Dream Path Program

Join Hands began with Girls Club many years ago in the spring of 1990. A year later our Boys Club began. Today our youth programming still includes that original Girls Club and Boys Club based at the Roosevelt housing development in East St. Louis. We also now have a Girls Club and Boys Club based at the Ubuntu Center in the Orr Weathers housing development in East St. Louis, High School Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs with Priory and Nerinx High School teens, and as volunteer power allows other classes and offerings for youth such as Cooking, Yoga, Martial Arts, Athletics and Music Lessons,  including Irish Music and Dance through a partnership with St. Louis Irish Arts. Our youth programming typically serves children 8 years old through 8th grade. We currently serve approximately 70 children with 85 volunteers.

Our youth programming provides activities to children from East St. Louis, Illinois, to entertain and challenge them and to temporarily take them out of their often harsh environment. Our volunteers act as “big sisters” or “big brothers,” friends to the boys and girls, encouraging their self-image and self-esteem, encouraging them to grow and develop in order to reach their full potential.  The focus of our youth programming is relationships with the children, so they will know they are loved and know their huge potential. Our youth programming begins the relationships we hope will continue with our Dream Path Program.

The Family Mentoring Program

In 2004, Join Hands began our Family Mentoring Program, focusing on10 young women and their children, young families caught in the web of intergenerational poverty. All ten of the original mothers in the Family Mentoring Program had been participants in the original Girls Club when they were younger and were motivated to continue their education and improve the lives of their children. When our Family Mentoring Program began, they were young women with children of their own, young women who are working hard to escape poverty and help their children have opportunities they never had.

In 2017, as we began the Dream Path, the Family Mentoring Program expanded to serve 30 families with over 100 children. There are 10 – 15 volunteer mentors currently.

Families are matched with volunteer mentors that provided regular support, encouragement and friendship. Participants commit to setting goals for themselves and their children and working toward those goals with the help of their mentors. They commit to attending weekly meetings, either individual meetings with their staff mentor or group support meetings with other program participants. Education is prioritized, both for the adults in the Dream Path, and for their children.  In addition, monthly family outings are offered, allowing parents to take their own children on fun outings, fostering both stronger families and a stronger relationship between families.

Through the Dream Path, as staffing and volunteer power allows, Join Hands will commit to walk with more families to help them make sure their children have the tools to succeed, to not just graduate from high school, but to go to college and graduate from college. The Dream Path Family Mentoring Program offers friendship and mentoring of parents for the sake of their children’s success, using a birth through post college curriculum and relationships as the foundation.

The Teen Mentoring Program

In 2006, our Teen Mentoring Program was started to help teenagers attain their education and career goals. In 2017, as we developed our Dream Path Program, we expanded our Teen Mentoring Program to be part of our pathway out of poverty for teens from all of our Join Hands Programs.  Teenagers whose families are in the Family Mentoring Program, as well as teens who have aged out of our Girls Club and Boys Club or any of our youth programs can be part of the Teen Mentoring Program. We also partner with Griffin Center, an after school program in East St. Louis, to provide mentoring for their teen workers. The Teen program currently serves 50 teenagers with 35 volunteer mentors.

This program requires a commitment from the teenagers themselves. Parents cannot make this commitment for them; teens themselves must be ready and really want to work to reach their dreams. The program focuses on increased academic achievement, increased employment skills, and attainment of not only high school diplomas, but college graduation.

Each youth participant is assigned a mentor for the program year. With a focus on relationships as the key to truly making a difference, mentors and mentees meet at least monthly as part of our structured Teen Mentoring Program. Our meetings expose our teens to new possibilities, providing them with hope and support for a better future. Teens are not only taught how to build resumes and interviewing skills, but to dream big and aim high.

Alternative Education Sponsorship

The public schools in East St. Louis have a long history of failing to provide an education that prepares children for college or the job market. So, in 2006 Join Hands started the Alternative Education Program, making a commitment to the women in our original Family Mentoring Program to send their children to private school. The mothers in our Family Mentoring Program know only too well the failures of the East St. Louis School System. Products of the system themselves, they find themselves in remedial courses in college, or, not having graduated from high school, they struggle to attain their GED.

The families who qualify for our Alternative Education Program are committed to providing a better life for their children through a private school education. Parents agree to pay a small portion of the tuition and, in lieu of what they cannot pay, they commit to continued participation in the Join Hands Family Mentoring Program and a certain number of volunteer hours at the school their children attend.

The need and demand for our Alternative Education Sponsorship is huge, but participation is limited based on funding.  Please consider becoming a sponsor. JOIN HANDS ESL’S ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM is giving you the opportunity to be the one to change the life and future of a child in need. As an education sponsor, you can give one child hope and a chance to escape the failings of the East St. Louis public schools, a chance to escape poverty. You can help send them to a local highly regarded private school that will help them to reach their full potential.

With a recurring monthly donation as small as $25, you can become a sponsor and help fund one child’s tuition and make a tremendous difference in the life of a child. Become a sponsor today and we’ll send you a picture and profile of your sponsored child.  This is a wonderful and personal way for one individual or family or group to make a huge difference to one child’s future.

Grade school tuition for one child is approximately $4000 ($335 per month).

High School tuition is approximately $8000 ($670 per mo.)

College Education Sponsorship.  As our young people begin to attend college, we now realize another need, the gap between financial aid and cost of attendance at college.  It is very common for our young people to have at least a $6000 gap between what financial aid covers and cost of attendance at college. Most of our families do not qualify for parent plus loans. This gap can mean that a qualified child from East St. Louis simply cannot go away to college.  Please consider sponsoring a college student so they can continue on the Dream Path to college graduation!

Education Advocacy

The School District in East St. Louis has been failing for years. The state took over control several years ago because of these failures. The percentage of children who meet state standards on standardized tests is extremely low.  It is within this context that our children must somehow thrive.

Knowing that quality education is truly the key to breaking out of poverty, our Dream Path Program focuses on education. Each child on the Dream Path is assigned an education advocate, staff or a volunteer, who is charged with the responsibility of advocating for that child, working to establish relationships with both parents and teachers, supporting both in their efforts to make sure that child not only does not fall through the cracks, but receives what he or she needs to succeed academically.  We currently have approximately 80 school age children on the Dream Path receiving education advocacy services.