Breaking News
More () »

Art Tatum Zone seeing major success with afterschool program, has even bigger plans

The husband and wife duo who started the program are working to make sure kids and families have the knowledge and resources to be successful in life.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The Art Tatum Zone is a non-profit neighborhood revitalization program created just a few years ago which is seeing huge success in its programming.

Calvin and Christine Sweeney are in charge of the organization, which is based in Toledo's Junction neighborhood.

The group has seen so much growth and success that there's a waitlist for kids to be part of the program.

Every weekday you can find anywhere from 120 to 150 students taking part in the after-school programming offered by the Art Tatum Zone.

"Every single day our program is comprised of the basics - the reading and mathematics that all of our students need stronger support in. But then we also talk about social and emotional learning," said Executive Director Christine Sweeney.

The organization has three different locations where students go once the school day is over - the Toledo Museum of Art, the McClinton Nunn community building, and Tabernacle Church on Pinewood Ave.

Students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade get educational support at the program and take part in experiences like music, theater and art through enrichment time.

"We understand that education opens so many doors and provides so many choices. What we also understood is that it's more than just reading, writing and mathematics, we wanted to create a love for learning in all of our students," said Christine.

But kids aren't the only focus.

The Sweeneys say it's a place for the entire family. 

But to understand that, you have to know the man the organization is named after, legendary jazz pianist Art Tatum.

"He grew up in the early-mid 1900s, he loved music but he also loved his family," said Calvin Sweeney, president of the Art Tatum Zone.

Up until a few years ago, Art Tatum's family has called Toledo home.

"We got this home from Art Tatum's niece, Lucille Johnson. She died a few years ago at the age of 84, but she was born in the back room of this house," said Calvin.

Now, that home connects to the vision of the Art Tatum Zone, where kids have the opportunity to excel in education.

"We've seen students go from the retention list to being on the honor roll and principal's list," said Christine.

The Sweeneys say parents have the ability to get help and resources through the program too.

"We provide opportunities for parents to be re-educated or extend their education. We know that you need a comprehensive approach," said Calvin.

They say the goal is to break the generational curse that plagues many black families.

Doing that involves an approach that extends farther than education.

Another pillar of the organization is its neighborhood stabilization program.

"Part of our mission is to purchase homes in our community, rehab them, and make them a place where someone wants to live. We're even looking at renting homes," said Sweeney.

The Sweeneys say by doing that, the property taxes and market value of the homes start to go up.

And a better neighborhood means more people will want to live and work there.

"Our goal is to eliminate all of the vertical and horizontal blight in the community," said Calvin. "The houses that can be saved, we want to save those houses. We want to have them rehabbed and restored."

They say it's all a cycle, one that works with the whole family to be successful later in life.

"The need is so great. No one organization can fulfill that need. We all need to work together to make sure there are opportunities across the city for kids and families in our community," said Christine.

The Sweeneys say there is summer programming for the kids to help with instructional loss and they are looking at adding a Saturday academy because there's so much interest from families.

If you'd like more information on the organization, click here.


Before You Leave, Check This Out