What have we been up to?
Christmas in the Ville
On December 19, Claver House in conjunction with the Ville Collaborative (a group of local churches and community organizations, co-founded by Claver House) distributed food, household supplies, and toys to families. At CareSTL Health, cars lined up around the block to pick up the bags from volunteers.
Virtual Trivia Hours
On December 19, local students joined us on a zoom to learn about human anatomy. On January 9, students explored the geography of the North and South poles, as well as the construction of a home-built battery.
New Claver House residents!
Claver House is excited to welcome Victoria and Brandon James to our community!
Frozen Meal Distribution
With the help of North Sarah Food Hub, Les Dames Escoffier, and St. Ambrose Parish, we are going to be distributing frozen meals. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are also distributing food vouchers redeemable at the neighborhood grocery store.
Also a big thank you to the students, faculty and staff from Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology at St. Louis University for their non-perishable food donations!
"Christmas at the Claver House" - Maisie Zipfel
This past fall, I had the pleasure of meeting Steve and learning about the Claver House. I was welcomed in with open arms, ready to help and do all that I can to aid the surrounding community. I began volunteering at the monthly food distributions, which typically occur on the third Saturday of every month. This time was spent packaging food into boxes and distributing these boxes out to the residents of the Ville area. I have been able to interact with both my fellow volunteers and residents of this community and have been enlightened with stories of the history of this historic part of town.
Recently, I also helped with the “Christmas in the Ville” event. This event was orchestrated in partnership with CARE STL and Bridge of Hope, which was used as the donation center. With donations of blankets, socks, toiletries, and toys for the kids, baskets were put together to be distributed. These baskets, along with food, were then distributed at CARE STL which was decorated for the holidays. I hope that these decorations and gift baskets were able to bring some joy and lightness to the holiday season. As this was my first time volunteering at this event, I did not know what to expect, but I was overwhelmingly surprised by the enormous turnout.
Although I have volunteered at many places in years past, nothing compares to the Claver House. The feeling of knowing that I am helping make a difference, while my part may be small, is very rewarding. Despite the fact that I have only been involved with this organization during the Covid-19 pandemic, I can only imagine the life that the Claver House brings to the Ville community when in full swing.
What do Tina Turner, Arthur Ashe, Margaret Bush Wilson,
and Chuck Berry have in common?
They're all graduates of Sumner High School!
You might recognize the name of this school from recent headlines stating that the school may be closing soon. How did a school that produced Broadway singers, professional athletes, and civil rights lawyers, end up at the brink of closure due to drastically low enrollment? The story of Sumner High School begins in 1875, but not at the iconic location it holds today…
Sumner High School was established in an old, dilapidated, worn-out building that used to be home to a local all-whites school. Despite its apparent flaws, this was a huge victory for the community. At the time, high school graduation rates for 17-year-olds were as low as 6.4%. Additionally, in the face of relentless Jim Crow laws, there were no other high schools for African-Americans west of the Mississippi. Reaching the milestone of the first black high school in this region didn’t come without a fight. St. Louis residents pushed on their political representatives relentlessly for improved educational provisions. This community strength didn’t stop when the school was started, either. In 1907, St. Louis citizens formalized a complaint with the Board of Education. Their concerns included the worn-out facilities, low academic performance, and the lack of a library or gymnasium. Although the school district didn’t have the same political access as their white counterparts, parents and families demanded that their children’s education not be shafted by this systemic racism. In a joint community statement in 1907, they stated;
“We want to see Sumner High School… on equal footing with that designed for the other youth of the city, not because the law of Missouri says it shall be equal, but because it ought to be equal. Separation is expensive in more ways than one, but the separated ones should not be required to pay the cost, for that would be tyranny.”
The persistent and genuine efforts of this dedicated community paid off, and in 1909 Sumner High School opened its doors at its new and current location.
Sumner High School quickly became a shining example of academic excellence. Teachers were upheld to the highest standards, and expected the same of their students. Even at a time of nationwide teacher shortages, many Sumner faculty had PhDs or were noted experts in their fields. Students flourished outside of the classroom as well. They raised money for famine relief funds, succeeded on the football field, and founded honor societies. The local newspaper was filled with articles chronicling the success of the students, both during their tenure at Sumner as well as their later pursuits, which included top universities, international conferences, and numerous accolades.
Today’s newspaper articles about Sumner High School have a much more somber tone. Instead of pictures of smiling students with a ‘Better Attendance Campaign’ pennant, one finds that this beautiful and iconic local landmark is on the precipice of closure. The school that once had a capacity of up to 5,000 students now enrolls less than 300. Less than 10% of the student population has reached proficiency in math, and less than 29% in reading. Sumner High School is at a crucial historical juncture. However, Julia Allen, a longtime resident of the Ville and graduate of Sumner High School, expounded, “Hope. There is hope for our future.”
The former glory of Sumner is only a thing of the past if we let it be. Through passing on the honorable heritage of this institution to future generations, we can ensure that the academic excellence that St. Louis residents fought for over 100 years ago is still alive today.
Community Partner of the Month
You might know Northside for their role in providing affordable housing, helping with home repairs, and preparing community members for home ownership for the past 44 years. But their valiant efforts to restore the Ville neighborhood don’t stop there…
NCHI is one of the founding members of the Ville Collaborative, which comprises numerous community organizations in order to coordinate resources and more effectively serve the community. In this capacity, NCHI has helped create 11 community gardens, teach financial literacy seminars, and provide empowering entrepreneurship classes for youth. Click here for more information on Northside Community Housing and learn how you can get involved.