By Tina Jenkins Bell
BAPA School Liaison
The Catholic Youth Ministry Center at Morgan Park High School (CYMC) or Blue House, 1825 W. Monterey Ave., continues to serve Morgan Park High School students during the pandemic, despite the challenges of having to conduct their work remotely.
The Blue House, known for myriad after–school guidance and student support services, offers educational workshops, career explorations, conflict resolution training, reflection circles, and leadership programming, according to CYMC Executive Director Peggy Goddard.
Last summer, thanks to a generous donation from the Sisters of Mercy, the Blue House was able to offer summer jobs to three students. Goddard laughed as she remembered one student’s reaction. “We had our summer workers doing upkeep around the Blue House, and one guy told me he’d never hung curtains before. I laughed and told him the skill might come in handy later in life when he married.”
Due to restrictions posed by the pandemic, the Blue House is offering its programming via Zoom, which includes activities to edify, like making a pumpkin pie, and opportunities to reflect and share. On a weekly basis, the Blue House interacts with approximately 10 to 15 students online.
“I know after remote learning all-day you’d think the kids would be hesitant to participate, but some appreciate the opportunity to share and relax without pressure or expectations,” Goddard said.
Goddard is particularly proud of a partnership with the Chicago Police Department 22nd District, that opened communications between Chicago police and youth. Goddard remembered an officer who was hesitant to interact at the start of the program but who later became an ardent supporter, volunteering to work with Blue House participants beyond what was required.
“I saw a change in how the kids viewed the police and how the police saw and interacted with the kids,” she said.
Goddard is also pleased with leadership activities that allow students to plan and execute some Blue House programming.
Though pandemic has depressed numbers, the need for services are strong. Goddard remembered a student who had been suspended from school for breaking a major rule.
She intervened and counseled the student on making better choices so as not to revisit the circumstances that led to his suspension.
“Years later, this kid visited and asked, ‘Do you remember when you told me that I had to take a break?’ He took the break I suggested, and that one action changed his path. He returned to school. His grades improved, and he joined the basketball team. This is what we do at the Blue House,” Goddard said, “We help kids make better decisions that hopefully change their trajectory if they are on the wrong path.”
Blue House participants give of themselves as much as they receive, Goddard said. Participants have made fleece blankets for the single mothers of newborn babies. Annually, they conduct a coat drive in November and a food drive in December.
Goddard said, the pandemic may have stopped in person activities, but the needs for coats in the winter and food is still prevalent. Donors can drop off coats at the Blue House, just inside the door, through Nov. 25. Food donations can be dropped off until Dec. 23.
The Blue House has served Morgan Park High School students since 1979. For more information, visit cymcatmphs.org.