A Formula for Success

urbanconcern : September 19, 2018 11:03 am :

Calculating what it takes to see students thrive

Since January of this year, UC & Harambee’s leadership team has benefitted from Entrepreneurial Operating System (or EOS) training. This training has sharpened and challenged the team in valuable ways that will help our students, staff, and school thrive. We look forward to sharing more about our experience in the future.

One outcome of this training has been the development of what is called our Proven Process. What does Harambee offer that sets it apart from other schools? We believe there are three vital components to our formula for success.

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The Why, What, and How of Urban Ministry

urbanconcern : July 25, 2018 10:22 am :


High School home church

Old school Xenos members who haven’t attended a recent youth meeting may not realize how much different the church looks today than it did in the early days when pastors Dennis McCallum and Gary Delashmutt were sporting bell bottoms and rocking out to Freebird.  Today, Student Ministries is home to a diverse group of young people from a variety of cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

But “Urban Ministry” can be an ambiguous term that means different things to different people and churches.  Tim Keller’s book Center Church notes, “Cities increasingly influence our global culture and affect the way we do ministry. With a positive approach toward our culture, we learn to affirm that cities are wonderful, strategic, and underserved places for gospel ministry.”  However, it’s no doubt that inner city Columbus neighborhoods bear little resemblance to the Manhattanite context from which Keller writes.

When we talk about urban ministry in Xenos, we are talking primarily about ministry to students and families who are low-income and under-resourced.  As indicated by our own census and the extensive opportunity mapping done by OSU’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity, urban neighborhoods like South Linden, Weinland Park, and Franklinton, among others, rank lowest in the city for various opportunity indicators including Housing & Neighborhood, Transportation & Employment, Health & Safety, and Education.

Yet, hundreds of students from these neighborhoods attend Xenos affiliated Bible studies each week!

The “Why” of Urban Ministry

Why is it important for the church to take urban ministry seriously?  Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God leaves no gray area in expressing his special concern for the poor.  Not only is serving the poor commanded (Deuteronomy 15:10), Christians are to advocate and seek justice regarding the very systems of oppression that contributes to their poverty – both economic & spiritual.  The result of such effort? Blessing for those we work with and blessing for the church at large (Isaiah 58:6-11).

Likewise, the Lord Jesus, himself, went to great lengths to self-identify with the poor and chose the oppressed as specific recipients of his favor and blessing through the Gospel (Luke 4:16-19).

Why do urban ministry?  As the church, we affirm that what’s important to God is important to us.  And secondly, we are merely trying to keep up with the direction God himself seems to be leading at Xenos!

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New Annual Report Celebrates 20 Years of Ministry & Looks to the Future

urbanconcern : May 9, 2018 11:38 am :

Academic triumphs, high school graduates, and the pursuit of The Fantastic 50

It’s our pleasure to share our latest Annual Report with you, which celebrates the personal and academic achievements of Harambee staff and students over the past 20 years.

Since opening its doors in 1998, Harambee has served over 535 students from low income communities. Of the 103 alumni who are old enough to have graduated from high school, over 90% have received their diploma, even while many attended Harambee when the school only served Grades K-5.

Today, Harambee students continue to outpace local public schools and higher performing charter schools on standardized testing, in addition to many suburban districts throughout the city. This is a remarkable achievement since 85% of Harambee students are from low-income households.

In addition to academic success, strengthened collaboration with Xenos Student Ministries has increased the quality of Bible studies and mentoring available to students at every age. Now, more than ever, Urban Concern & Harambee Christian School are poised to help Columbus’ inner city youth overcome challenges and thrive in the body of Christ.

Click here to read the full Annual Report, and see below to learn about next steps you can take to get involved in God’s work in our city.

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What We’re Celebrating

urbanconcern : March 15, 2018 1:02 pm :

The impact of our first Harambee Scholarship Fundraising Dinner & Celebration

How does Harambee Christian School raise funds for inner-city youth? A night of celebrating, advocacy, and delicious barbecue. Now that’s a fundraising dinner, Harambee style.

The first ever Harambee Scholarship Fundraising Dinner & Celebration saw a packed house of 225 guests donate a total of $21,450 in one time contributions and an additional $1,280 in monthly pledges in support of students & families in need. This amount covers five full year-round scholarships!

Thanks to our generous corporate sponsor, Plaskolite, and our individual table sponsors, 100% of these contributions will go towards providing students with opportunities for academic excellence and personal thriving at Harambee Christian School.

We didn’t JUST raise funds, however! Because when that many people are passionate about God’s heart for students (and delicious barbecue), you also have to celebrate! We were pleased not only to celebrate the remarkable academic results of Harambee youth but also two cherished members of the Harambee family.

