Today we welcome to The Connection Eric Nelson, Executive Director of SWAG (Students With A Goal).
What’s your favorite quote?“…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
What’s something unique about you? I met and married my wife, all within six months, and we have been married for nearly 20 years now.
Hello friends. My name is Eric Nelson, and I am the Executive Director of Students With A Goal (SWAG). SWAG is an academic mentoring program, located in the Summit Lake neighborhood of Akron.
Before I talk more about SWAG, I’d like to share how God led me to this work. Several years ago, I was the Clinic Office Manager at OPEN M’s Free Clinic. God led me there, even though initially I did not quite understand why.
I absolutely loved working for OPEN M. The CEO at that time was Mrs. Dottie Achmoody, who quickly became a mentor, and saw great potential in me. Dottie would often call me to her office to discuss high-level administrative functions that I had never been exposed to before. I did not know it, but God had instructed Dottie to invest in me, toward the next place upon which HE would lead me. One day Dottie told me, “Eric, I see your passion is with the youth, I’d like you to work with SWAG.”
At that time in my life, there were only two types of time, OPEN M time and family time. Dottie believed strongly that I would have a positive influence on the program, so she graciously allowed me to leave work two hours early, once a week, to volunteer with the program that I am blessed to now lead. I understand that God’s plan for me is better than any plan I can devise and execute for myself. I trust HIM, even when the “why” is not obvious.
SWAG is an intensive academic mentoring home for Akron youth, ages 11-18 (grades 6-12), during the academic school year. We meet Monday- Thursday 4 pm – 8 pm. Even though our program takes place in the Summit Lake community, our students come to us from North, South, East, and West Akron. SWAG provides transportation to program for youth from 9 different schools, yet transports 100% of its students home at the conclusion of program, daily.
SWAG provides academic and social-emotional support to its students; to assist with all factors that make up their educational experience. The realities that some of our students face daily, are just not conducive toward learning. Our job is to give all students a safe place to learn, have fun, and feel well- supported… individually and academically.
During the summer months SWAG conducts two major programs, Summer SWAG and The Leaven Lenses Project (LLP) photography apprenticeship.
Summer SWAG is made up of fun and engaging activities that allow us to stay connected to our students and keep us in prime position to continue to support them, however they may need. Youth need support, in some form, everyday… even if it’s just a hug from someone that cares about them.
The Leaven Lenses Project (LLP)
The LLP is multi-generational programming for youth and adults. Our goal with creating the apprenticeship was two-fold:
* Allow multiple family members to learn a skill together
* To connect youth with Wisdom, our senior citizen population
Apprentices learn the art of photography from professional photographers, create a body of work (photos), and are paid a $500 stipend upon completion of the course.
The LLP was made possible by the Akron Civic Commons. To date, SWAG’s LLP has graduated 35 apprentices and given $16,000 in stipends to its graduates.
I am very proud of the role that SWAG plays with supporting Akron youth. However, we understand that it is because of programs such as South Street Ministry’s Rich Kids Program, iC.A.R.E. Mentoring, Dreams Academy, Fadia Young Women’s Program, Urban Vision, Let’s Grow Akron, First Glance, YEPAW, Summit Lake Build Corps, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Reserve… collectively, we are making an impact on youth in Akron.
If you are interested in:
* Have youth that can benefit from SWAG’s unique brand of academic mentoring support,
Please contact Eric Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.