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Black Achievers program helps youths set goals

September 27, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- Thirteen-year-old Santana Stevens talked Sunday about her interest in arts and culture.

The E. Russell Hicks Middle School student has been able to get a taste of the arts thanks to the Black Achievers program at the Hagerstown YMCA.

The national program, which started at the Harlem New York YMCA in 1971, connects adult role models to students to help the youth set career and educational goals.

Stevens said she has enjoyed the discussions about arts and culture, and she decided to enroll in the program for the third time this year.

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"And plus my mom told me to," Stevens said as she enjoyed a snack during a kickoff picnic for this year's Black Achievers at a Fairgrounds Park pavilion Sunday afternoon.

The program's founder developed Black Achievers to connect successful minority professionals with at-risk youth in New York, according to a brochure. Today, the Hagerstown YMCA is one of more than 100 YMCAs across the country comprising the Black Achievers network, the brochure says.

Twice a month at the local YMCA, Black Achievers students meet to explore "career clusters," through which they learn about the arts and culture, business, computers and technology, educators, the medical profession, public service and law, said Deborah Phillips, director of the local program, which starts its next session Oct. 11.

Designated "adult achievers" serve as role models for the students, offer career advice, coordinate corporate site visits for the students and participate in panel discussions at schools, organizers said.

The program, for students in grades six through 12, costs $50 for members of the YMCA and $75 for nonmembers. Financial aid is available.

Dozens of people gathered for the picnic, including Darnell Shaffer, who has been one of the adult achievers. Shaffer, of Greencastle, Pa., is program coordinator for the before- and after-school care center for children at Citicorp Credit Services.

"I think it's a good program. It's something that's needed," Shaffer said.

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