Partnering with Public Schools: YS Idea Lab with Jeremy Del Rio

Jacob Eckeberger
March 23rd, 2016

One of the things we’ll be focusing on at the 2016 National Youth Workers Convention is how we choose to partner with schools in our communities. Long-time youth worker Jeremy Del Rio has worked for the past 30 years to create partnerships between schools and churches in one of Manhattan’s poorest communities. Through the work of his organizations—Thrive Collective, School Partners, and School Murals—Jeremy steers conversations that create sustainable education reform. In this YS Idea Lab, Jeremy shared a few practical tips for youth workers looking to engage in their local schools.

If you don’t have time to watch the full interview, here are a handful of the great ideas Jeremy shared:

Approach schools with the intention of serving.

Jeremy strongly encouraged youth workers to pray that God would help them be an answer to the prayers of someone in their local schools. An important part of that is to approach your local schools with the intention of serving. That posture of humility creates a lot of trust with faculty and staff at the school, because they know you’re there to listen and understand their needs so you can respond in the ways they need it most.

Empower the door openers who sit in your pews.

The biggest hurdle you might encounter is finding door openers who can create opportunities for you to step into your local schools. If you’re a neighborhood church, you probably already have those people sitting in your church pews every week. Survey your congregation for students, relatives of students, and employees of the local schools, and help these door openers see that potential partnership with their schools can be their work of service to the community. As part of that, support them and become a resource they can bring to the table.

Service to schools generally falls into 3 buckets: appreciate, beautify, and supply.

Ask the local schools how you can show appreciation to the faculty and staff, how you can work to beautify the campus, and how you can help provide the supplies they need to function. Jeremy gave a few great examples:

  • Adopt a classroom, and restock school supplies around Christmas so that the teacher doesn’t have to dip into his or her own pocket.
  • Make over the teachers’ lounge.
  • Clean up or replant the school garden.
  • Paint the gymnasium.
  • If the arts are cut from your local school due to budget cuts, offer your church’s creative-arts programs as a resource to re-inject art and music back into the school.

There are a ton of ways local churches can appreciate, beautify, and supply their local schools. The important thing Jeremy noted was that the more you under-promise and over-deliver, the more the school will know they can trust you. So when you’re in conversation with your local schools, be honest about how you can support them, the capacity of your congregation and your networks so that the school knows exactly what to expect.

The YS Idea Labs are filmed on location at the National Youth Workers Convention. Check out more YS Idea Labs HERE.and register early for NYWC to save BIG: NYWC.COM.

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JACOB ECKEBERGER is the Content Manager at Youth Specialties, an itinerant worship leader, the spouse of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. You can find him blogging about social media and digital strategy ideas at JACOBECKEBERGER.COM.



Jacob Eckeberger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.