Sunday school classrooms at a Macon church filled up with math, science and robotics equipment Monday. After all, the church soon will become the site for a new after-school program for 500 Bibb County students.
Campus Clubs recently received an $871,000 grant to start an after-school program at Strong Tower Fellowship Church in late January.
The program for students in seventh through 12th grades will offer social sciences, a health academy, aviation academy, robotics lab, and a language arts and engineering academy, said Tony Lowden, executive director of Campus Clubs.
Lowden said his organization showed a need for the competitive grant awarded through the Community Health Foundation. After-school programs in Macon are sparse. In the past couple of years, several operated by Bibb County schools closed after the school system’s grants ended.
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Macon being named among the country’s poorest cities by Forbes Magazine, the U.S. Census showing about a third of Bibb students living in poverty, and Bibb students’ lagging in math and science on state exams give importance to the program’s goal.
“What this means for the city of Macon is that we are going to take a program and create a safe haven for kids (after school hours) in a place where kids can develop their skills and create a well-trained work force,” Lowden said. “We believe education is the key component to change the numbers in Macon.”
Campus Clubs and church members came up with the faith-based after-school concept about two years ago.
Then the church, through its own donations, started renovating 18 Sunday school classrooms this past June to house the program.
“We think this could change the whole community, bolster their education and prepare them for life for the 21st century,” said the Rev. Tom Anderson of Strong Tower.
Lowden said the Bibb school system was asked to partner with the program. But after the school system didn’t respond, Mercer University was approached to help, he said.
“We are in talks with them to get our students involved in the after-school program,” said Mary Alice Morgan, senior vice provost for service-learning at Mercer University. “The conversation has just begun. We hope it will go well.”
The after-school program will run from 4-7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and is set to start the fourth week of January.
It will require tuition based on income, officials said.
Transportation will be provided at some schools by Campus Clubs and will run at Central, Rutland, Howard and Westside high schools as well as Howard, Rutland, Ballard-Hudson and Appling middle schools.
The after-school program also is working with a few schools in Jones County.
Campus Clubs is a faith-based program that started with one site in Bibb County 16 years ago and now has eight sites, said a founder, Shirlynn Kelly.
The organization already offers after-school programs for children in kindergarten through sixth grade at its current sites.
“Doing things like this is what’s needed in the city,” Lowden said.
For more information about the program or to pick up an application, visit the Campus Clubs downtown office at 682 Mulberry St., visit www.campusclubs.org or call (478) 742-7794.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.