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Harambee Students Honor MLK By Sharing Their Dreams

urbanconcern : January 26, 2018 1:33 pm :

It’s one thing to quote from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech” on your Twitter account once a year. It’s another to vulnerably share your own hopes and dreams in front of an audience of close family and peers.

But this is just what Harambee middle school students did at the first ever Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner, held the evening before his celebrated holiday.

How did students take to such a noble yet daunting task? According to Brandon Grant, Youth Ministry Director, ” Several of our students were nervous about sharing the things they are passionate about with their closest loved ones present. They shared a side of themselves that others might not see every day. They confronted their fears, and every one of them smiled at the applause they received – it felt good to them.”

A Parent’s Inspiration

Harambee parent, Quintessa Atchley, who attended the event after a long day hadn’t expected that she’d need a Kleenex by the end of the first speech. “O nce the first student hit the podium and began to recite the words he prepared, the tears started flowing.”

The students and their speeches made a profound impact on her: “That night I gained perspective. These children are not blind to the adversity that ails their parents, their peers, their society, and ultimately tries to derail their aspirations. These students are equipped and aware of the fight that they face. And from that night, from my son’s speech, and from the words spoken by his peers, I learned that they will need each other, and they need adults willing and prepared to pour into their lives so that they can execute the powerful dreams spoken of. I left the event with enough energy to run a marathon, although I would never run a marathon…maybe if I dream it.”
A Student’s Preparation

It takes a lot of courage and preparation to share your dreams. Ms. Atchley worked with her son, Rayquan, to make the most of the experience. She helped him look for inspiration and prepare by listening to what other students his age had to say about Dr. King while watching YouTube videos.

The finished result was powerful and moving. In her own words, “To know that our children are not oblivious to what is going on around them is huge. It tells the story of a seed being planted and sprouting inside of them. ”

The Impact of Sharing 

Contemplating the impact preparing and delivering these speeches has had on the students, Brandon shares, “This experience has given them confidence in sharing their innermost thoughts with others. It made me realize that it’s important to give our youth more opportunities to share what they are thinking and to lead in these ways.”

What kind of impact has Ms. Quintessa noticed from her son beginning to develop his dreams for the future while attending Harambee? “Attending Harambee and having male teachers and administrators that model the walk of Christ is making all the difference. Some I see here and there, but like the planting of any seed, we see the fruit in its season. I am confident that he is growing – that he is making a difference in his friends life just as they are making a difference in his. As long as he continues this trajectory he and his peers are going to yield good fruit.”

A Student’s Dream

Excerpts from an I Have A Dream Speech
by Londale, Harambee 8th grade

I have a dream.
I want to be known as the man of God who spreads life.
Not a man with children without a wife.
God lives in me.
God talks through me.
As the Bible said God is with thee.
God is almighty.
God is powerful.
At the blink of an eye he can make a tower fall.
When I die I want my family to know,
My expectations for me were high.
When He was crucified He said, “Father forgive them.”
So now when I spread the Word,
I spread Him.

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Harambee Scholarship Fundraising Dinner & Celebration, March 3rd

urbanconcern : November 13, 2017 1:40 pm :

We will be hosting our first ever Harambee Scholarship Fundraising Dinner & Celebration on Saturday, March 3rd, 2018, and we would love to partner with you as a table host and/or sponsor.

The event is set to be held at the Café at Xenos Christian Fellowship’s main campus, with a special dinner being served up by local Linden favorites, The Pit BBQ Grille.

  • Hosting a table simply involves attending the event, yourself, and inviting up to seven others to join you as guests.
  • Sponsoring a table involves making a $150 donation in order for a table of eight guests to attend the event at no cost.

Both hosting and sponsoring are simple and impactful ways to help Harambee raise thousands of dollars in support of at risk youth. You can play just one or both of these important roles! We’re looking to recruit up to 28 hosts & sponsors.

The Harambee Scholarship Fund helps low income youth receive a high quality education and invaluable mentoring for life. Students thrive not only academically but personally as they engage daily with the Bible and the love of Christ shared by committed Christian teachers, Bible study leaders, and mentors.

To RSVP or serve as a host and/or sponsor, contact Michael Larson by emailing larsonm@urbanconcern.org or calling 614.291.0885 ex. 4140.


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Academic Success & the Whole Student

urbanconcern : November 13, 2017 1:25 pm :

Harambee Students Outpace Urban & Suburban Peers on 2016-17 Test

The Ohio Department of Education recently released the report cards for Ohio schools.

We are excited to report that Harambee students not only outperformed local public schools and higher performing charter schools. They also achieved a higher performance index than Reynoldsburg, Hilliard and Westerville school districts.

This is a remarkable achievement since 85% of Harambee students are from low-income households.



