E7 Kids Cafe serves up opportunity for Transy students dedicated to helping youths

Taking a break from the 18-and-older crowd to hang out with kids sounds like healthy career advice for two Transylvania University students who want to study pediatrics in medical school.

Still, resume enhancement isn’t why Kenzie Green ’22 and Gabe Stillwell ’21 spend their afternoons with youths from surrounding neighborhoods at the E7 Kids Cafe near campus. As the pair on Monday helped them build gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, icing and gum drops—a popular, albeit messy, project—it was evident they were there because they like helping out children.

E7 is a cost-free after-school program open to all kids aged 4-17 in the basement of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Besides making holiday treats, activities range from doing homework and art projects to taking field trips. The kids also get a free hot dinner.

It’s is one of several nonprofits around town where 10 Transy students this term are working through the federal Community-Based Work-Study Program, which allows them to earn money for education-related expenses.

Green said she enjoys working with the E7 kids, who have a lot of different personalities. She actually grew up volunteering, so she’s no stranger to community engagement. Green learned the spirit of volunteerism from her mother, a physician assistant. In fact, Green is a missionary and travels with her mom to Haiti, where she has also interned. “It’s just what I love to do,” she said.

Stillwell said it “makes my day better to see the joy of all the children,” and he looks forward each day to trying to make a difference in their lives. Hanging out with the E7 kids also is a way for him to de-stress from schoolwork.

E7 Program Director Emily Yellman said the work-study students and volunteers spend their time helping youths develop academically and socially, building positive, meaningful relationships with the children to encourage healthy growth toward success.

“Our kids love them for all of the happy energy and support they bring, and E7 loves them for being such wonderful role models for our students,” Yellman said. “We are grateful to have such amazing people give their time to us each day.”