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Shalom Zone fights for Westside
Improving education to help improve the lifestyle on the Hilltop is one of the goals of a fledgling group on the Westside.
The Rev. Julie Nielsen Bingman, a deacon-in residence serving the New Horizon and the Hilltonia United Methodist Churches, explained the mission of her group to the Greater Hilltop Area Commission at its April 5 meeting.
Her group, the Greater Hilltop Area Shalom Zone, has been meeting the fourth Tuesday of the month at noon at Westgate United Methodist Church for the past year. It was started by eight United Methodist churches on the Hilltop to unite the needs of the Hilltop residences with the proper resources.
Shalom is a Hebrew word whose literal translation is peace. Although the group was formed by a religious denomination, its work cuts across all segments of the community.
Education is a big focus of the group, she said.
“Children not reading at grade level by the third grade have a strong possibility of going to prison,” she said. “We have to stop cradle to prison.”
With so many different nationalities represented, teaching English is a necessity. The group has an English as a Second Language class going.
“ESL is growing,” Bingman said. “It started at Highland Elementary School and we are working with children as young as pre-K level to parents and grandparents.”
After her presentation, GHAC chair Chuck Patterson offered that it may help if English speaking residents participated in such classes as a show of force that they are interested in learning other languages.
Several other educational efforts are underway, including the opening of three Freedom Schools this summer. Those will be at Highland, West Mound and West Broad Street elementary schools and will focus on literacy and how to become socially engaged.
In addition, a virtual high school will open this fall at Hilltonia United Methodist Church, in partnership with Columbus City Schools. This will be the latest in a series of virtual schools throughout the district.
“Every other area in the district has one but the West side,” Bingman said.
She issued a call for volunteers, especially for the summer, to read to children at what she called Read Aloud Daily.
“People can come in and read books and show children that everyone reads,” she said.
The Zone is also working to implement mediation training for all ages.
“We want to train everyone from children to grandparents on how to mediate violence,” she said. “We want to get everyone on the same page to interact and promote nonviolence.”
Several community agencies, Capital University, the Columbus Division of Police and the Columbus City Schools are working with the eight founding churches.
Hilltop residents interested in becoming involved with the program are encouraged to attend the monthly meetings held at noon.
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