AT A GLANCE
What: Project Success college tour to Tuskegee and Auburn universities
When: March 27. Register by March 20.
To register: Call Second Missionary Baptist Church at 423-624-9097 to get registration forms.
Cost: No charge to students
Second Missionary Baptist Church is rounding up more than 50 students mostly from the inner city and taking them to college for spring break.
"I want them to see that there is opportunity and there are choices," said Deborah Maddox, program coordinator of the church's Project Success program.
The middle and high school students will visit Tuskegee and Auburn universities on March 27. They will participate in a youth health fair on March 28.
Maddox collected money from church members and nonprofits to pay expenses.
"Most of these are kids who don't have the wherewithal to be in a program that they have to pay for," said Maddox.
Retired school administrator Herbert McCray started Project Success in 2006. Since then, the church has sponsored at least 400 local students to visit colleges, McCray said. Most students attending this year are from East Chattanooga, Alton Park and Brainerd, Maddox said.
About 50 students are signed up so far, but Maddox said she'll take another bus if more children express interest and she can find sponsors. All students interested should have registration forms turned into the church by March 20, she said.
No middle or high school child will be turned away if money is available. Maddox said she has taken gang members on the trip and will do it again.
"What we're trying to do is to show them choices," she said. "They might have made a bad choice once, but who of us did not? Maybe with the right peers around them they can make a better choice. Kids influence other kids."
Project Success program schedules trips three times a year, during fall break, spring break and a week in summer. Local professionals meet with students to discuss their careers and the teens visit colleges.
The goal is to give young people exposure and let them know what needs to be in place if they plan to attend college or pursue a career.
"We're not trying to take the place of schools or families," McCray said. "But to just be an extra voice in their ears."
Fourteen-year-old Tyner High School sophomore Sharmayne Garner said it's working. "Just seeing what college life is like might encourage some people to go back later," she said.