Three days a week at Casa View Elementary School in east Dallas, you can find a group of students excited to spend extra hours at school. Esperanza Strings, a 2022 Ministry With grant recipient, provides music education and afterschool programming by connecting a local school with a United Methodist church. Casa View is supported by Casa Emanu-El UMC.
Casa View Principal Lucero Andazola expressed her gratitude: “We are blessed that they chose us as the first school to have this program — and for free!”
Now in its second year at Casa View Elementary, Esperanza Strings has 10 students in one class and 20 in another. Students rotate between music lessons and time for homework, tutoring and a snack. The funds provided by the NTC Center for Missional Outreach have made it possible to create this positive and productive learning environment by providing practice instruments, the instructor’s salary and additional resources for the program.
“The opportunity we’re opening to them in learning an instrument will have a long-term impact on their lives,” said Pastor Rosedanny Ortiz, executive director of Esperanza Strings and associate pastor of Spring Valley UMC.
“The greatest impact of Esperanza Strings is with the students and the families that participate,” said Rev. Holly Bandel, director of One+One Dallas and associate minister of First UMC Dallas. “In the students, we see such incredible growth in just a few short months. Not only do the students become good violin players, they also gain confidence in their abilities, in their academics and have an opportunity to participate in a new way in their schools and neighborhoods.”
Having pastors engaged in Esperanza Strings has been a blessing. Ortiz remembers one interaction with a student who was having some behavior issues. In her one-on-one conversation with him, she was able to give him extra attention and he was able to express his curiosity about what she does as a pastor and who Jesus is.
“Building that kind of trust is a very special moment,” Ortiz said. “Even though he knew I was giving him correction, instead of being mad at me for telling him what to do, he and I could have a conversation. I was able to share the love and grace of God in that moment. What is special about Esperanza Strings is those little moments we may have with a kid at any time during the program.”
Rev. Dr. Paul Barton, senior pastor of Casa Emanu-El, volunteers regularly along with his congregants. Casa Emanu-El has invited the Esperanza Strings students and their families to church events, and three to five families will typically participate in church activities. This connection between a local elementary school and a neighboring church has the potential for transformation of whole communities.
On-site coordinator María Claudia Tavera has enjoyed the opportunity to get to know these talented students and engage volunteers in tutoring and playing games with the kids. “They are very good children and very knowledgeable. I like to play with them and to help them with their homework. I like to share this time with them, and I think they are comfortable with me.”
One parent shared the positive impact she has seen on her son. “I wanted my child to be part of Esperanza Strings because it is a new experience and a skill that they develop wonderfully,” she said. “It is a time that instead of wasting it on electronic devices, it is very well used to the fullest.”
Another parent expressed her gratitude: “Thanks to the good teachers and to the Esperanza Strings program for giving them an opportunity to learn to play this wonderful instrument and a thousand thanks to all the people who make their donations to make this possible, God Bless you greatly.”
The team at Esperanza Strings recognizes they may not see an immediate impact. They are planting seeds that others may watch grow in these students’ future. The hope is for Esperanza Strings to be a stepping stone to enable these students a better chance at admission to a magnet school where they can thrive.
Esperanza Strings is currently laying the groundwork to begin a new partnership with Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Mission in Fall 2023. And their reach will continue to grow as they plan to become a registered nonprofit in April. This will allow them greater opportunity to partner with local UMCs and schools in Dallas ISD and beyond.
Esperanza Strings is also poised to take over the operations of Crosstimbers Youth Orchestra, a strings education nonprofit based in the McKinney area. While the group is registered with the state and has workable bylaws and solid infrastructure, it has been dormant for several years. Esperanza Strings will bring its name and energy to revitalize the organization and expand its mission to impact students, schools, churches and communities through strings education.
Learn more, volunteer or donate to Esperanza Strings.
Originally published by the North Texas Annual Conference March 8, 2023. Republished with permission by ResourceUMC March 27, 2023.