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 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:



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.”

more »

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What is a Renegade Bible Study?

urbanconcern : January 9, 2017 1:18 pm :

Some may think that Renegade is an unorthodox name for a church. But since 2008, Renegade has been the name for what has become a spiritual youth movement throughout inner city Columbus. Renegade provides a safe and fun environment where students can hear the Gospel, come to faith, and learn to follow God.

The human Christmas tree challenge at the Renegade Christmas party

Since 2010, Urban Concern & Harambee Christian School have been serving a similar group of students on Sundays through the Lighthouse youth ministry. Often times, Lighthouse students had family members or next door neighbors who were attending Renegade and vice versa.

Both Lighthouse and Renegade are led by dedicated volunteers from Xenos Christian Fellowship. After much prayer and planning, these ministries joined forces last August in an effort to provide the highest quality Bible teaching, mentoring, fun and care for these precious students.

Thanks to this exciting combination of efforts, the students in both ministries from grades K-5 have been coming together each Sunday at Harambee Christian School under the Renegade banner. Middle school students are also meeting in boys & girls small groups or “cell groups” on Sundays at various locations throughout the city.

Different foundations, different results!

The student response to the merge has been positive: Harambee fourth grader, Michael Watson, says he looks forward to Renegade every week because in addition to learning about God and having fun, “I know the workers care about me, and they make me feel comfortable.” Likewise, second grader Noel Jones is grateful because attending Renegade/Lighthouse, “helped me make friends with other students at Harambee” before enrolling in the school, herself, this past year.

Executive Director Alex Steinman is pleased with the outcome of the merge, saying, “The more the leaders from both ministries talked, the more we recognized that God had called us to the same vision. It was clear that we would be stronger and more efficient if we combined forces and began to work together. We’re so glad we did.”

Since August, an average of 58 students in grades K-5 attend Renegade at Harambee each week.

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Meet Linden’s Teacher of the Year

urbanconcern : December 1, 2016 10:05 am :

Please join us in congratulating Harambee Christian School’s fifth grade teacher, Wakeshia Ghee, who was honored in November as Linden’s Teacher of the Year by the Greater Linden Development Corporation.

Meet Wakeshia

Most of the students that Wakeshia serves are growing up in single parent, low income households. She knows education is a key to hope. In fact, Wakeshia’s life models this reality.

Wakeshia moved to the Rosewind Housing community in South Linden with her three young daughters in 2005. She enrolled them at Harambee Christian School with a value for education and a willingness to serve. She came on staff as a teacher aide, and later as an After School Program teacher, even as she attended college classes. Wakeshia worked hard to earn her teaching license from Ohio Dominican.

Praise from the Principal

Harambee Principal, Alex Steinman, knows Mrs. Ghee is a shining star for the school and community: “Wakeshia pays attention to what her students know, what they lack, and how they learn. She is mindful of learning standards, yet she strikes a healthy balance between academic growth and life coaching. Character traits like grit, integrity and respect are difficult to measure, yet crucial to learning. Wakeshia helps students that are struggling to grow and challenges advanced students to excel even more.


In Her Words

Wakeshia knows the impact the ministry had on her own life shapes how she hopes to impact the lives of her students: “Urban Concern & Harambee helped me to have a greater focus on the need to serve others. In serving others, I found my true purpose as a wife, mother. teacher, and member of the community.  Now, I want to use my personal experience as a catalyst for the hope and success of every student. I aspire to give my knowledge of the renewing power of Christ to help provide a strong foundation for reaching their goals.”

Congratulations, Mrs. Ghee, and thank you for all you do!

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Support Harambee Scholarships in 2016

urbanconcern : November 14, 2016 2:48 pm :

Dear Friends and Partners,

Harambee students excel academically compared with their peers from the same demographic. The typical student at Harambee achieves well above the national average. And the average Eighth Grade student over the past three years has finished their career at Harambee prepared for High School in the 98th percentile in Mathematics and the 85th percentile in Reading.

This school year we are privileged to have 131 students enrolled in Kindergarten through Eighth Grade at Harambee Christian School. We value each student and provide each with an exceptional education that focuses on academic excellence, character development and spiritual growth.

Many Harambee students are eligible for an Ohio EdChoice Voucher, which covers a portion of their $6,540 annual tuition. The Harambee Scholarship Fund provides the remaining funds needed to ensure each student receives an excellent education. Thanks to the generosity of Xenos Christian Fellowship and many individual donors we have raised $277,00 to date.


We are still looking to raise $35,000 for the Harambee Scholarship Fund by year end to support students in need.

Please consider providing a hopeful foundation for a young person’s life by making a year end investment in the Harambee Scholarship Fund. Together we will raise up a new generation of leaders for Columbus’ inner city.

With Deepest Gratitude,

Alex Steinman
Executive Director & Principal


1. Make a gift using credit card or PayPal by clicking here:

OR by visiting and selecting “Urban Concern” from the drop down menu.

2. Mail a check to

Harambee Christian School
ATTN: Operations Director
1000 Bonham Avenue
Columbus OH, 43211

Have questions? Feel free to contact Michael Larson by calling 614-291-0885 x 4140 or by emailing

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See how Harambee students stack up!

urbanconcern : October 25, 2016 10:34 am :

2014-2015 marked the first and last school year that the Ohio Department of Education adopted the PARCC assessment for evaluating student achievement in Reading and Mathematics. Therefore, it is difficult to compare Harambee student achievement relative to other school years. However, it is possible to compare the student achievement of Harambee students with other central Ohio schools and districts during the 2014-2015 school year.

Students took the PARCC assessment for Reading and Mathematics in Grades 3-8.  They took an Ohio test to evaluate their achievement in Social Studies in Grades 4 and 6. And students in Grades 5 and 8 took an Ohio test for Science. The results below show a composite Performance Index for all grades and subjects. A perfect score where all students in the school score at the Advanced level in all subjects is 120.

2014-2015 Ohio Test / PARCC Performance Index Comparison


Performance Index comparison among Columbus schools


Harambee students achieved a composite score of 88.1. They scored significantly better on the Reading and Mathematics portions of the test. In both Reading and Mathematics, students in Grades 3-8 achieved a Performance Index score of 94. They did not perform nearly as well on the Social Studies and Science tests. We believe that, especially in Social Studies, instruction is not aligned with the Ohio standards.  In addition to the Performance Index, another metric the Ohio / PARCC Tests indicate is the percentage of students that are proficient or better per subject.

• In Reading, 76% of Harambee students scored proficient or higher.
• In Mathematics, 78% of students were proficient or better.
• 43% of Harambee students scored Accelerated or Advanced in Reading.
• 35% of Harambee were Accelerated in Mathematics.
• 100% of the Eighth Grade class was proficient or better in both Reading and Mathematics.

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