Nashville Agency Offers Help in the Kitchen and Classroom (Charities magazine, Catholic Charities USA, Spring 2015)

Posted 05/15/2015

A new program offered by Catholic Charities of Tennessee is helping Nashville residents enhance their lives through nutritional instruction and academic assistance. Recipes for Success is a free monthly workshop that strives to provide local families with school tutoring for their kids and tips for healthy living. The program started in January and is meeting monthly through the end of the school year.

This effort is the result of a longterm collaboration between Catholic Charities, the South Nashville Family Resource Center and CASTLES (Communities and Students Together for Learning-Enhanced Service).

"We've been working with Catholic Charities and CASTLES for the past seven or eight years," said Leslie Hayes, director of the South Nashville Family Resource Center. "We've been talking to them as a part of an advisory council, assessing the needs of families in local neighborhoods. We thought a program like this would be beneficial to our clients."

Most of the participants are immigrants, but anyone is welcome to join. "The majority of the people we see are relatively new to America and adjusting to American culture," said Hayes. "With their child's schooling, they might have trouble interpreting the grading system or talking to teachers about issues their kids are facing."

"CASTLES is a service-learning program developed by students at Vanderbilt University. It aims to encourage Vanderbilt students to serve at-risk youth by promoting physical wellness and academic success. The students from CASTLES are the tutors for the academic part of Recipes for Success," Hayes said.

"It's very interactive. They start things off by playing a game with the kids and assessing new participants' needs," she said. "Then they break off for one-on-one tutoring and homework help. We provide snacks, and the kids love them. For this portion, parents can either stay with their kids or wait in the kitchen."

The other part is for providing tips on living a healthier lifestyle. "When the kids are done with their tutoring, everyone meets in the kitchen. There, we talk about how to prepare foods in a healthier way. We also talk about strategies to help participants become more physically active," Hayes said.

Hayes loves to see how the program brings families together. "The most rewarding part of it for me is seeing the parents taking a more active role in their children's education. With the tutoring sessions, many of them stick around to help out."

Excerpted from an article by Briana Grzybowski first published in The Tennessee Register

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