JU students serve inner-city Knoxville youth

Part of Johnson’s mission  is to spread God’s word to the ends of the earth. While Johnson’s passion for international growth is flourishing, a handful of students have accepted the challenge to help out in Johnson’s own home of Knoxville.

Emerald Youth Foundation, and other supporting organizations have provided an opportunity for students to give back to Knoxville’s youth.

Working with AmeriCorps and JustLead Program,  Emerald serves numerous organizations  throughout Knoxville.  Emerald Youth Foundation is located in the heart of Knoxville.

One of the programs that works with Emerald is Western Heights Baptist Center. Western Heights is often thought of as a low-class, government funded community. It is ridden with crime and drug abuse.

But on the inside of the community, it holds genuine people that want to help the youth strive. The after school program shelters elementary, middle and high school students. The program consists of tutoring, bible study, recreation and arts and crafts groups.



Children working on arts and crafts.

While the focus of the program is to help the young adults with their education,  the main focus is mentorship of the youth by sharing life lessons and building relationships.

Some of the older children have been in the program for years.

Alex Bodio. Bodio, a sophomore at Fulton High, has attended the program since he was in second grade.

Bodio attributes his time in the program as a tool that helped him come to Christ.

“Learning about God at the Baptist Center helped me see what I wanted in life,” Bodio said. “Getting help from everyone in program has helped me understand what I want to pursue.”

There are plenty of stories like Bodio’s throughout Knoxville. The youth in all of the programs are eager to learn and grow but they need guidance.

Johnson students Chloe Martin and Alex Luebbe spends their afternoons working with these students. .

Martin has served at Emerald Avenue ministry mentoring young adults since she has arrived at Johnson four years ago. Luebbe, also a senior volunteers his time in Western Heights Program.

For Martin, the children have become more of a family than a job.

Chloe Martin and the children at Corn Maze


“My kids mean the world to me,” Martin said. “They have changed my life forever and I think that what true service shows.”

While Luebbe has not been connected with Emerald and Western Heights as long as Martin he still feels a connection with the youth.

“I did not know what to expect when I first started,” Luebbe said. “The kids are great and honestly teach you more than you teach them. This experience helped me really see how God is present.”






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