Fara Thompson said her children - a seventh-grade daughter at E. Russell Hicks Middle School, junior daughter and senior stepdaughter at South Hagerstown High - have all benefited from the program.
This is the first year Thompson has served as a cluster leader and she said her cluster is the largest, with about 10 members. A recent tour of Washington County Hospital was an eye-opener for many of the youths.
"We tell them they can be anything they want to be, but until they see people of color being doctors and nurses ..." Thompson said.
She adds that there are many career options students can pursue in the medical field, besides being a doctor or nurse. There are employment opportunities working with computers, in the file room and as secretaries, to name a few.
Her goal for next year is to reach out to even more youth in the community, especially those without family support. She adds that she'll need more volunteers if she's successful.
Thompson, whose maiden name is Martin, is originally from College Park, Md. Her family moved around before settling in Hagerstown 20 years ago.
A 1989 graduate of Williamsport High School, Thompson said she knows the pain of racism. When she went to the high school, she was one of only a few black students. She said she was teased by both black and white students because of her fair skin.
She encourages youths to go to college or seek additional training beyond high school, to "think big" and become well-rounded. Thompson also puts her motivational skills to use as a teacher at Kaplan College, where she teaches medical transcription and medical terminology.
Thompson, who admits she likes to be busy, also volunteers at her church, Life House East, the Contemporary School of the Arts & Gallery Inc. with its after-school program and coaches cheerleading for Washington County Junior Football League.
She feels strongly about supporting her children by attending their many activities, and cheers for other youths she knows, especially when she realizes they don't have parents at an event.
"It's a joy to be with the kids and uplift them. I want to see people succeed and be happy," Thompson said.
The Black Achievers will host a Black History Month program at the Hagerstown YMCA on Monday, Feb. 18, at 11:30 a.m. The guest speaker will be James Smith of Baltimore, who is the assistant secretary of residential services for the Department of Juvenile Services. There will also be dance performances and musical solos by students and members of the local community, as well as Pastor Darin Mency's rendition of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech
For more information about Black Achievers or the Black History program, call Deborah Phillips at the Hagerstown Y at 301-739-3990, ext. 4239.