By JOHN HAMMEL firstname.lastname@example.org
Classes at the Boys of Summer program at College of Coastal Georgia are not your typical days at school. For one, many of the students may wake up as early as 5 a.m. to take a bus from as far away as McIntosh County to get to the college campus. Another notable difference is, along with their daily academic work, students have the opportunity to meet with attorneys, law enforcement officials and even the Mayor of Brunswick as part of the program's curriculum.
For Floyd Phoenix, the director of the Boys of Summer program, these classes are the "last stop" to prepare young African American students before they head into high school and beyond.
"The program was established 25 years ago ... (when) there was not a large number of African American males graduating from high school," Phoenix said. "All the data we're seeing, if (students) don't have the academic skills to be successful in middle schools then they're gonna drop out in high school. The last hope to make sure these students are equipped with the academic skills they need in high school will be at the middle school level."
The program offers classes in English, language arts and math at the sixth and seventh grade levels. Phoenix said reading in particular is a vital skill in ensuring students are prepared for high school level classes.
The program isn't just academic however, it also offers lessons on life skills and brings in guest speakers from the community to serve as role models.
"This is the point when they need some support," said Tim Frazier, the counselor of the program. "The teachers here are responsible for the academic part, as a counselor I talk to them about character building ... you need the academic portion and the (character building) part to really be successful."
According to statistics from the The Opportunity Index, the disconnected youth rate — the percentage of a population between the ages 16-24 who do not work and are not pursuing an education — is about 24 percent in Glynn County. Phoenix said programs such as the Boys of Summer attempt to encourage students early on to seek secondary education, whether it is a four-year college degree or technical college.
"We are working with those students who would likely fall into that category (of disconnected youth)," Phoenix said. "We're being proactive in identifying those students early on ... we're sort of a preventive program to give them the skills so they don't become one of those individuals in our community that are not seeking (work or further education)."
Coastal College of Georgia also started a Girls of Summer program this year which offers academic and character building classes to girls going into the sixth and seventh grades. The Girls of Summer session will start July 3.
"We're targeting girls who are underperforming, they're just not reaching their potential for whatever reason, It's a definite confidence booster for them," said Marcyline Bailey the director for the Girls of Summer program. "We do self esteem building and confidence building. We'll talk about self image. Those types of things that middle school girls struggle with all the time."
Bailey said the girls program attempts to instill this confidence in students by introducing them to successful women from the area. These guest speakers include an editor of a regional magazine, a commander of the U.S. Park Police and a regional director of a nonprofit.
"If they only see people who are not seeking higher education, are not working ... that becomes the norm. (This program) enables us to take some of these girls out of what may be their norm and introduce something that is the norm for others," Bailey said.
To the students of the Boys and Girls of Summer programs, the classes offer a chance for self improvement and a feeling of accomplishment.
"I think (Boys of Summer) is a program to help us be better gentlemen and grow up to be more mature ... while also giving us work to help us with the grade we're going through," said Trevon Pinkney a student of the program this summer.
Reconnecting Youth appears Thursdays during the summer school break. Contact summer intern John Hammel at email@example.com.