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PO Box 4101, New Kensington, PA 15068


Why do we need your help?

Sonward Youth Programs serves the cities of New Kensington and Arnold in Westmoreland County, PA, particularly the neighborhoods with the highest poverty rates in the county. Research shows that after school and summer programs that happen during the most at-risk hours can help to reduce the effects of poverty on children.

Sonward is led by Kim Louis, who has 20 years experience with urban and special-needs youth, a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and a master’s degree in Youth Ministry.  Sonward is accountable to the board of Rock the World and partners with various community programs to strengthen the effectiveness of the program.

Sonward began in 2011 with a weeklong summer soccer camp that serviced 50 children.  Since that time, Sonward has expanded into a 4 day per week after school program and a 3 day per week summer lunch and enrichment program.  Sonward provides career readiness and on the job training for middle schoolers and  teenagers who live in the community.  The program also supports the families through informal referral services and parenting support.

The current child poverty rate in the two main neighborhoods that Sonward works in, downtown New Kensington and Arnold are 76% and 94% respectively.  The national rate for child poverty is 22.%.  According to the national center for children in poverty, the risks are tremendous:  “Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems.  Poverty can also contribute to poor health and mental health.”  Statistically, New Kensington, PA and Arnold, PA are in worse condition than notoriously under-resourced communities of the Middle Hill District and East Liberty in Pittsburgh, with child poverty rates of 69% and 42% respectively.  This is an under-serviced problem in New Kensington and Arnold with no other consistent daily program available to the youth in the community that is free and within walking distance of their homes.  Many parents simply send their children, some as young as 5 and 6 years old, out to play in the neighborhood alone.  The lack of supervision equals an increasing risk of delinquent behavior as the children get older.   

Funds are need to help Sonward maintain and expand current programs.  There are no other programs in the area like Sonward.  Grant funding will assist Sonward in preventing a cycle of poverty in New Kensington and Arnold to pass to the next generation. The difference that reduced drug, delinquent, and poverty risk factors will make in one child’s life cannot be measured, but it could be all the difference for that one child.