San Antonio children on the East Side will soon have access to after-school tutoring and other educational resources, thanks to a $2.3 million federal award announced Wednesday.

The federal earmark will go to the nonprofit Beasley-Brown Community Development Corporation’s Knowledge is Power project, which will distribute it to 10 historically Black churches, which will in turn work with local school districts to connect low-income students impacted by the digital divide to additional resources to shore up their studies.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) announced the award at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday along with state Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio) and Raymond Bryant, founder of Beasley-Brown, which focuses on feeding and educating people on the East Side.

Leaders from the churches which will receive the funding were also in attendance, along with dozens of church members. They heralded the news with a standing ovation after hearing that the money will help area students achieve academic success and prepare them for tomorrow’s workforce. 

Each church will receive funding for infrastructure to create a learning center, hire a certified educator and purchase devices and supplies as needed, said Bryant. Each learning center will focus on different subjects, so students have options to attend any center. 

Mateen Diop, who grew up on the East Side and has 25 years of experience in education, will serve as program director, overseeing each educator across the 10 churches. 

The author, former school teacher, high school principal and University of Incarnate Word professor said the funding will also be used to hire local teachers for the after-school learning centers. The teachers will work directly with schools to understand what subjects students need help with.

Diop said parents may not know how to ask for help for their students, but many have good relationships within their churches. The $2.3 million can help connect parents to resources for their children through churches they already trust.

The Knowledge is Power program is outreach-based and will bring in students instead of waiting for them to come on their own, Diop said. 

Cuellar said programs like these can have a big impact on underserved students.

“I’m looking at putting it in the national budget so there will be money to work with faith-based organizations. It’s a good idea,” said Cuellar. “Who knows the community better than the church leaders? Who can provide the mentoring?” 

The Beasley-Brown Community Development Corporation was more active before COVID, said founder Bryant, but “we’ve never stopped working” in the community, most recently opening food panties and community gardens.

“Right now, our major mission is focused on making sure that people have the things they need. We do education, food and we focus on making sure learning and the development of our children is taking place.”

Bryant said Beasley-Brown and church representatives will begin meeting with San Antonio and East Central independent school districts in January to understand what students are learning, so they can expand on those subjects through after-school tutoring.

Gervin-Hawkins, who represents the East Side, said the program has the potential to impact generations to come, by enabling successful academic outcomes for low-income, Black students, and preparing them for the workforce. 

“We’re not just talking about today and now, we’re talking about the future and what we can do,” she said. “We’re beginning a new conversation in our community about the importance of education and getting a qualified training credential to get more than a minimum wage job.” 

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.