Our story began in a literal “upper room” above an urban core Catholic church on Swope Parkway in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1999, the Upper Room was formed to raise $1 million to renovate this space that had been in disrepair since the 1960s. transforming it into the learning home that has since been home to thousands of students and volunteers. Our first program, the Summer Academic Camp, grew out of a large focus group study with the single moms who are the predominate head of household in the neighborhoods we work in. In the Camp’s first summer, 250 students applied for our 90 available spots, indicating to us the immediate need to grow. Summer by summer, we’ve grown to meet this need, developing relationships with the churches and schools that serve as our sites. In Summer 2014, we served 2,600 students at 16 inner-city churches, 6 KCPS schools, 2 charter schools, and Operation Breakthrough, the largest childcare center in the state.
Just as our Summer Academic Camp was developed at the behest of the families we serve, every single other one of our academic and arts programs has been grassroots driven. Our After School Program serves 700 students at 8 sites, all located in the urban core. Partnerships with Alvin Ailey and Em’s Spotlight provide free dance lessons to thousands of our students, and hundreds of parents attend recitals each year to watch their children perform. The year-round Eddie Baker School of Music passes Kansas City’s rich jazz heritage to more than 500 students and provides free music lessons from our city’s greatest current musicians. As we continue to grow with the support of our families, we look forward to providing opportunity to thousands more students in Kansas City’s urban core.