Banyan Community is rooted in the Phillips Neighborhood to transform lives by developing youth, strengthening families, and creating community. Banyan Community began as an idea, when founders Tim and Joani Essenburg moved into the Phillips neighborhood in 1990. The Essenburgs are committed to seeing their community change through the gifts, leadership and vision of the residents themselves.

The Essenburgs began by building relationships with their neighbors, and out of those relationships a block club was born. As neighbors got to know each other, both adults and youth began to express interest in creating new youth programs. In 1997, a Kids Club program was launched, providing a safe place for kids to learn conflict resolution and community building.

Programs grew and Banyan Community incorporated as a tax-exempt nonprofit in 1998. Development of other new programs followed:  an after school program was launched and ASPIRE (high school tutoring/support) was started for high school youth when Banyan staff saw the need to provide more structured academic accountability. In 2007, SOAR—the middle school program was established providing academic support, life skills training, and community service opportunities for youth grades 6-8.

The leaders of Banyan Community recognize that in order for children to thrive and ultimately graduate, go to college and succeed as adults, whole families and the larger community must be connected and engaged. This philosophy is at the heart of all of Banyan’s programs.

The overall goals of Banyan are to:

  • Provide opportunities for youth to develop leadership skills, engage in positive relationships with peers and adults, and have new experiences.
  • Provide academic support and accountability so that youth can succeed in school and college.
  • Create an environment of support around youth, through the encouragement and investment of the adults in the community.
  • Strengthen families by connecting them to resources and helping them to avert crisis.
  • Connect neighbors to each other so they can build a strong community.

All of Banyan Community’s youth programs are based on community input and staff expertise,  blended with the most current research on the assets and support that children need to develop a positive self-image, learn social and life skills, succeed in school, and ultimately overcome the cycle of generational poverty. Our comprehensive approach includes an intensive and sustained focus on academic preparedness in combination with the development of other critical assets that define college readiness: life skills, positive self-image, awareness of educational opportunities, family involvement and the support of the broader community.