In the fall of 2007, Rev. Andy Kim (MDiv, ‘99) planted Eighth Street Community Church with the hopes of reaching the people in the North Philadelphia East Hunting Park neighborhood. The church is situated at the corner of 8th and Butler, an intersection well known in Philadelphia’s history of drugs and violence.
In tandem with the church’s efforts to revitalize Hunting Park, Andy Kim also established the Vocatio Career Prep school as a summer program to address the specific needs of the community’s youth. He noted that, “Even though people had high school diplomas, their reading level was low and more than that, they didn’t have a role model in their home to teach basic work ethics. They would get a job but would lose it months later.” Through Vocatio, Andy seeks to serve the youth by providing a Christ-centered, comprehensive, academic and vocational program.
Among the courses offered at Vocatio include college preparatory (SAT, ACT); computer programming; welding and metal workshops; medical assistantship; dental professions; exercise science; business entrepreneurship; and media arts. Students also spend time studying Christian workplace ethics, exploring topics of identity, and discovering how their understanding of God impacts their work as well as personal and professional relationships. Mario Pagan, an elder at Eighth Street Community Church and Vocational Director at Vocatio, commented that, “I believe this is a ministry more than a school. It’s a school of course, but the point is ministry.”
Letty Garland, 37-year resident of Hunting Park, noted the positive impact of Vocatio on the community, “My grandson attended that program [Vocatio] about a year and a half ago and I really saw a big change in him. It really helped his self-esteem. He picked up and learned a lot. But not only that, they give you the Word of God. A lot of our children . . . may not get that. That’s the plus to me, because sometimes our children don’t hear that. They should know that God should be first in their life.”
Vocatio has grown tremendously over the past few years, partnering with different churches in the greater Philadelphia area, including Jubilee Presbyterian Church. In an answer to much prayer and with the generous support from Jubilee, Vocatio has purchased a building to expand its summer program to a high school. The building was named after Harvie Conn (1933–1999), professor of missions at Westminster Theological Seminary. The high school will open in Fall 2018 with an inaugural tenth-grade class. Andy Kim commented on the need for a Christian high school in the area: “There are very few Christian high schools in all of Philadelphia. The school means a lot because this is an ideal way to love our youth; to introduce them to Jesus Christ and give them purpose, meaning, and also empower them to have a bright future for themselves.” Andy hopes that the school will help place young men and women on a trajectory toward a successful career path, including post-secondary education when it is necessary for the students’ goals.
Please pray for Rev. Andy Kim and his family as they continue to serve Hunting Park. You can learn more about Vocatio’s ministry in North Philadelphia here.