T'Aira Truss said she didn't even try to do math before attending tutoring at the Avondale Recreation Center, but now the 13-year-old said she's making passing grades.
"I started to do my homework, and I'm starting to get the math," said T'Aira, a student at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy.
She is one of 20 students attending tutoring sessions at the Avondale center. City Recreation Specialist Gerald Perry said he wants the number of students to double before the end of the year.
"With no education, there is no hope for our youth, point blank," Perry said.
The Avondale site is one of at least three recreation centers with a certified Hamilton County schoolteacher who provides tutoring.
The program, called Family Transition Education Program Services, also is offered at Tyner and Glenwood recreation centers, said Jacqueline Lane Cothran, who conducts the program at Avondale. Statistics show recreation centers host high numbers of children who don't live with their parents, Cothran said.
IF YOU GO
* What: After-school tutoring with a certified teacher
* Where: Avondale Recreation Center, 1305 Dodson Ave.
* When: 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
* Cost: Free
* Call 697-1277 for more information
Funded by the Hamilton County Department of Education, the program also supplies children who are displaced from their parents -- living with grandparents, in hotels or group homes -- with school supplies, textbooks and clothing.
Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey said the program also serves students who do not score high on standard tests.
Walking among the children last week, Cothran stopped at one table.
"Are you talking or are you working?" she asked.
"If I don't get after them, they assume I don't care. They want discipline," she said after walking away.
Cothran teaches by day at Washington Alternative School and tutors three afternoons a week at the Avondale Recreation Center from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m.
Deja McDuffie, 13, said Cothran's instruction helps her understand math.
"When she tutors us, our quiz scores go up," Deja said while studying at the center. "I'll probably come up from 'proficient' in math to 'high performance.'"
Perry said that until November, only about five students came to the center for tutoring. To increase attendance, officials started requiring this year that youths participate in at least an hour of tutoring before they are allowed to play basketball or go to the game room.
Students who comply also get snacks when they're done, and those who have steady attendance throughout the school year will be invited to go with Cothran to the Atlanta Aquarium this summer, Perry said.
Mackey said the recreation center should be more than a place to play.
"It's a place to learn how to learn; that's why they have computer labs and reading stations," he said.
Contact Yolanda Putman at email@example.com or 423-757-6431.