Two times annually Peace with Justice Grants are awarded to various ministries in the California-Nevada Annual Conference. This year one of those grants went to the Life Is for Everyone, Inc. (L.I.F.E.) Good Nutrition Program, located in the East Salinas Family Center United Methodist Fellowship.
L.I.F.E. is a not-for-profit after-school program to prevent gang involvement, improve students' nutrition, provide safe recreation opportunities, and improve English language verbal, written, and reading skills.
Currently 47 students, kindergarten through middle school, are attending the L.I.F.E. program. They receive tutoring Tuesday through Thursday, and on the other days of the week may go to the center for recreation, crafts, and healthy snacks.
At the beginning of each school year program director Sandra Gomez talks about the types of snacks the kids will be receiving and why it's important for them to learn about good nutrition. She also focuses on table manners and taking no more than they can eat, and teaches that seconds are available after everyone has had firsts.
A snack is served as soon as the students arrive, at 3 p.m. on weekdays.
That's followed by 90 minutes of homework time, with students grouped by ages or classes so that a table of students is usually working on the same homework. Afterward, there's 15 minutes in which those who have finished their homework may hear a story, learn a life skill, or get useful information of some kind from one of the volunteers.
There's a second snack time at 5:15. Pick-up time varies but can be as late as 7 p.m.
Program volunteers establish caring relationships with the youth and children in the program. Through those relationships, and by setting high expectations and providing opportunities for the kids to contribute, they foster both social competence and a sense of self and purpose. It's believed that this not only will improve the students' academic outcomes and health, but also will be a deterrent to gang involvement.
The Peace with Justice Grant will help enable L.I.F.E. to continue those efforts.