Aug 112013

By Taylor Riley

Editor’s note: in her previous article, Taylor introduced readers to the Common Good program; here, we meet a Common Good family. 

“Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!”

Waiting for the kids to file from a basement classroom of Common Good, I sit at a table and observe.

Most of the kids are waiting for their parents and guardians to pick them up, but most of them aren’t quite ready to go home.

“Say ‘goodbye’ to Henry. You’ll see him tomorrow,” a tired-sounding mother says to her elementary-aged son as she practically drags him to the door.

Common Good, a non-profit afterschool program founded by John and Laura Gallaher on the northside, proves to be a place where kids want to be day after day.

And who can blame them? Common Good is an equal opportunity place to go for kids—black, white, Latino, large, small. Nobody, the mentors or the other children, really seems to care about the physical attributes. 

They are just kids.

They play, they learn, they dream.

A Common Good family

Esther Carbajal has three kids in the program.

“They are really happy here,” Carbajal said.

Henry, 11, and Eric, 12, followed in their big brother Michael’s footsteps when attending Common Good.

The Carbajal family moved from Mexico in 1999. They soon began attending Embrace Christian Church  (Epworth Community), where Common Good is located. Esther’s family was invited to join Common Good when it opened in 2011, and she couldn’t be happier with the program.

“They help a lot with homework,” Carbajal said.  “It is sometimes hard for me to help them because it is difficult for me to write English out, and sometimes I can’t read very well.”

The program also keeps the kids out of the temptations of the sometimes-rough neighborhood.

“They teach them to be good people,“ Carbajal said. “They learn a lot of bad stuff outside. Inside, they learn about Jesus. That was the first thing I liked: education was first.”

Futures and dreams

Common Good also teaches the kids to dream big for their future.

Esther’s oldest son, Michael, is 16 and deciding what he wants to do after he graduates from Bryan Station High School.

Common Good’s summer program helps students like Michael decide if a university is right for them. The Gallahers and other volunteers take the older students to surrounding colleges to visit and to visualize themselves in those environments.

Michael’s plan is to go to school to be an architect. He has been to several colleges in the area to see which one is right for him.

“My son says, ‘I don’t want to be a nobody,’” Carbajal said. “He says he doesn’t want to work for somebody; he wants his own job.”

Carbajal said Eric has dreams of being a doctor, and Henry, a teacher.

“I hope to God they can do it,” Carbajal said.

As the kids file out of Common Good, they leave with big smiles on their faces and vocalize that they can’t wait to come back tomorrow.

“They are doing a very wonderful job here, and I’m so happy to send my children to this program, because they spend the time with my kids when I can’t,” Carbajal said.

To learn more about Common Good, visit

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