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|YMCA lands $25,000 grant for new teen program|
The YMCA of Northeast Louisiana was awarded a $25,000 grant to help start a program that targets at-risk high school students with poor grades and behavioral and attendance issues.
The program will assist local ninth and 10th grade students.
A check was presented to YMCA of Northeast Louisiana officials Tuesday at The Atrium in Monroe. The donation was made by AT&T.
Chris Pealer, executive director of the YMCA of Northeast Louisiana, said the $25,000 will help develop the program over the next six months. Once created, additional funding will be needed to implement it.
"It's specifically a teen program that would address the problem of early dropout and academic failure in ninth and 10th graders," Pealer said. "It will focus on that window where kids are making that transition from middle school to high school. It's a very precarious time, and a lot of kids stumble and run into more academic trouble than they have before, and some end up dropping out."
The program would involve mentoring, academic support as well as leadership development. It also would identify which students need help and assist in providing them with the skills they need to succeed.
AT&T has committed $100 million this year to 2,011 schools and non-profit organizations focused on high school retention and preparing students for college and the workforce.
"I am delighted AT&T has chosen to support the innovative educational initiative proposed by the YMCA of Northeast Louisiana," said state Rep. Kay Katz. "This program will greatly help at-risk students in this area and give them a real opportunity to succeed academically. AT&T is a great corporate citizen and we truly appreciate their ongoing support."
Pealer said both school systems and community organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, West Monroe Community Center and others will assist in developing the program.
"We're going to sit down and see what the need is and how to best address it," Pealer said.
He expects the group will meet sometime in November to develop the program. It could be implemented by the start of the next school year.
"That's having a program director in place, having the kids identified, having the schools identified, and knowing really what our first steps are going to be," Pealer said.
Willie Isby, Ouachita Parish School Board's director of child welfare and attendance, said some students drop out because they are unable to advance to the next grade due to poor performance test scores.
"They drop out, they get into drugs and other things they shouldn't be doing," Isby said. "We must have more parental involvement. We're not going to have better students until we have better parents."
He said the YMCA helps the school system mentor students in many different ways. One program he's fond of is the Saturday seminar, which is in lieu of suspension from school. Students attend the event to listen to motivational speakers and other mentors and work to correct their problems rather than take a suspension from school.