Yearlong learning

Regular school year’s about over, but Fun City Youth Academy plans to keep helping kids through the summer
Monday, April 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:53 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

With the school year winding down, the Fun City Youth Academy is preparing to shift its focus from its Saturday tutoring academy to its summer academy.

Since September, children ages 5 to 18 have been meeting every Saturday at the J.W. “Blind” Boone Community Center. From noon to 4 p.m., they receive mentoring, homework help, entrepreneurial skills and leadership.

This year’s academy ends with a science fair on May 1. For the past several weeks, children have been working with parents and mentors on their projects.

Saturday Academy Principal Barbara Walker said the program was created after parents demanded such additional resources be offered in the community.

“Parents wanted to sure their children were retaining what they learned for the year,” she said.

The Summer Program

Fifty volunteers sign up to work two Saturdays a month. Sixty-five children are enrolled in the program, and between 30 and 40 show up on any given Saturday, Walker said.

“Children need somewhere to come on Saturdays,” Walker said. “Saturday mornings they just want to sit around in their pajamas, eat all day, watch cartoons and play video games.”

Walker said the Saturday Academy is hoping to increase diversity when it starts up again in September. The program is 99 percent African-American. Walker also hopes to develop an extended one-on-one mentoring program so mentors have longer-lasting relationships with the children.

“I think this program is important because these kids are at risk,” said Curtis White, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., a group that conducts the boys’ Rites of Passage activity, which helps young men prepare for adulthood. “If they weren’t out here with us, they could be doing mischievous things.”

Fun City’s annual summer academy takes place from June 21 through Aug. 13. The program is geared toward children ages 5 to 14.

During the summer, children learn about spirituality, history and culture, entrepreneurship, mathematics, language arts and computer skills. Students also participate in various clubs, including gardening, cooking and arts and crafts.

The academy also has a year-round InterAct Teen-to-Teen Theatre group that travels the country performing short theater pieces about teen issues to peers.

Consisting of five to nine students from Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools and Jefferson and West junior high schools, the group visits schools and discusses topics such as sex, AIDS, eating disorders, alcohol, drugs and violence.

Director Mark Kelty said the theater group, which recently performed at the Medagogy Theatre of the Oppressed in Omaha, was created in 1992 in response to increasing teen pregnancy and high school dropout rates in Columbia.

Future Plans

Fun City is also establishing a child care center at 1410 W. Worley St. The center is tentatively expected to open in the fall and will cater to low-income families in central Columbia, with a focus on children under 3.

Dee Campbell-Carter, Fun City Academy executive coordinator, said the child care center, which will accept 10 children initially, is imperative to helping families prepare their children for academic success. She said teaching children certain fundamentals at an early age will help them succeed academically and socially.

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