Community & Neighborhood
Stories of Exceptional Youth, Strong Families, Full Lives
The “Highway of Hope” at the Martha O'Bryan Center is a string of services that supports and follows young children, youth and their families from cradle to college to career. Services include classes for new and expecting parents, child care, afterschool academic and enrichment programs for youth, GED classes and pretests and Work Ready programs for adults. This movie highlights the potential for the families served by Martha O'Bryan Center to become inspired, productive citizens.
The Martha O'Bryan Center is located in Nashville's poorest neighborhood. The daily challenges are unique and diverse for the 4,000 children and adults who show up at our door each year. There are just as many stories. Here are a few:
Family overcomes obstacles
Cassandra and James Berry never expected to end up in public housing. But two years ago, James lost his job. They had two children and a third on the way, and they had no income or resources. Soon they were evicted from their home, and ended up at Cayce Place, the largest, oldest and poorest public housing development in Nashville.
As with all new residents at Cayce, the Berrys received a welcome from the Martha O’Bryan Center – a laundry basket filled with household essentials like cleaning products, trash sacks, laundry detergent, shampoo, toilet paper, hand lotion and more. They learned more about the Center and attended the Tied Together parenting education program. And the more they learned, the more they became involved.
James enrolled in Center’s GED class and found a job at a restaurant thanks to the Center’s Work Ready program. Inspired by the Center’s staff and mission, Cassandra now is pursuing a degree in social work at Nashville State.
Their oldest son, Michael, 10, was one of 100 youth to participate in Martha O'Bryan Center's Summer Camp 2010. Saundra, 5, was in the Early Learning Center until she started kindergarten this fall. And their youngest, James Jr., continues to thrive in the ELC while mom is at school and dad is at work.
“It’s a lot of people that fell on hard times, and they don’t have the money or the resources to do things,” said James Sr. “Martha O'Bryan makes a way out of no way, and I thank God for it. They’ve helped me be a better role model for my family, a better role model as a husband, a father, a man of God, and I thank God for everything."
“We’re not trying to stay in James Cayce forever,” said Cassandra. “We’re just trying to use that just for the moment, to get on our feet and do what we’ve got to do. It’s (Martha O’Bryan Center) a valuable resource and if somebody is not using it, they need to use it.”
Steps in the Right Direction
Michelle McCann walked for 90 minutes each day in scorching summer heat and icy winter cold, sometimes five days a week, to get to her GED class at the Martha O’Bryan Center. She spent four or five hours in class or alone at a computer. Then she walked 90 minutes home.
“I’m a dedicated person,” she said.
For McCann, the obstacles sprung up last year when her mother no longer could afford the $1,300 rent their Memphis apartment. The family, which also includes two younger brothers, moved to Nashville to live with an uncle.
McCann was a rising high school junior in Memphis but couldn’t get back into high school because she was already 19. When she started looking for a way to get a GED, the only place that wasn’t full was Martha O’Bryan Center. She and her brother walked 90 minutes each way to get here.
“It took me a month to find a school,” she said. “I'm not the type of person to sit down and wait for someone to call me.”
And while McCann’s obstacles were extraordinary, she’s not alone. She was one of 94 Adult Education students to graduate from the Martha O’Bryan Center GED program this year. It’s the largest class in at least seven years, maybe ever.
“Everyone out here in this room has some story that includes obstacles, whether it's health, transportation, family, having their own ill health that they're dealing with,” said Judy Rye, Adult Education Teacher at the Martha O’Bryan Center. “So barriers are the norm for each student. Whether or not they want to put in the effort to overcome it is a question.
"This is the best part of working at Martha O'Bryan,” Rye added. “I'm going to do everything I can. As long as you are working, I'm going to keep working with you. As a result, if they see they're making a little progress, they know, OK, I've got to make more. Maybe we've created an environment where they can get that sense of what it takes. It takes a lot of hard work to achieve these goals, especially when you're overcoming obstacles.”
Returning to help – himself
Adrian Nelson came to Martha O'Bryan Center’s THRIVE program in August 2006 as a high school freshman.
Adrian graduated from Stratford High School in May 2010 and has spent his summer working with the Martha O'Bryan Center staff and students to renovate the top floor of Stratford, where the new High School THRIVE program will be housed.
While working on the renovation, Adrian found himself enjoying what he was doing. Martha O’Bryan Center staff is helping him find a position in construction.
Thriving at THRIVE
Shermond Dillard is a 6th grader at Bailey Middle School. He has been a part of the Martha O'Bryan Center since he was 1-month-old baby in the Early Learning Center.
He, along with his two sisters, is currently in our THRIVE Out-of-School time program at the Martha O'Bryan Center's South Seventh Street campus.