Nine congregations came together in 1993 to create a place and space that blended academic and cultural enrichment activities for African American children. The program taught strength, perseverance, imagination, responsibility, integrity and talent — SPIRIT!

Over the years, numerous organizations have collaborated with Project SPIRIT to make it one of the community’s most exemplary after-school programs, including the Science Museum of Minnesota, Retired Senior Volunteers Program, St. Paul Urban League Senior’s Program, Mentoring 101, Model Cities Family Development Center, Reading Corp, Get Ready, and St. Paul Public Schools. Hundreds of children have benefited from the academic and cultural support of this program.

Last year, two major funders—United Way and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development—made categorial changes in their giving, which resulted in loss of nearly 80% of funding for Project SPIRIT. The Interfaith Action board voted to operate the program in 2017-18 with one-time bridge funding, while searching for new funding or a new host organization. “We have not found adequate support or another host,” said Executive Director Randi Ilyse Roth. “While we stand ready to do anything in our power to support the success of this program in another site, we do not have the reserves to fund it beyond this year.”

A final celebration of Project SPIRIT is planned for Friday, May 18, from 4-6 pm at Maxfield Magnet Elementary School with the current group of 75 Project SPIRIT students served at Maxfield and Jackson Magnet Elementary Schools. Past participants and partners are encouraged to attend.