When Costeena Weathersby was hired as the new executive director of Project Transformation Indiana, she had no idea she would be rebuilding the program from the foundation up.
The organization was founded in 2017 with funding from a church, but when the previous director left in 2021, so did most of Project Transformation’s funding.
“Now, I am really kind of restarting this organization all over again,” Weathersby said. “So, it’s kind of rough.”
Project Transformation, which has other branches around the nation, is a three-fold program that helps churches engage with their community, children raise their reading scores, and young adults find their purpose.
The organization partners with two churches locally — North United Methodist Church on the north side and Cumberland United Methodist Church on the east side — to host a seven-week reading program for students over the summer.
Weathersby said there was about $20,000 in the budget for the entire program, but in the 10 months she’s been the executive director she has been able to raise the budget to almost $100,000. The organization also had to hire a few new board members as well as continue navigating a pandemic.
During those seven weeks, children go to the churches to read; adult volunteers are also there to read to them Mondays through Thursdays.
The churches get to interact with a younger community, the children get to sharpen their reading skills, and the interns get some direction as to where they want their life to go. Weathersby said the program is important because it supports three groups in different ways all while spreading the love of God.
Once Weathersby got enough funding, the organization hosted an event Nov. 15 where people could bring their old books and exchange them for other people’s old books. She plans to have more events like that in the future, but now Project Transformation will continue preparing for its summer reading program.
The organization also hires around 15 college-aged interns to lead the program, and during their paid internship, those students receive housing at a local college, food and an experience that follows them years after the program is over.
As an education major at Ball State University, Jaina Cox knew she wanted to use the summer after her freshman year to work with children. When she heard about Project Transformation, she made sure to sign up.
“Project Transformation was a transformative experience,” she said. “It really taught me a lot about people and myself, which I think definitely led me to where I am today.”
She said when she first started Project Transformation she was “pretty immature” and still learning how to handle different people. By the end of the internship, she learned how to “build my own community,” which was helpful as she moved to another country to teach.
Cox is now a teacher in Kuwait, a very small country in the Middle East. She teaches a fourth grade class for a private all-girls school.
Cox was happy to hear that Project Transformation is still around because of all the benefits people will receive from it.
“If you really give it your all, you’ll get what you put in plus more,” she said.
The organization will begin looking for interns in April 2023. Weathersby said if anyone wants to help the program, they can volunteer to read to the children, donate food to help feed the interns or donate to the organization. Project Transformation hopes to expand to other cities in Indiana, including Fort Wayne, Terre Haute and Evansville.
Project Transformation is hiring a new program director. If you are interested in the position, reach out to Weathersby at email@example.com.
Contact religion reporter Abriana Herron at 317-924-5243 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Abri_onyai. Herron is a Report for America corps member and writes about the role of Black churches in the community.