More than an education

We are grateful to see Harambee students thriving academically, but we also know that test scores only show one piece of a much larger picture. Many caring staff and volunteers of faith view it as their privilege to not only educate our students but also impact them for Christ. Our prayer is that students thrive in every way – academically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our vision is that these young people become a new generation of leaders for our community the local church.

Seeing students grow as servant leaders is a highlight for many at Harambee and part of what makes their academic success so sweet. Middle School Math teacher, Michael Harvin, observes this regularly in and out of the classroom: “I am always impressed with the eagerness students have to pray for each other in the 7th & 8th grades. It is not uncommon when I ask for one or two student volunteers to pray that almost the entire class will pray. Their prayers are thoughtful, compassionate and others focused.” We will be compassionate servant leaders following the example of Jesus, reads the Harambee Student Declaration.

Former Harambee teacher and current Staff Development Coordinator, Cheryl Hunter, who also helps lead the Renegade29 Bible study, notes the profound impact attending Harambee has had on students she’s invested in over many years at Ren29: “One of the most beautiful things I have noticed is their increased knowledge of the Bible since starting at Harambee. They are confident in sharing God’s word and what He has taught them with their friends at Ren29. It has been a blessing to watch them grow academically AND spiritually.”

Character counts, and the impact of incorporating the timeless teachings of Scripture in the classroom is helping students develop not just as scholars but as compassionate citizens, advocates, allies, and leaders.

The Fantastic 50

Because we are concerned with the whole student, our goal is to help raise up 50 young people who have graduated high school, who are pursuing college or career, and who are participating in discipleship in the local church.

This is a big undertaking but one we believe is possible thanks to God’s unlimited resources and power. In order to reach this goal, our students are going to need a network of healthy relationships and influence. Teachers, mentors, Bible study leaders, tutors, prayer partners, and donors all play a role in reaching and empowering the whole student. What role has he given you?

Has God given you a heart to serve & support Columbus inner city youth? Help us reach the Fantastic 50. Contact Michael at larsonm@urbanconcern.org to learn how you can get involved.

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Two upcoming opportunities to support Harambee youth!

urbanconcern : September 26, 2017 1:13 pm :

Friends & Family of Harambee Christian School,

We’re excited to share two upcoming opportunities to support Harambee youth in the month of October!

Make a Gift During The Big Give on 10/10

What is The Big Give?

Gifts made to Urban Concern & Harambee Christian School through The Columbus Foundation’s website on October 10th will be amplified by The Columbus Foundation. The Foundation is covering all credit card fees, so 100% of your gift goes directly to supporting Harambee youth, in addition to the prorata increase!

Help us spread the word by sharing our Big Give Facebook event!

Treat Yourself to Harambee Imports coffee at our upcoming Coffee & Canvas event

Whether you participate in The Big Give or not, you’re invited to learn more about what God is doing at our school while treating yourself to coffee from our student run business, Harambee Imports.


What is Harambee’s Back to School Coffee & Canvas event?

At this short and sweet event, students will be serving up their own delicious blend of Harambee Imports coffee & baked goods, along with meaningful works of art that reflect the heart of our school.

Guests will walk away with a better understanding of what God is doing at our school and how they can get involved. There is no cost to participate!

To RSVP, simply respond to this email. You can also help us spread the word online by linking to our Facebook event.

Questions regarding The Big Give or Coffee & Canvas?

Contact Michael at 614.291.0885 ex 4140 or by emailing larsonm@urbanconcern.org.

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Getting Paid and Giving Back

urbanconcern : August 22, 2017 9:12 am :

Harambee Imports teaches students entrepreneurship, economics, and generosity

Get paid to go to school? Since 2006, Harambee Christian School students have been receiving weekly paychecks for performing various responsibilities as a part of their regular school experience. Their “Bling” is automatically deposited in a virtual online bank account and can be used to purchase everything from school supplies to take out lunches with their teachers. Want to go on a special outing to the movies or Skyzone with your classmates? You might need to save up for that.

Bill in Thailand

Economic literacy is an integral part of the curriculum for Harambee students. Years ago, Principal, Alex Steinman, began searching for a sustainable income stream to fund the school economy when he met the business savvy husband of a Harambee volunteer, Bill Sjoblom. Bill, a local entrepreneur already helping to import products from a Thai ministry called Hope for Hilltribes that serves women and children affected by HIV/AIDS and prostitution, proposed the idea of connecting these two ministries. Soon after, Harambee Imports was born.

Since its inception, Harambee Imports has generated $50,000 in revenue and has even been able to tithe $5,000 back to Hope for Hilltribes, as a part of their philanthropic goals.

Expanding businesses and young minds

Harambee Imports students participate in multiple sales throughout the year at various church services, where they sell products hand made by the women served by Hope for Hilltribes.

