Originally created 09/22/05

Program keeps kids off the streets



Pat Jones tries to keep youths on a one-way street to success.

"I try to entertain them here instead of the streets," she said. "This center is in the midst of all the crime. We have the jail down there, drug activity, everything comes this way."

The Augusta Youth Center, Inc., on Watkins Street, offers after-school tutoring and homework assistance to many low-income families across the area.

There is a $200 fee for each pupil for nine months.

"Most of our children come from a low-income background," Ms. Jones said. "We do charge a fee for students to attend, but if you ask for the program, we accept them. We have a lot of parents who are on welfare. We can't just turn a child away if they cannot pay."

For this reason, she said the program is in need of extra funds to keep its doors open.

"Our vans pick up students from Hornsby Elementary, East Augusta Middle School, Craig Houghton, Heritage Academy, Immaculate Conception and several other schools," said Ms. Jones, the center administrator.

Sometimes, parents or grandparents bring pupils to the center, she said.

Activities include tutoring, group programs, games and movies. The center also helps children who have parents battling drug and alcohol addiction.

On Fridays, the youth have a free day to spend time playing games, watching movies and playing sports such as basketball, Ms. Jones said.

Robert Lee Brown Jr., 11, from Tubman Middle School, said he enjoys the after-school program.

"It's fun," Robert said. "We get homework help if you don't understand it. The teachers are great and help you out a lot."

Tutors often consist of the Medical College of Georgia students, retired teachers and many Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters, Ms. Jones said.

"We do background checks on all volunteers," she said. "We don't accept volunteers who have been charged with drugs, violence or child molestation."

The summer program offers classes in math, science, social studies, art and reading, Ms. Jones said. Children also go on field trips, go to the movies, vacation Bible classes, sports camps and nutrition classes.

"I want every child to become a doctor, a lawyer, engineer so that when I grow old, they can take care of me."

The after-school programs run from 2:30 p.m. until the last child is picked up, Monday through Friday at the center, 302 Watkins St. For more information about the program, call 724-0362.

Reach Rebecca A. Smith at 823-3552 or rebecca.smith@augustachronicle.com.