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Boys & Girls Clubs awarded $600,000 in grants
Money to help in enrichment and education improvement activities
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Boys & Girls Club of Hall County tutor Ann Lipscomb meets with students Monday during a tutoring session at the club’s Memorial Park Drive location. The youths were discussing the word “character” and what it means to them. Below: Tutor Brandon Givens works with Cristian Bonilla, 11, during a tutoring session at the club.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County were awarded nearly $600,000 in grants Monday from the Georgia Department of Education.

“It’s a reimbursement grant,” said Steve Mickens, chief professional officer for the organization. “We spend the money and we submit it for reimbursement. This is a huge accomplishment for our organization. With this grant it helps us think outside the box for enrichment activities and things in high need areas, and academic success is a need area.”

He said this is the first time the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County received a grant “of this magnitude,” though they have applied for it in previous years.

The center receiving the grant, Joseph F. Walters Club on Memorial Park Drive, benefits about 150 students from Lyman Hall Elementary and Gainesville Exploration Academy.

The 10,400-square-foot facility opened in August 2010. It features an outdoor recreation complex, an art room, an education room where homework help takes place and a multipurpose room with Wii game consoles and a HOPSports mat to exercise alongside video games.

“We have art and music classes taught by certified teachers ... and classes to integrate new technology,” said Angel Randolph, program director for 21st Century Community Learning Center at the Joseph F. Walters Club.

The grant will also help the center’s attempt to get families engaged in kids’ education. The center offers family community service events, parenting classes and extended evening hours to teach parents how to use some of the technology their children use in class.

“The focus is helping kids who are underperforming on the (Georgia Performance Standards). It helps us give them tutoring, homework assistance and enrichment,” Mickens said. “It’s going to help them perform better and get them up to grade level … By the time they’re in third grade, if they’re not reading at grade level, their chance to graduate high school goes down.”

Students receive the most help in math, reading and science, as those are the areas test scores demonstrate children do not perform well in.

The enrichment activities supported by the grant include martial arts, health classes and tips on identifying and reducing peer pressure.

“There’s a nutrition component where they teach kids to prepare nutritious meals that are simple and low cost,” Mickens said. “The enrichment are all about life skills.”

He said Boys & Girls Clubs officials believe their programs are about shaping the whole child.

“I think that having access to those kinds of resources is an opportunity for us to make an impact on our kids,” Randolph said. “Sometimes they need that extra ‘umph’ to get to academic success.”

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