The primary goal of Alternatives to Bridging the Gap, also called “Alternatives,” is to increase levels of educational attainment. Education happens everywhere, not just in the classroom.

For example, many underprivileged children don’t have access to opportunities that teach them about culture (their own in addition to others). Alternatives addresses this by taking children on field trips to places like the Theater at the Center (in Munster), the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, museums and music festivals. These experiences teach lessons that can’t be found in school books, and are ones children from low income homes simply don’t have.

In addition, the Alternatives’ garden “employs” two teens who will practice the basic job skills of being on time, having regular attendance and working hard to achieve a goal. They will be involved in planning the garden, and then will be in charge of tilling or preparing the soil, planting, maintaining and harvesting the produce. Teens learn valuable lessons such as taking ownership and helping those in need.

Another way in which Alternatives educates the youth of East Chicago is through theater. By rehearsing a play or musical, children are taught to work with one another while learning from each other. The opportunity to express oneself and succeed in putting on a performance for an audience boosts their self-esteem.