LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A community center in south Louisville is making tremendous strides to make sure low-income families get access to free summer camps.

Wesley House Community Services has a longstanding tradition of serving the Louisville Community by providing their Youth Brigade Academy and free after-school programs during the school year.

What You Need To Know

  • Wesley House Community Services was founded in 1903

  • The Woman’s Missionary Society of the Louisville Conference: Methodist Episcopal Church South founded it first as a settlement home 

  • Wesley House provides free learning opportunities for children in Louisville

  • Patricia Williams and Barbara Carney-Perks lead children at Wesley House Community Services 

Recent data from the Educational Policy Institute says low-income students are five times more likely to drop out when they get to high school. Wesley House Community Services staff is working to make sure that doesn’t happen.

The center has teamed up with Jefferson County Public Schools for another year to provide reading, writing and math skills to disadvantaged first through sixth graders.

Wesley House Community Services has been a part of the Louisville community since 1903 to connect families to resources and activities. Daniyah Crane is one of 80 children who are part of the Wesley House Youth Brigade Academy, and she works on reading and math skills through worksheets seven days a week.

Daniyah Crane writes on a piece of paper. (Spectrum News 1/Diamond Palmer)

“We have to brainstorm all the reasons the product or service might have gone wrong,” said Crane.

The 11-year-old is also a Louisville native is a natural born leader helping her peers through a curriculum called “think law.” She’s an incoming 6th grader who’s a part of the summer program that assists with math, reading and writing skills. It encourages critical thinking skills using real legal cases. 

“We want everybody to do it, so we can all get credit for it. Teamwork is a good thing to do,” said Crane.

119 years ago, Wesley House Community Services was founded by the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Louisville Conference: Methodist Episcopal Church South. It served south Louisville with Sunday school and chorus clubs, later shifting to what it’s known for today—free summer camps and after-school programs that provide essential services to low-income families.

Barbara Carney-Perks is a pivotal person in students’ lives in the program, serving as the Youth Program Coordinator.

“My goal is to teach them things they can use that are applicable to life, so when you leave Wesley House either for the day or you age out, you still have those life skills that can carry you throughout life,” said Carney-Perks.

Assisting Barbara Carney-Perks is Wesley House president and CEO Patricia Williams. She strives to cater to parents who don’t have access to free programs for their children.

“I just think it’s invaluable to a parent that needs to go to work. Secondly, we know that there are some tremendous literacy and math gaps with our children, most of all with our Black and brown children and our children who are already potentially struggling at home,” Williams explained.

As for fun at Wesley House, that’s not left out of the picture. Just like a regular summer camp, students still shoot hoops and, of course, film an occasional TikTok dance, which is Crane’s favorite thing to do in her free time.

“If I didn’t come here during these two months away from school, sometimes you can forget stuff,” said Crane.

Crane is thankful for people like Carney-Perks and Williams who make sure she’s stepping in the right direction for her future.

Wesley House Community Services will have a Back 2 School Bash on July 29 from 4 to 7 p.m. Students first through fifth grade can attend with a parent to receive free haircuts, hygiene products and backpacks.

The center will continue free programming this fall after school each day from 4 to 7 p.m. To find out more on how to register your child, you can click here.