Executive Director and co-founder Libby Hunter describes the first year of WordPlay, a Northside after-school and summer program, as “a wonderful, deeply gratifying, thoroughly exhausting challenge.” WordPlay celebrated its first anniversary on September 14, 2013.
Since opening in September 2012, WordPlay has served over 500 children, trained 200 tutors, and had nearly 200 volunteers provide “behind the scenes” services. In addition to its after-school program, WordPlay also operates two flagship programs – Lunch Buddies and WordUP – with St. Peter Claver Latin School for Boys in Over the Rhine and Aiken High School.
An Aiken High School student, who participated in the WordUP program this past summer, provided Hunter with her “proudest moment” at the first anniversary event. Speaking at the event, the high school student said the WordUP program helped her complete online courses to recover some of her lost credits; having been held back twice before, the Aiken Sophomore recovered enough credits to complete the tenth grade. Hunter describes the “very bright” Junior as having “found a new home at WordPlay.”
The Aiken Junior is not alone – in one year, WordPlay served more young people than Hunter anticipated. For the time being, WordPlay will continue to serve young people in the after-school program at the same capacity (about 100 students per week). Hunter noted that expansion of the organization will be “careful;” in order to reach more students, Hunter said, staff will hold weekly creative workshops and will grow a volunteer tutor corps to serve students. “Serving a large target audience isn’t the goal for the near future,” Hunter explained, “however, for this year we are very committed to providing a deeper level of service to fewer children to ensure that we are more fully meeting our target population’s needs.”
Community support is certainly one of the reasons as to why WordPlay has “grown and thrived” in Northside. Both long-time residents of the neighborhood, Hunter and co-founder Elissa Yancey cite community support, “the location of our partner schools, the easy accessibility, and the great walk-in traffic for our social enterprise” as key to WordPlay’s success. In turn, WordPlay is very “community driven” – the organization has “an underlying mission to bridge divides in the neighborhood; to engage children and youth who have largely been marginalized, bringing together very diverse populations of Northside to work together towards a common cause.” Walk past WordPlay when the after-school program is in session (or, better yet, stop in), and you’ll see the organization’s mission in action. You may even see a student reading in a bathtub at the Urban Legend Institute!
Interested in tutoring a student or doing “behind the scenes” work for WordPlay? The commitment to tutor a student requires at least 3 hours a month, and volunteers are always needed. WordPlay is also able to host company holiday parties – many holiday events have a charitable cause, and WordPlay staff would be grateful for the support. Community members who are interested in volunteering at WordPlay can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or can stop by when the organization is open (Monday-Thursday, 2:30-6 PM and Saturday 12-4 PM). WordPlay is located at 4041 Hamilton Ave.
BY ALISA BALESTRA