Nonprofit Inspires Middle Schoolers In Third Ward

Yates High School in Houston's Third Ward has one of the lowest attendance rates and only a 55% graduation rate. The middle schools in the area are not doing much better either. One nonprofit is doing something about this by finding creative ways to make learning fun.

It’s 4 o’clock and group of middle school students are joking around outside a bright blue house in Houston’s Third Ward near downtown. The house belongs to Workshop Houston, which is an after school program – of sorts.

It started in 2003 as a bike shop. Kids liked fixing bikes, but as they grew older, they would join gangs or get in trouble. The bike shop wasn’t enough.

To keep kids interested they opened 4 new workshops: the chopper shop to completely rebuild bikes, the scholar shop to help kids with their homework, the style shop to work with printing and sewing shirts, and the beat shop to make music.

The first floor of the blue house makes up the beat shop and the style shop. It’s here that Jill Brumer, the style shop coordinator, spends most of her time working with the kids.

“All these girls started coming this year and within just the span of a couple of months, they’re all proficient and sewing. They can read a pattern and they’re making their own clothing and wearing it to school and that’s really exciting.”

Jaqueline Iradukunda is a middle schooler who likes the beat and style shops. She is trying to convince her classmates to come too.

“It’s really cool and they wanted to come, but they haven’t gotten a permission slip yet but I don’t think they want to stay until 7. I think it’s worth it staying at 7. It’s really fun.”

Jaqueline is chatting with her friend Adista Baraka. They started coming here to make beats and shirts and have fun. Now they realize they’re getting a lot more out of the workshops than they expected.

“When I haven’t gone to Workshop Houston my grades were like a 70 and below, but now I get like 89s and 85s. I get A’s and B’s, no C’s.”

It’s not all about making clothes or playing on the drum machine. Students also have to spend at least 30 minutes a week in the scholar shop. They also practice their geometry, reading, math and creativity skills. And the best part is the students like it. Reginald Hatter is co-director at Workshop Houston. He says the students realize that learning can be both fun and easy when it’s the right environment.

“To see them come here and then come to me a little after that and say, ‘Mister Reginald, I made this really cool song.’ I did it. I’m so excited. I got an A. I never really thought I could get A’s.’  I mean that is something that there’s no money in the world that can pay for that.”

All the workshops except for the bike shop are for middle and high school students only. You can however go fix your bike at the bike shop. It’s open to the public every Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit Workshop Houston.



This story was voiced by Edel Howlin and written by Anna Fisher.