Summer program keeps idle hands busy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Just beyond the loud hum of large, industrial-sized fans in the Shilo Elementary School gymnasium, children and teens sat scattered about on benches working on academic projects under the watchful gaze of volunteer instructors.

Divided into different corners of the room based on age, everyone seemed to deeply concentrate on their tasks at hand, whether it was coloring pictures or reading.

Despite the noise from the fan, there was a sense of quietness in the large gym as these children and teens-the majority of them enrolled in the Dallas County School System-prepared for the upcoming school year.

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Overseeing it all was the Rev. A.L. Brown, president and coordinator of the Sardis Churches Unity Fellowship non-profit organization.

For the past three years, with the assistance of the county school board, the SCUF has been conducting a summer enrichment program at the school as a way to keep idle children busy during their summer break,

“The Dallas County Commission and the school board allowed us to use these facilities, and the school board also provided us with at-risk fund to help children who are at risk,” Brown said. “We have about 10 to 13 volunteers from different churches who help us with the program.”

The summer enrichment program began on June 7 as an eight-week course designed for youth between the ages of three to 18.

Brown said each weekday 80 children or more are transported to the school gym via church buses and vans in order to take part in academic tutorials, biblical catechisms and recreational sports.

“At one point this summer, we had up to 98 students in the program,” Brown said.

JonBenet Byrd and Chris Davis, who are both part of the 6- through 8-year-old group, said they have been spending their time coloring, writing, and doing math puzzles.

“I learned how to write my name,” said Chris. “I liked learning to write, and doing math too.”

Jekeria Harrison, 6, said her favorite part about the program was getting to play softball.

“We’ve been teaching the kids about adding, subtracting, and learning their subjects and verbs,” said Jeanette Lewis, one the volunteer instructors for the 11- and 12-year-old group.

The older teens have spent their time reading different books and learning about finance, such as how to write a check and keeping the checkbook balanced.

“On July 23, we are going the end the program with a fun day,” Brown said. “There is going lots of games and prizes, and we’re going to have big cook-out.”

The summer enrichment program is just one component of the SCUF’s goal to reduce mischief among area youth through education and recreation programs.

In September, the organization will begin an after-school program at the school for students using computers and more volunteers.

“All our student’s grades had improved after they started the after-school program,” Brown said. “We had a really good success rate.”

The SCUF is composed of the congregations and ministers of six Baptist churches in the Sardis community.

Brown said along with the school board and county commission, the SCUF has also received assistance from the Tuskegee Extension Program, the Black Belt Expo, and parent and teacher volunteers.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to the SCUF by contacting Brown at 872-2507.