Backyard Ministries looks to further cause, turn old school bus into classroom

Backyard Ministries looks to further cause, turn old school bus into classroom

Lee volunteers play with local elementary school students through Backyard Ministries.

Courtesy of Ashley Butterfield

Backyard is celebrating its 25th year of being a club by expanding to a second location: a transformed mobile classroom in a school bus.

Dr. William Lamb, director of the Leonard Center and founder of Backyard—a tutoring program for kids around Cleveland—will be running in the Marine Corps Marathon on October 22.

His goal is to raise $10,000 to repurpose a school bus that will be used to further the impact and ministry that Backyard has been making for 25 years.

“I realized that students wanted relationship,” Lamb said. “They need it more than just the education they were gaining in the classroom. They needed someone to provide them with an opportunity outside of the classroom to develop them in a holistic way. Backyard is dependent upon the weather; we can’t meet in the rain. That's why we are wanting to build a facility students and children can still meet in—so nothing can hinder this ministry.”

Tengy Perez is a nine-year-old girl who has been coming to Backyard for two years. Even at such a young age, Perez sees the change and positive cultivation the club has brought to her life.

“I think that my life is different because of Backyard. We talk a lot about God,” Perez said. “I feel very different. I know more about God than I did before. I like having college friends. It's more funner. I learned a lot from older people. When I'm bigger I want to be like these college people. They're nice and they care about me.”

Stephanie Ramirez came to Backyard a year ago, not speaking any English. Now, not only is she fluent, but she's also able to to share how Backyard has helped her learn to read her Bible on her own and talk to others about God.

“I like to hang out with the college kids that come because they help me with my homework, and they play with me,” Ramirez said. “I feel like I've learned how to treat people better and I am always praying for people like my parents and my tutors.”

And Backyard is known for leaving behind a legacy of changed lives. Marlin Johnson, who has been driving a Coca-Cola truck for 19 years, says he's a product of Backyard's impact.

“I had a tough life at school and at home, but Backyard impacted me so greatly in many ways,” Johnson said. “I eventually was able to get through school and had the ambition to be successful as I could, from what education I did have. Backyard was full of people trying to help you, trying to tell you to stay positive no matter what, and I got to watch that same impact for other people as well, not just for myself. It kept me wanting to be in there and doing the right thing. The things I have learned and the example that was set have followed me through life. If it weren’t for Backyard, I would’ve never had anyone show me that, or mentor me.”

Backyard not only has changed the lives of the children involved, but the Lee students who tutor the kids have seen their lives changed as well.

Cody Price, a senior sociology major in his seventh semester with Backyard, agrees with this.

“They definitely have impacted me. It has changed the way I look at kids. It's changed the way I think I will parent my children and what I’ll teach my children one day. They make me laugh and they make me happy. They just really, really love you,” Price said. “It's good for the college students as well because they get to see different demographics that they wouldn’t regularly see, encounter or engage with during their normal week.”

Price believes in the mission driving Backyard's work and says people not only need to know about this club, but be involved in it as well.

“It's important for the kids because it gives them a different outlook on life than what they regularly see in their schools, in their homes and in their neighborhood. They get to see college students come in, who are trying really hard to change the children's lives and the communities that surround them,” Price said. “People need to know about Backyard because if nobody knows about it, nobody is going to come. Then there's nobody to build relationship with these kids. There will be nobody to help them with their homework, and in most cases, there would be no one for them to look up to.”

Price says he's excited to see where this club will go in the future.

“It's a unique program because there's nothing else like it on campus. You can't find any other group of students that can so freely go into a neighborhood and build relationships with the kids and their families like this. The kids here get to sit and talk with their tutors about what a biblical, Christian life looks like. We do it in multiple locations, which is special, and I can’t wait to see how this program grows.”

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