Over the past few years, the student business has also expanded beyond importing goods. Harambee 6th graders operate a monthly subscriber based coffee club where they ship their own custom blend of Ethiopian coffee. 7th graders operate their own spice business, and 8th graders even get experience manufactoring their own jewelry.

Packaging Sankofa blend coffee

Each aspect of the business also affords Bill and other volunteers the opportunity to teach important economics lessons: “In the 6th grade we talk about a wide variety of business concepts – it’s an intro to business, in general. The 7th grade studies marketing & sales, and in the 8th grade we teach them about personal finance – checking & savings accounts, 401k, insurance, credit cards, stock market and even how to buy your first car.”

In addition to funding the school economy, Harambee Imports exists to educate and inspire Harambee youth in the areas of entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy, as well as provide real world experience in operating a business. The benefit according to Bill is that, “students feel the pride of ownership and a confidence that they can make an important contribution.”

We’re grateful for devoted champions like Bill and everyone who has supported the work of Harambee Imports. Economic literacy education is one of many ways Harambee exists to help inner city youth overcome challenges and become a new generation of leaders.

Business savvy? Harambee Imports wants you!

Are you passionate about business and helping others? Harambee Imports is always looking for people to teach classes on a variety of business concepts, including sales, customer service, accounting, and personal finance. Teach a class once a month or just once a year – whatever works best for you! Help is also needed coaching kids on how to sell, make change, and providing excellent customer service during church sales three times a year.

If you’re interested in getting involved in any way, contact Bill.

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Harambee alumni share wisdom, plans for future

urbanconcern : June 26, 2017 11:41 am :


Please join us in congratulating Harambee’s first ever middle school class as they celebrate their recent graduation from high school and begin life’s newest adventure.

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with a few of our grads whose next step includes attending college and moving into a ministry house.

Looking forward to college and ministry house life

                    Deon now and then

Deon graduated from Centennial High School in May. He plans to begin his studies at Columbus State Community College and later transfer to The Ohio State University. He intends to major in Architecture.

Deon believes that surrounding himself with positive influences is the best way to ensure success during this formative transition from high school to college. He intends to continue his involvement in a college home church and living in a ministry house with other young men.

“I knew moving into a ministry house would be the best move for me. God has placed many people in my life these past four years from my home church who have helped shape me into who I am today. They have pushed me to grow in ways that seemed impossible. They helped keep my head in the right place and gave me advice on life issues that helped me avoid problems others encountered. I’m thankful God placed me in an environment where I can be open and express myself.”

Fellow Harambee classmate, Jahlil, is also enrolled at Columbus State this fall and ultimately intends to pursue an Engineering degree at Ohio State. Jahlil’s friendships in the body of Christ have also shaped him into the man he has become. “I’ve been blessed to have God change me into a more patient, selfless person as a result having friends who care deeply for me. Now, I’m looking forward to experiencing greater fellowship as a part of a home church and when I move into the ministry house. ”

Harambee’s impact on my life 

                       Jahlil now and then

The future looks bright for Deon and Jahlil. Since their graduation from high school, both have reflected on the impact Harambee had on them. Deon extoled the valuable role that the school played in his life. “Harambee helped me get started on the right foot as I entered high school by instilling a strong work ethic in me. The school has the most loving teachers, and they always pushed us to succeed.”

Both grads also agree that participating in the small group Bible studies during their time at the school played an important role in the direction they’ve chosen for themselves. “Thanks to my middle school small group, my interest in God was sparked from a young age, and I always wanted to learn more about Him,” Deon added. Likewise, Jahlil formed life changing relationships with God and others. “My time at Harambee was very important to me because it is where I started my relationship with God and made important friendships that are still with me to this day.”

Wisdom for those heading into high school

             Declaring his faith

Jahlil has an important reminder for the eighth graders who recently graduated from Harambee: “You’re not alone to ‘run your race.’ God is there for you, and he’s placed people in your life who care about you and want you to have spiritual and academic success.”

Where can they find such people? According to Jahlil, “Being in a high school home church, and now the college group, has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve seen my personality and character grow drastically for the better, and I have God to thank for that.”

Deon offers similar advice: “Surround yourself with positive influences. I’ve seen people go down down the wrong path quickly because they had no positive role models in their lives. If you want to walk with God, invest in your home church and the people there. I did, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.”

The staff and volunteers of Urban Concern & Harambee Christian School feel truly privileged to be a part of these grads’ lives, and we look forward to continue walking with them as they become a new generation of leaders for our community and the world.

So many people have contributed to the success of our graduates: parents and other family members, teachers, mentors, Bible study leaders, financial partners, and more. We thank each and every person who has played a role in helping to shape young men like Deon, Jahlil, and their classmates.

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