Salvation Army to provide after school programs to West End youth

During recent community meetings in the West End, residents asked for something for the youth to do there as a way to keep them out of trouble. The West End has been plagued by gun and violent crime, sparking outrage among some in the community demanding change.

Lt. Josh Morse, head of the Salvation Army of Rowan County, said the agency was listening. The Salvation Army and its staff and volunteers believe they can help answer citizens’ concerns through various youth-oriented programs.

The programs focus on art, music, education and entertainment and are extensions of very successful programs the agency already has in place at its Bringle Ferry Road office. All of the programs will be offered after school at the Miller Recreation Center, 1402 West Bank St., and are free, except for a literacy/tutoring program.

The after-school programs will be from 3:20 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“We are trying to make it where if mom, dad, grandma or whoever has to work until 6 p.m. we have something for them (youth) to do,” Morse said.

He said a citywide census revealed there were about 800 children from 5 to 14 years old in the West End.

“We plan to take the dropout rate, which is at 17 percent in this area, and cut it in half in three years,” he said.

The after school programs won’t replace what the Miller Center is already doing, but will supplement its programs and provide a place for children and teens to spend some time in a safe environment.

The Salvation Army van will pick up any students in the Salisbury area, or parents or guardians can bring them to the Miller Recreation Center.

Parents must register their children for these activiities. The programs will begin Aug. 25, the first day of school.

After-school tutoring

The staff will work with students on their school work, including English, math and other subjects. The cost is $20 a week, but scholarships will be available for those in need. “No one will be turned away,” Morse said.

“It’s fully based on education. It’s not a babysitter. It’s an extension of a school day,” Morse said.

Children who’ve participated in the Salvation Army’s after-school tutoring program were able to get back on the academic track, he said.

The focus of the tutoring help will be for elementary and middle school, but Morse said it will also be available to older students.

Staff will provide healthy snacks and drinks for the children at the “Kids Cafe,” which is also free. Children who are attending an after- school program and intend to stay for later activities will also receive dinnerl from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“Every child that shows up gets dinner,” Morse said.

Music/arts conservatory

One of the requests from parents and residents in the community was to give the children something other than sports to challenge them creatively through music or the arts.

The conservatory will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and will feature percussion, brass, dance, drama and vocal. It will be held Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The children will learn a piece that they’ll hopefully perform at Christmastime and also have a spring concert to showcase what they’ve learned.

The children will attend character-building classes from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., which are similar to Boy or Girl Scouts, but with a Christian base, he said.

The boys and girls will learn to cook, learn how to set a table, etiquette and other life skills. Children under 12 will then go home, but the older teens can stick around for “Fight Club.”

Fight Club

It isn’t what it sounds like. Instead, it’s based on Salvation Army founder Gen. William Booth’s final speech that detailed how he resolved to fight to help put an end to hunger and other problems that plagued society at the time.

“We want to show them that they have value and we care about them,” Morse said.

He said the youth, particularly those in the West End, have just as many possibilities and opportunities as anyone else.

During Fight Club the teens will pick a topic to discuss for the following week. He said last year the teens discussed pre-marital sex and other issues. The staff researches the topics to show “what the world says” and then what God says about those same topics. The discussions will last 30 minutes.

The youth will then get to learn about multimedia, including how to make movies, use a camera and make commercials. They will also learn some type of life skills like sewing. There will also be a Bible class taught to give teens a deeper understanding.

The teens will be able to relax after class until the staff and volunteers set up for movie night.

Morse said the Salvation Army will provide Project Help, a place for students to get supplies needed for any school project. “We want to build a center here that is a safe place,” he said.

The Salvation Army will have two upcoming events:

Aug. 22, 6 p.m., Miller Recreation Center. Back to School event where students will receive book bags.

Sept. 27, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Youth Rally where children and teens from other Salvation Army agencies will have a large community day, similar to a vacation bible school, but on a much grander platform.

Children will have the opportunity to receive more school supplies as well as play games, have food, and hear speakers talk about peer pressure, gang violence and other topics.

The Salvation Army is a Rowan County United Way member agency.

Anyone interested in volunteering to help cook, teach music, drama or help with other programs should contact the Salvation Army at 704-636-6491. All volunteers must pass a background check.

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