History of Community Club

Community Club is one of the oldest tutoring and mentoring programs in Washington D.C. The Club, however, began in the early 1940s as a gathering place in New York Avenue Presbyterian Church for soldiers stationed in the nation's capital and the young women who came from around the country to fill government posts vacated by men who had joined the military.

Many of those wartime arrivals stayed in Washington for careers with the government. By the 1950s, Community Club had evolved into a program for children who met in the basement for friendship and recreation. With expansion of the business district and demolition of nearby homes, however, the number of neighborhood youngsters dwindled.

Study Hall in the 1960sThe program began to focus on meeting the needs of adolescents, as youth gangs became a problem in the city. In the early 1960s nearly 100 teenagers were participating in activities at the church on weekday afternoons, and the Community Club opened its basement to gangs of teenagers who came to the neutral territory to play basketball and other games.

During the 1960s, church members supported the civil rights movement in various ways. Some actively participated in the movement here and in the South. Some enlisted in the District's fight for self-government. Other members of the congregation formulated the idea of a Community Club Study Hall. The young basketball players had to attend weekly study sessions if they wanted to use the court in the church basement.

Dave Brown with a studnent.The first Community Club student graduated from high school in 1968 — six years after Study Hall began. The program celebrated its first college graduate in 1973. Stay-in-school scholarships requiring good grades and attendance, as well as trophies for improved academic performance encouraged students and tutors to focus on their studies. We have helped over 700 students graduate high school -- today, nearly all Community Club students graduate from high school -- and over 140 have earned college degrees.

Community Club continues to evolve in response to changing needs and trends. In addition to one-on-one tutoring and mentoring, we have tutors in our Math and Science Zone that provide specialized help in those subjects. We also have a library that stocks a wide range of books, including textbooks, college and career prep materials, and SAT and ACT test preparation workbooks. We also assist our students with the college application and financial aid process, and provide enrichment opportunities outside of Study Hall, such as fall camp weekend, trips to college fairs, and cultural and sporting events in the D.C. area. We also provide our collegians with mentoring and academic scholarships.

Meanwhile, the corps of tutors has grown in leadership capacity as well as in number. In 1983 a Tutor of the Year program was instituted in which an honored tutor presents a speech at the Awards Ceremony each spring. The tutor-of-the-year speeches provide perspectives on a program that has served an estimated 2,000 students in the 50 years since its founding.

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