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Boys & Girls Clubs Success Academy pilot program to kick off in Gainesville schools
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Efren Garay, left, and Emanuel Perez, both 8, complete school homework Monday afternoon at the Joseph F. Walters Boys & Girls Club in Gainesville. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County is developing program with Gainesville City Schools to visit several schools it serves to help provide structure and a system of accountability for male youths.

For years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County has provided a safe place and educational programs for students to retreat to after school.

This year, the system is developing a pilot program over the coming weeks to actually go into a few of the schools it serves, with the aim of providing structure and a system of accountability for male youths.

“We thought what would be a great idea is to really start to try to implement some of the programs that we run here, and put that concept in some of the schools,” explained club director Steven Mickens.

The newly implemented Success Academy will take 15 students from three participating

Gainesville City schools, and offer tutoring, mentoring and overall support to them as they go through the school year.

The three schools involved this year are Fair Street School, Wood’s Mill Academy and Gainesville Middle School. Over the next couple of weeks, Success Academy staff are to begin going into each school, with participating students involved in its programs two days a week for an hour each time.

The first Success Academy program is called Passport to Manhood.

“It’s age-appropriate curriculum for each age group,” Mickens explained. “What happens is every kid that’s in that program will receive a passport.”

Inside that passport, all students will get a stamp for every topic they complete.

“What we’re aiming to do is build a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment,” Mickens said. “When they do that, hopefully we’re going to see that that’s going to carry over to their behavior and their attitudes toward academics, and their attitudes toward citizenship in the school.”

Following the completion of the Passport to Manhood program, the next step in Success Academy is called Smart Kids, which will address how to identify and avoid risky behaviors such as smoking, bullying and taking drugs, among other detrimental acts.

Mickens said around 60 percent of the students involved in the Boys & Girls Clubs come from single-family households, and 87 percent of that population are “economically disadvantaged.”

Mickens said primarily male students are referred to disciplinary tribunals, making it necessary to reach out to them.

“If a single-family home doesn’t have a good male role model (or) somebody that can really influence that young man, that young person is really stuck trying to figure these things out by himself,” Mickens said.

Gainesville Middle School Principal Ken Martin agreed.

“I think it’s important that our young men of today have multiple men and role models in their lives,” Martin said, “to instill in them the value of an education, the value of a family, the value of commitment and being a productive citizen.”

Martin said the school has its own internal groups to reach as many as students as possible, but it’s good to have this continued partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“I think this program’s great,” he said. “To teach (students) basic skills, like opening a door for a lady, or how to tie a tie, or proper etiquette when you’re visiting a restaurant. I’ve got two young boys myself, and I think those skills are important to teach all kids.”

With the Success Academy, Mickens hopes to be able to measure a decrease in behavioral referrals and suspensions. Additionally, he hopes to see an improvement in self-esteem and problem-solving skills among the students.

“(We’re trying) to teach kids that you are responsible for your actions,” Mickens said. “An action is a cause-and-effect, and we want to teach (students) how taking responsibility is really, really critical and important.”

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