For the Inn Dwelling organization, National Teacher Appreciation Week was cause for celebration. It was also an occasion to recognize educators who have provided their services to the program and the students they have impacted.
The organization held just such a celebration at its Germantown headquarters earlier this month which allowed current students and alumni to recognize Inn Dwelling’s professional staff as well as its community volunteers.
Launched by the Vincentian Priests and Brothers in 1981, Inn Dwelling provides after-school tutoring, test-preparation assistance, and related services to students in difficult economic circumstances.
Br. Al Smith serves as Founder and Director of Operations of the program. He notes that in its first 15 years of existence, Inn Dwelling concentrated on finding affordable housing for families in need. To date, 60 families have obtained mortgages and purchased homes with Inn Dwelling’s support and assistance. In recent years however, the organization’s focus has been on education, and helping students earn scholarships to competitive high schools and/or institutions of higher educations they would not be able to afford otherwise.
“We had the housing,” Br. Al said, “and then we started the education program when I hired Sr. Rosemarie Jefferson (in 1994). She was our education person and she’s the main engineer of this education program. She is the main reason the program is so successful.”
Br. Al points out that as Inn Dwelling grew in scope, its board of directors had to determine where to focus its resources. “We all decided that the most important impact on poverty would be working with the inner-city children and helping them to get a good education in college,” he said.
Today the program serves approximately 90 students from throughout the city. The programs are technically free, although contributions of five dollars per week per student are requested to help defray some expenses.
The majority of the participants are in high school and taking advantage of Inn Dwelling’s after-school programs that include homework assistance, SAT/ACT preparation assistance, and other academic support. There are also opportunities for the students to take part in Saturday summer enrichment programs and to involve themselves in community service projects.
In addition, 28 middle-school age students participate in what is called the Sophia program, which immerses them in a curriculum that prepares them for the rigors of an academically challenging high school.
Each year, Inn Dwelling raise approximately $100,000 in donations to fund scholarships that enable its students to attend elite schools.
The staff at Inn Dwelling includes not only academic professionals but also experts in other fields. Some are paid tutors, other are volunteers.
“All our teachers are either high-school teachers or college teachers,” Br. Al said, “or engineers, or in the medical field, or something like that.”
Br. Al. notes that the contributions of the outside staff are an invaluable asset to Inn Dwelling’s mission. “The main thing is for something to be successful is to have people join you that have the gifts that you don’t have,” he said, “and have the experience. “We being in people that have the expertise.”
Edgar Agudelo is both the program for Inn Dwelling and an alumnus of the program; he became involved when his older brother officially enrolled in the middle-school program. From there, Edgar went on to attend Holy Ghost Prep and later the University of Pennsylvania.
Agudelo says Inn Dwelling had a profound impact on his life. “Really, Inn Dwelling became kind of a second family for me,” he said. “(His brother) really bought into the program and my mom did as well. It’s really been a huge part of my life, helping me to push on and see objectives and opportunities that might not have been there.”
Agudelo embraces being able to give back to Inn Dwelling by serving in his current role with the organization. “It’s an incredible feeling to give back,” he said, “and be that person that can be there for the next generation of this program.”