Alumna finds fulfillment in nonprofit education
By NATALIA CERVANTES
Stephanie Shoup’s (’02) eyes lit up as she spotted kids bouncing through the door of Citadel Learning Center, one of four Salvation Army after-school learning centers in central Ohio.
Shoup’s career has been devoted to nonprofit education, and as education coordinator for the Salvation Army, she helps children get resources for academic, physical and emotional success.
A human development and family science major, she was set to pursue a master’s in education. But she found she didn’t want to stand in front of a chalkboard every day.
The nonprofit classroom — with its flexibility to teach in inspiring and motivating ways — was more fulfilling. After college, she worked at Franklin Park Conservatory and Columbus Zoo.
“Teaching science is my favorite,” she said. “There are so many interesting and hands-on activities that it doesn’t matter what kind of learner you are — there is something for everyone.”
Teaching through the Salvation Army
Shoup brought her love for nontraditional learning to the Salvation Army in 2005, where the motto is “Doing the Most Good.” She became program manager for the after-school program at the East Main Learning Center.
“It was a perfect fit with direct service toward the students,” she said. “I left each day with a full heart. They needed and wanted so much, and there were so many ways to help them grow.”
During a visit to Citadel Learning Center, first- through eighth-graders arrived after school to receive homework help. The space allows students to concentrate; several helpers are available. Afterward, program managers led activities to give extra practice in core subjects, especially mathematics.
The center’s magic is in the details. A reading nook features bookshelves, bean-bag chairs and a cozy rug.
A huge Sudoku board is an ongoing project. Lockers, decorated with drawings and magnets, were donated. For some children, Shoup explained, it’s the only space they call their own. That sense of ownership inspires personal esteem.
A gym offers a basketball court. Flowers are available for the children to plant, a collaboration with nonprofit Local Matters.
Shoup’s commitment to Salvation Army led to her role as education coordinator in 2009. She works to maintain community relations and program budgets, and writes grants for all four Columbus-area programs.
“My favorite part is when all of the pieces come together. You see people thrive,” she said.
The holistic needs of children are at the heart of the agency’s mission. Shoup strives to consistently provide free, high-quality academic assistance that meets the needs of the community.
The nonprofit field poses challenges, but to be satisfied, Shoup needs to feel she is impacting the community in a positive way. For her, education was a path to a lifetime of service in which she can help children who most need it.