A new after-school dimension

New club to focus on academics, reducing crime

July 23, 2008|By Karen Shih | Karen Shih,Sun Reporter

Like many kids in their community, Rian Burgess and Amyah Greene used to sit at home and watch television after school.

But starting next week, a new branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County will open in Admiral Oaks, giving them access to a library, a computer lab and mentors to help them do their homework.

"I'm excited," said 11-year-old Rian. "I think it's a great idea."

She and her friend Amyah, 10, are among the nearly 200 kids in the Annapolis neighborhood.

Nearly half of the residents of Admiral Oaks are younger than 18, and the youths have nothing to do after school, according to a community assessment conducted last fall.

"It really came down to a picture of a large number of youth that were somewhat underserved," said J. Michael Pitchford, president and chief executive officer of Community Preservation and Development Corp., which manages the community.

Community Preservation will provide $40,000 for the new club, which will celebrate its opening July 30, and is also in charge of renovating the facility. The Boys & Girls Clubs received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for programs and activities during the club's first year.

"We think they're a great operation," Pitchford said. "They seem to have good outcomes, from what we've seen."

This club will be the sixth in Anne Arundel County. Two are in Severn, one is in Pasadena and three others are in Annapolis. The clubs served more than 7,200 youths last year, up from 5,500 in 2005, when the Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park club opened in Annapolis.

Brent Boone, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs board of directors, said there was "overwhelming support" for opening a club in Admiral Oaks.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to serve kids in the city that have not had the chance" to use the clubs, he said.

The new club will essentially be run out of two apartments, Boone said. It doesn't have the same recreational focus that other clubs do. Instead, it will focus on helping students with homework and giving them access to computers. The site will have two full-time and three part-time staff members, including program director Matthew Prosser.

The club has two main goals. The first is to increase academic achievement, which it will monitor through a partnership with county schools. Staff members will check in with teachers about students' grades and their classroom behavior.

The second goal is to decrease crime. Officer Hal Dalton, an Annapolis Police Department spokesman, said police have been more active in the community in the past year, supporting the community assessment, which found a marked increase in crime over the past couple of years, some of it involving drug-dealing.

"We're all for [the club]," Dalton said. "We want to reach kids before it gets too far."

Although the club won't have a gym, the youths will be able to use the facilities at the popular Bates club. The organization is setting up a shuttle bus schedule to take youths back and forth, said Linda Mundy, director of marketing and communications.

"Our philosophy is to have a well-rounded club member," she said. "Not only will they have access to all the sports programs that are running here," she said, but they will also have access to healthful eating and leadership programs.

Membership is $20 a year. Scholarships are available for those who cannot afford it. Nobody is turned away, said Carmen C. Guido, the chief operating officer. Members can participate in activities at any of the clubs.

karen.shih@baltsun.com

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