Second Missionary Baptist Church wants to give youth an alternative to aimlessly hanging out with friends during fall break.
The church called together a group of educators, community organizers and volunteers to take more than 40 teenagers on an all-expense-paid trip to Covenant College on Lookout Mountain and Alabama A&M College in Huntsville, Ala.
"We want to make them aware of the pitfalls of not being focused in their daily lives and activities," said educator Leonard Rowe. "We want to keep them from running with the wrong peer group and getting in trouble."
Young people participating in Project Success have been listening to motivational speakers and discussing college preparation. On Friday they will visit Alabama A&M.
Most of the teens don't have the resources to visit the colleges on their own, Rowe said. The group meets in East Chattanooga, a community with drugs and gangs, according to Second Missionary Services documentation that explains the purpose of the educational outreach program.
"The SMS board researched youth issues and concluded that too many children have too few positive alternatives to the streets and/or positive role models after school and in summers when parents are at work," according to the church document.
Project Success provides a safe, structured environment in which middle and high school students are exposed to colleges and local professionals in various careers.
Some of the teens in the program talked about their plans.
Fourteen-year-old Alexis Brock, a freshman at Ooltewah High School, has set her sights on pharmacy studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Benjamin Blake, a Orchard Knob Middle School eighth-grader, wants to attend Tennessee Technical College to be an inventor. Shanice Garner wants to study at Vanderbilt University and become a lawyer.
"We're trying to provide youth with positive things to do when they are on fall break and encourage them to continue their education," said Karen Rhodes, assistant coordinator for the program.
Retired school administrator Herbert McCray started Project Success in 2006. Since then, the church has sponsored at least 500 local students to visit colleges.
Program coordinator Deborah Maddox said the organization is seeking local professionals willing to allow teens to visit them at their jobs to learn about different careers during school vacations.
An professional interested in job shadowing may contact Maddox at 423-488-4643.
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