Local youths get excited about learning

By By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
July 1, 2004
Casey Crowell, who will enter the eighth grade at Kate Griffin Junior High School, is having fun this summer while learning about reading, math and the Bible.
The Youth Excitement Team summer learning program is currently underway at Fitkins Church of the Nazarene. The program is faith-based, and designed to reach at-risk young people from the community.
The Rev. Gary Houston, one of the ministers at Fitkins, is in charge of the program, which serves about 120 school aged children. The program is funded by a federal grant and local fund-raisers.
The program has three components: in-school and after-school tutors during the school year, a summer program and a GED program. The program has three locations: Fitkins on 38th Avenue, Magnolia Middle School and in Marion.
Emily McLeod, educational director for the Youth Excitement Team, said the program has been in Meridian since 1996. She said the students are supervised and taught by 22 staff members, several of whom are certified teachers.
McLeod retired after teaching in Lauderdale and Clarke counties.
Houston said he also has teamed up with other local faith-based groups like Mission Meridian and the Children's Mentorship Coalition to form Project Peace. Project Peace is a program that provides mentors and positive reinforcement to the children of inmates.
Houston also said that parental involvement is key to the success of the summer program. He said children are not accepted to the program if their parents aren't willing to get involved.
The program costs $80, but Houston said some students pay a reduced fee or are admitted free to the seven-week program. Students also are served breakfast and lunch.
In addition to the Christian curriculum, students participate in recreational activities and the arts. Each Wednesday, the group invites a guest speaker from the community, and on Fridays, the group takes a field trip.
Kierra Durr, 14, said she believes the program has helped prepare her to enter Northeast High School next month.

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