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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Community Partners Play Their Part in Spurring Students Forward

urbanconcern : May 17, 2017 1:25 pm :

The many benefits of wood glue and car repair

In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the church community is likened to a human body, consisting of many unique and valuable parts that complement each other in carrying out a collective purpose.

Many different parts also contribute to the success of inner city students: parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are just some who collaborate in this important work.

Community business partners of all shapes and sizes also play a vital “part”. Two outstanding examples are Franklin International and Luke’s Automotive Services.

Franklin International 

Even though Columbus based adhesives manufacturer, Franklin International, has a global reach in over 60 countries, they have a huge local impact. In addition to their generous support of Urban Concern & Harambee Christian School, Franklin supports a wide range of organizations seeking to end everything from substance addiction to human trafficking.

Senior Director of Human Resources, Mike Syfert, notes that this high emphasis on social responsibility is built into Franklin’s DNA: “Our stated purpose as a company is to ‘appropriately enhance the economic, physical, relational, emotional and spiritual health of ourselves, our customers, our suppliers and our community.’ We feel it’s important to give back to our neighborhood and community as a way of sharing our success with others.”

According to Mike, Urban Concern & Harambee Christian School were obvious choices for Franklin to support because several employees who are a part of the local church community also have a heart for education, especially for students who may have difficult circumstances to overcome in receiving their education.

Making the connection between the normal work day and the company’s community impact can be challenging, but Mike knows it’s worth it: “The daily grind of work can be stressful, but sometimes a simple act of sharing with someone else can lift your spirits.”  Likewise, having seen the positive impact giving back has had on their own company, Franklin encourages other businesses to make social responsibility a priority too: “We would encourage other companies to make it a priority to share their success within their local community and find ways to directly impact the lives of people around them who are in genuine need.” 

Franklin International’s long standing support of the work at Urban Concern & Harambee Christian School has no doubt resulted in a profound impact for inner city students looking to break the cycle of poverty and become a new generation of leaders for our community.

Luke’s Auto 

Across town from Franklin sits a local staple in honest, quality auto repair. Luke’s Auto is owned by its namesake Luke Walker. However, this local shop’s work impacts more than just Columbus drivers; it reaches throughout our community and stretches as far as the poorest regions of Cambodia, helping people in need receive necessary medical care and spiritual hope. Locally, Luke’s Auto champions the cause of inner city youth through supporting Urban Concern & Harambee Christian School. Twenty percent of company profits are donated to charity.

Before partnering through his business, Luke and his wife Carrie served as mentors for Harambee youth. On what sparked them to get involved, Luke says, “We both saw the awesome impact Urban Concern was having in the community and wanted to get more involved.” Likewise, Luke knew the impact that mentoring had on his own life: “I have been so grateful for the mentoring role other spiritual men have played in my life, and I wanted to pass that on to other young men.”

Serving as mentors stretched them, personally, and opened them up to getting further involved. According to Carrie, “It was a great experience, and it was faith building to see that God really does want to use us when we choose to serve others. I was surprised to find how much my mentee enjoyed spending time together and was even interested in discussing her faith with me.”

It was ultimately their experience as mentors that motivated them to partner financially through the business. “Knowing biblically that the Lord is committed to taking care of the less fortunate is our motivation for giving financially to Urban Concern & Harambee. Seeing first hand the quality of the ministry and the commitment of the people who have given their whole lives over to working with students has also been a huge motivator,” according to Carrie.

Luke agrees and has experienced the personal reward that comes with giving back to God’s work in the community: “Contributing time and finances towards such a great cause has been so rewarding for us. We are so glad we got involved. ”

Their advice for others interested in giving back? “Go and see the ministry. It’s easy to get lost in the business of our own lives. It’s important to see what life looks like in the inner city. We know they would be moved to serve in some way.”

Luke and Carrie’s personal investment impacted the lives of their mentees, and now their financial investment is creating opportunities for other students to experience the love of Christ and become a new generation of leaders for our community.

Do you have a business looking to make a local impact? We’d love to connect with you! Contact our Operations Director by emailing larsonm@urbanconcern.org or calling 614.291.0885.

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Join us for Harambee’s 20th Anniversary Celebration!

urbanconcern : April 26, 2017 9:29 am :


Attention past, present, AND future students, families, alumni, and neighbors of Harambee!

You’re not going to want to miss Harambee’s 20th Anniversary Celebration coming up on Saturday, May 13th from 1-4 PM!

Enjoy free food, games, gift card raffles, photo booth, dunk tank, bounce house, magic show, and more, as we thank God for everything he’s doing in our school and community!

You can RSVP and help us spread the word using our Facebook event:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1745948049068204/



The Local Wellness policy for Harambee will be available to the public at this event. Feedback cards will be available for public comments.


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New Annual Report Available Now!

urbanconcern : March 13, 2017 10:10 am :

We’re pleased to share our 2016 Annual Report with you, which highlights key partnerships and exciting leadership development taking place at Urban Concern.

See how Harambee students and staff alike are excelling academically and spiritually!

See how your gifts are being used to accomplish great things that will make a difference forever!

                     Click on cover photo to read!

Click here to read the report and help us spread the word about what God is doing!

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After School Program benefits from diversity of treasures and talents

urbanconcern : February 9, 2017 2:10 pm :

Before Harambee Christian School set up shop in a converted laundromat on Cleveland Avenue in 1998, a small group of staff & volunteers came together every day to serve students in Urban Concern’s original After School Program. God multiplied the efforts of those serving in that program to expand into a high performing private school that today serves 130 students in grades K-8. Likewise, the original After School Program has grown to impart high quality academic enrichment, character growth, and engaging extra curriculars for up to 96 youth at Harambee Christian School, providing an essential service to our students, families, and community. The After School Program runs Monday – Friday from 3:30 – 5:30, a time when many at risk behaviors for students in low income neighborhoods can occur.

Our K-5 students currently meet under the wonderful leadership of Deb Casher and her trusty band of workers, Jordan Johnson, Erin Wahba, and Derek Evans, pictured from left to right.

The Talents

As with the original After School Program (ASP), extra curricular opportunities often vary based on the skills and talents of volunteers. Over the years the ASP has offered everything from Concert Band and Choir to Tae Kwan Do and French Lessons.

Creative Writing & Spoken Word Poetry

For the second consecutive year, middle school students are blessed to participate in Speak Life poetry & creative writing workshops led by Tifani Kendrick, former Manager of Youth Outreach at COSI and current Founder & Executive Director at D’Light House Family Center.

On sharing her gifts and talents with Harambee students, Tifani said, “Serving with Harambee is one of the highlights of my week. I encourage students to identify and share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences through creative writing & poetry. My goal is for them to see value in their own voices and understand the power of the words we speak and write. I hope students will gain confidence in their ability to inspire others.”

Tifani knows the importance of connecting students’ faith in God to their words and actions on a day to day basis: “I reinforce the scripture, ‘Life and death are in the power of the tongue.’ (Proverbs 18:21). I believe that every moment I have with them is a seed, just as our words are. I trust that our weekly interactions will one day bear righteous fruit.”

Ms. Tifani Kendrick and the aspiring poets of Harambee

Students are forming an identity and becoming comfortable in their own skin during Speak Life workshops: “I love the community that we build here. We don’t judge each other here. If you have an idea, you are encouraged to share it, no matter what it is.”

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