“It’s a Monday night and Joe Tucker, a graduate student at the University of Akron, has yet to crack a book. Instead, Tucker, 23, is riding shotgun in a van full of inner-city youth. A third-grade boy is refusing to wear his seat belt, so Tucker is forcibly holding it in, despite a shower of punches from the boy.””
It’s a Monday night and Joe Tucker, a graduate student at the University of Akron, has yet to crack a book.
Instead, Tucker, 23, is riding shotgun in a van full of inner-city youth. A third-grade boy is refusing to wear his seat belt, so Tucker is forcibly holding it in, despite a shower of punches from the boy.
After he’s dropped off at his home, the boy hurls a rock into the van.
Reach Akron, a student-run outreach ministry, doesn’t always run smoothly, Tucker admits. Yet, each week about 30 college students meet at The Chapel on Monday evenings to spend a few hours with the youth of Akron.
It’s amazing to know kids from the area – to walk down my street and see kids I know playing outside, Tucker said. Most people go to Akron for four or five years, but never really know the people that live around them. Reach Akron allows me to connect with my neighbors.
In its 10th year, Reach Akron has been an important in the lives of many college students and local kids.
The children, most from neighborhoods directly surrounding the university, range in age from 5 to 18. On any given week, anywhere from 20 to 80 youth are expected to show up.
It’s good for the kids in many ways. Some have a troubled home life or a hard time at school.
Reach Akron isn’t just good for them, though. It’s good for the college students involved as well.
I love spending time with the kids – I’ve learned a lot getting to know them, said Josh Balazs, a middle education student in his senior year at the university.
On a typical Monday, the children show up and go to their classrooms, which are divided by grades. Two grades are combined in most rooms, which have about four or five college students each.
The college students then lead the youth in Bible studies, crafts and different recreational activities.
This past Monday, Balazs was leading his class as they painted Bible verses on poster-board to decorate their classroom. fifteen fourth and fifth graders sat out on the Chapel lawn, painting together. At a picnic table, a fourth-grade boy shared his day with some college students.
But Monday night isn’t the only night these friends get together. Tucker explained that he used to get together with his some teenage boys on Saturday mornings.
I really enjoyed getting beat playing basketball, he said. It was great to just hang out, and the younger guys love to beat college students in sports. We’d play ball, order pizza and just hang out for a few hours.
That’s ultimately what Reach Akron is about – forming connections between college students and the people that live around them. For Thanksgiving, Reach Akron has dinner together, families included.
Reach Akron feels worthwhile, Balazs said. I really can’t think of any other way to better spend my Monday nights.
“” #1.1361821:2098097487.jpg:20070920_guystudenthelper_kc.jpg:Student Mike Russ helps inner-city youth through Reach Akron.:””#1.1361820:204426230.jpg:20070920_studentshelp_kc.jpg:University student Emily Colton works with an Akron teen.:”