the violence that was growing in it. Cathy was working on safety aspects of our neighborhood’s Quality of Life plan, while I was working on housing. The thing we both realized is that if we didn’t start addressing the crime, then nothing would really change. The key to addressing the crime, was to start connecting the people.

Much of our crime and gun violence was centered around the youth. So the logical place to start was with them. We started holding an every other Saturday art activity. We started with 5 youth and quickly climbed to 45 coming regularly. While they created, we talked with them about the neighborhoods, their wants/ needs, and the barriers they saw. Then we started talking to parents, other neighbors, city leaders and businesses asking the same kinds of questions. From all this the Southside Side Stars was born.

We spent months researching an designing what the program would look like. We spent endless hours in meetings gathering information and knowledge. We connected to a variety of resources to bring in for the youth and their families.

Even though the youth is always our primary focus, understanding their families are a part of their growth and ability to succeed is very important. It wasn’t enough to create a place to go, they needed a space where they could learn and grow. Families needed resources and connections so they could grow. The approach is Youth-Centric.

We want to note that all of this was started without funding. We saw a need, had the right skills/ talents, and used the resources available to us. Too many times people wait on funding to come first. Although that would be easier, it wouldn’t change the immediate needs and would give them time to get worse. Since then we have had a variety of donations and funding come in because people were able to see and feel the impact we are making here in the neighborhood. This allowed us to expand and bring in more activities and equipment for the youth.

Being a completely free program will always make funding a challenge and concern, but we will not allow it to be a barrier for these youth and their goals. We have very little overhead costs due to the gracious donation of space by the Evansville Park Department and Tepe Park Neighborhood Association. We are also very good at finding resources and making do with what we have available. We have made a promise to walk all the way with them, to ensure their success, and that promise will be kept.

September of 2018, along with our partners at EVPL (Evansville Public Library) East Branch, we launched our after-school program. We had homeless and homeowners. Some financially well-off, and those trying to get back on their feet. Home-schooled youth and public school. The one thing they all had in common is that they lived here in Tepe Park.

We started identifying their interests and talents, and then started showing them all the careers that correlated with them. For example we have several very passionate about art. So we showed them how artists help advance science, understand history, and shape our future in a variety of different career paths. Once they have narrowed down what they would like as a career, we start connecting them to the right opportunities to experience it and resources to achieve that goal. To ensure they succeed in life, no exceptions.

We learned a great many things over the course of the fall. We made adjustments along the way based upon the data we were collecting. As we got to know the youth and families better, we saw what strengths and challenges that existed for them as an individual. We started identifying specific resources to address the challenges and activities to enhance the strengths. Due to the nature of our program and the individual needs/ growth of our participants this is an on-going process that will never end.

Some families were able to find housing, but it was out of our area. We can not provide transportation, so we connected them to another local youth program who could serve them. They are not as focused on skills/ career readiness that we are, but it is a start so they do not fall back between the cracks. Our hope is that other programs like ours will pop up in every neighborhood. Then if they have to move out of the area, we can connect them directly to another program that will help wrap resources and opportunities around them. Talks are just in the beginning stages for this type of network but we have high hopes.

We broke down into “Houses” and the youth created them from the ground up (name, flag, values). The “house” model is: a minimum of 6 youth- maximum 9, one adult leader, and one student intern per 2 houses interested in education/ youth social work/ psychology. The small size allows us to concentrate on the individual needs of the youth and families, to ensure success for them.

We leverage our relationships, partnerships, and eager youth/ families to further the revitalization efforts of our neighborhood. Connecting the youth to the neighborhood they live in. Giving them opportunities to discover community service in ways that raises the neighborhood up, while tapping into their own interests. Asset-based community revitalization at it’s best!

What’s coming next…

The Spring Session, which starts in January, will hold a lot of additions.

First, EVPL East will be adding a Junior Achievement money management piece and music program to go along with their literacy and STEAM activities.

Some electives we are adding will be: Home Economics, Fine Arts, Crafting activities, and Tutoring (focused on language arts and mathematics). These are in addition to our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), career/ life pathways, Quidditch (sport), Agriculture, and family resources we already provide.

Mon    4-5:30 EVPL after school (STEAM)
Tues   11-3 (co-op)     3-4 (cooking/ home ec)
4-6pm after school 6-6:30 tutoring
Wed   4-5:30 EVPL  after school (JA / Music)
Thu    11-3 (co-op)     3-4 (cooking/ home ec)
4-6pm after school 6-6:30 tutoring
Fri      11-2 (co-op) 2-3 (lunch)
3:30-4:30 (Korach Art Program ages 8+)  (Arts and Crafts ages 5-7)                             5-7pm Quidditch Practice
Home Ec class is open to all SSYZ youth (co-op and after-school)

You will notice co-op listed above. It’s a pilot program that will start in Jan. This is an educational co-op that will be focused on core classes such as reading, writing, literature, mathematics, social studies and so forth. We will be using the same portfolio/ hands-on learning style that is used in the after-school program. It is only open to current SSYZ enrolled youth, who are classified as home-schoolers. We will be providing more information and updates on this as it progresses forward.

We do have a limited number of spots in the program that we can fill though, in order to stay true to our mission. To ensure that our promise to these youth and families are kept, we have to ensure our growth is responsible and sustainable. This isn’t a sprint, we are in it for the long haul. Until these youth have entered college, or their career, and have settled into them.

Now onto what you all really came to see…. the videos and pictures from our Fall 2018 Session!

News Pieces:

Just Fun:

Evansville Vanderburg Public Library (EVPL)

Community Service Projects:

Community Connections:

How the relationships, partnerships, and SSYZ resources benefit the whole Tepe Park Neighborhood:


Active Learning, Anit-Bully, 4H:



Friends and Community who have come to help in some way:

To find out more about the stories behind the pictures, check out our full blog section on this site.

Happy Holidays everyone!!


About the author: Lisa Barnett