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People who care about kids help Black Achievers program succeed

January 21, 2007|by TONY MULIERI

The adults who volunteer with the Black Achievers program at the Hagerstown YMCA are the kind of people every community needs.

They get things done behind the scenes.

It's people such as Ed Dorsey, Maureen Turner-Cooper, Tonya Leary, Renee Emanuel, Andrea Creamer and Rochelle Kithcart, to name a few, who make it possible for programs such as this one succeed.

On Saturday night, the YMCA held its Black Achievers Gala at the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway.

The program has been up and running at the local YMCA for three years now. It existed at the "Old Y" for a time. The program, along with other youth programs, including True Grit, were suspended for a time, but reactivated as funding and staff became available at the "New Y."

The Black Achievers program, which began nationally in 1967 at the South Central YMCA in Houston, was formed to motivate young minorities to academic and career success. The thought was that if young people see adults of color successful in their lives, it will inspire them to achieve their own goals.

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The program at the local Y has about 30 young people this year. They are lucky to have the adult volunteers to coordinate their activities, but the volunteers are not alone.

Local individuals and businesses, such as First Data and the Trinity Lutheran Foundation, sponsor the program with funds and by investing time and talent in the program. On Saturday, First Data named four of its employees as Adult Achievers for the work they do in their community.

People such as First Data employees Nancy Steel, Jerry Lewis, Natalie Brown and Dawn Brooks are willing to give of their time outside the confines of their office.

They each were singled out Saturday night for their contributions to the community, and the hope is that they will become volunteers with the Black Achievers program in the future.

A banquet such as the Black Achievers Gala doesn't just happen. It takes coordination to line up a speaker, rent the banquet hall and get the word out about the event.

That's what some of the volunteers do. And the Hagerstown YMCA is the kind of place that people like to help. This year, Eleanor Doub, president of the board of directors at the Y, made a beautiful quilt that was to be raffled off and the proceeds given to help fund the gala.

The steering committee, including Alfonso Mitchell, Carolyn Brooks, Denise Silas, Deborah Phillips and Michael Flicek, makes sure things go smoothly.

The Black Achievers program welcomes students in seventh through 12th grade. The students meet every other Sunday during the school year. They break up into clusters, which allows the students to gravitate to subjects that interest them, such as technology or the arts.

The group has taken several field trips in the past three years, and is planning a trip next month to the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., to watch a women's college basketball game at the Comcast Center.

A few of the students who have graduated from the program have come back to the Y to thank the volunteers for putting them on the right path to a college degree or job choice.

The group has some excellent students and some who are a challenge. Those are the ones the volunteers work so hard for. They might have children of their own, but these young achievers are a part of them now. They don't want to see any of them fail.

And that's why they do what they do.

Tony Mulieri is managing editor of The Daily Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7647, or by e-mail at tonym@herald-mail.com

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