With GHS closure, Stained Glass Project moves from FUMCOG to Roxborough

 The Stained Glass Project at the Ojibwe People's School in Red Lake, Minnesota this past June. (Courtesy of the Stained Glass Project)

The Stained Glass Project at the Ojibwe People's School in Red Lake, Minnesota this past June. (Courtesy of the Stained Glass Project)

The widely lauded Stained Glass Project after-school program will move from a church across the street from Germantown High School to the Kendrick Recreation Center in Roxborough come fall.

Due to a lack of funding — and participants as a result of GHS closing — First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG) will no longer house a program it has hosted since 2006.

However, Stained Glass Project’s co-founders Paula Mandel and Joan Myerson Shrager told NewsWorks it was important for their program to follow Germantown students who are slated to attend Roxborough or Martin Luther King High School in September.

“The kids feel abandoned,” said Mandel, a professional glass sculptor. “This is not that far from Germantown, so we can still draw those kids in.”

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Despite relocation, the program — which works with about 12 students each year — will be open to interested students regardless of residence. 

Finding a home in Roxborough

Mandel and Shrager were initially in talks with former principal of Roxborough High School, Stephen Brandt, about moving the program directly into the school.

When Brandt annouced he was stepping down earlier this year, the duo thought the recreation center could provide an equally appealing space. 

“The energy [at Kendrick] is really phenomenal. We immediately fell in love with it,” said Mandel. 

Bill Malizia, Kendrick Recreation Center’s supervisor, said it felt like “winning the lottery” when he was approached about moving the program into Kendrick. 

“It will be a win-win,” he added, noting that the arts project will help the center attract high schoolers to its other offerings.

‘Making something that lasts’

Mandel noted that Malizia is in tune with what’s going on with kids and the community, an asset that will be helpful as they venture into new territory.

Oftentimes, students in the program are seeking an outlet when they are having trouble at home or in school. 

“This program is like a family,” said Shrager, a digital painter and sculptor. 

Janai Dallas, a GHS graduate and rising sophomore at Montgomery County College, agreed.

Dallas started attending the program when she was in ninth grade and has been coming back to volunteer since she graduated. 

She said participating in the project has helped her become a more patient person. 

“When you are dealing with glass, you have to be careful. It’s hard, and the program teaches you to keep coming back. It will get better.”

Dallas said she loves everything about the program. Everything except the occasional cut, that is.

Mandel added that the program teaches the students much more than just glass work. 

“They learn about making something that holds up and lasts,” she said. “They are making something they know will have permanence. They know that when they have children and grandchildren, they can bring them to the places where the windows are.”

Where the glass windows go

Each year, the program chooses a different beneficiary to receive the year’s creations.

This year, with the support of Chestnut Hill’s Gravers Lane Gallery, the group traveled to the Ojibwe People’s School in Red Lake, Minn. to donate their stained glass windows to the Native American community. 

Previous years have seen the completed windows go to the Community Partnership School in North Philadelphia, the Morris Jeff School in New Orleans and a school for orphans of AIDS near Johannesburg, South Africa.  

What’s next

The Stained Glass Project will begin setting up at the Kendrick Recreation Center in late August and be ready to start holding classes in October.

The project will be moving into an area right off the center’s main lobby that will be dedicated solely to arts programming beginning in September, according to Malizia.

Shrager explained the program is in the process of choosing where the glass windows will go at the end of the upcoming school year.

“The whole idea is to give the kids the opportunity to give a gift. It’s all about humanity and having people work with each other,” she said. 

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