young girl looking up at teenage boy while working on homework

Youth Education

St. Vincent de Paul's youth education programming addresses educational barriers and challenges kids to pursue brighter futures where they learn to dream of all that they can become.

The Society of Literacy and Next Steps

When SVdP Associate CEO Shannon Clancy read a Wall Street Journal article about 4th graders not being able to read due to pandemic learning loss, she knew had to do something about it.

Since 2011 the SVdP Dream Center has helped compensate for educational barriers and other disadvantages experienced by low-income students. Tutoring, homework assistance, mentorship, learning resources, special appearances, and field trips help pave the way for educational enrichment. The Dream Center is our answer to after-school tutoring to keep up with grade-level performance … and so much more.

This year, for the first time, we added five new tutoring positions to our Dream Center staff, including a Chess Master, to hit the educational pandemic head on. 

"This will be an effort to give them a fighting chance," Shannon explains. "These are special circumstances and if kids don’t get back on track over the next year or two, it will affect their whole lives."

We prepare kids for long-term educational success and give them support, exposure and tools to pull themselves from systemic poverty. Taking it to the next level, Dream Center kids often are eligible to apply for the St. Vincent de Paul Scholarship and mentorship program for first-generation college students.

By the numbers

Dream Center kids impacted last year
9 years old
average age of a Dream Center student
of BIPOC students served
backpacks distributed annually

Services and Resources

SVdP Family Evening Meal Program Manager Cindy Bernardo keeps the at-risk kids we serve constantly in mind as she develops the curriculum and schedules tutors to help with grade-level homework, entertainment, field trips, and classes. She focuses her efforts on homework, literacy and activities that incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

Cindy and her team consistently ask for feedback from our Dream Center families. Recent survey results from 87 families reveal that 76% of Dream Center parents saw improvements in their child’s academic grades in the last year and attribute it to Dream Center programming.

It is well understood that education plays a large role in helping reduce lifetime poverty levels. While our Family Dining Room prevents the hunger and malnutrition detrimental to a child's educational success, the Dream Center helps with grade-level schoolwork and exposure to new concepts they otherwise might not receive.

Because learning should never take a break, the Dream Center operates year-round to combat Summer Learning Loss. SVdP partners with Southwest Human Development for its annual Summer Reading Program that promotes early childhood literacy and provides free books for students of every age. The result? 21,000 minutes of reading in 8 weeks from Dream Center kids! 

The summertime also offers special activities such as Science Thursdays and raffle programs that culminate with a Summer Showcase Project to keep kids engaged and excited about learning.

Every July, St. Vincent de Paul hosts a back-to-school night where Dream Center students receive a free backpack filled with school supplies. This event, based on overwhelming community need, excites and  prepares school-aged kids from low-income families or families experiencing homelessness for the school year.

The Dream Center invests in at-risk kids with long-term educational enrichment that nurtures the mind, body and spirit of each child while driving his/her interests and passions. We provide the tools, resources, encouragement, and empowerment to help kids build and sustain bright futures. We do this by fostering opportunities for them to explore topics such as STEAM and getting college-ready, and by exposing them to concepts they otherwise may not have the opportunity to explore.

Dream Center programs and field trips this year:

  • Tender Little Hearts miniature therapy horse
  • Phoenix Herpetological Society
  • The Phoenix Symphony
  • Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium (field trip)
  • iFLY STEM (field trip)

There's no "off season" for our neighbors in need.

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Learn more about our youth education locations around the Valley

Volunteer Opportunities

At SVdP, 95% of our workforce are volunteers-like YOU. We believe that we can accomplish more when we all do it together. Thank you for sharing your skills, time, and heart with us. Thank you for being part of the family.

Dream Center

Provide educational support to kids

Our Dream Center offers nutrition for the mind and body to every child who visits for a hot meal and educational enrichment, addressing educational barriers and challenging kids to pursue brighter futures where they learn to dream of all that they can become.