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Local club one of many to share funds

Local club one of many to share funds

Posted: Monday, August 3, 2009 9:11 pm

By GLENDA H. CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
It would have been wonderful, says Ron Green. But it just didn’t happen.
Green, chief professional officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Tennessee, and the club’s board of directors were more than a little surprised by a story in Tuesday’s Messenger indicating Obion County had received $320,000 in grants from the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center program.
According to a press report received by the newspaper from the State Department of Education and printed in Tuesday’s edition, South Fulton Elementary School in the Obion County School System had received $70,000 and the local Boys & Girls Club had received the balance, or $250,000, from the federal program that seeks to raise achievement levels of low-income students and students attending underperforming schools. Statewide, more than $8 million was disbursed to school systems, non-profit agencies and four Boys & Girls Clubs boasting programs designed to assist students in the school districts where the clubs are located.
According to the Tennessee Department of Education Web site, “Forty-five school systems and community organizations received grants to open community sites across the state. Grantees can help students improve through a variety of ways including remedial education, tutoring and mentoring programs, recreational activities and technology programs.”
There was a problem in the state’s reporting of the good news, unfortunately. As a spokesman for the education office in Nashville revealed to a reporter who called to check on the story Thursday afternoon, the information provided “could have been presented more clearly.” Indeed, it could have been since, in fact, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Union City will be operating their education program with only a fraction of the funding announced in the press release.
Since the confusion which arose from the information the office released was called to the attention of education officials, the department’s Web site has addressed the situation and clarified what has actually occurred.
The local Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Tennessee will not be receiving $250,000. Their check will be for $45,000 and it will be strictly allocated to defined programs whose purpose is to improve educational outcomes, working in concert with the local school system. The $250,000 figure represents the amount that will be divided between Boys & Girls clubs in Union City, Giles County, Cleveland and Knox County to fund programs that assist students in their local school systems. In fact, the Union City Club, which has a membership of more than 1,300 children and which has just ended a summer program that served 200-300 children daily, received less than any other group posted on the Web site. Only 18 percent of the $250,000 portion allocated specifically to the four Boys & Girls Clubs in the state who received funds through the Tennessee Boys & Girls Clubs Alliance, which actually applied to the government for the grant, will be flowing to the local entity.
Green said the local club first received 21st Century funds soon after the club opened its doors in late 2004. The funds flowed to the club in the form of reimbursements in 2005 as a result of the fact that the local organization was part of the Alliance and was just “getting off the ground.” The local club has been open to all children in the area since that time, but the majority of the membership comes from the Union City area because of the children’s proximity, in many instances, to the club site in the former Miles School building on East College Street.
The grants are issued in a three-year cycle and the local club had to reapply when the new cycle began in 2006. At that time, Union City Elementary School was making an effort to boost the No Child Left Behind test scores of some of its students and that fact made either the school or a local non-profit agency eligible to apply for the funds. Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Tennessee was selected to enter the three-year cycle of disbursements again and Green immediately put the money to work on the club’s after-school program with a concentrated approach called Power Hour.
This mandatory daily hour of homework help and reinforcement of lessons being taught in school also includes one-on-one tutoring for children who request it. Some other components of the club’s program, which won them the financial nod of support, include Smart Moves — sessions in which student club members learn the effects of drugs, alcohol and crime and the importance of adopting good habits and making good choices. Club Tech is still another approach utilized to help children learn to use computers for specific learning programs and not simply to play games. And a “job-ready” program that is aimed primarily at teens is also utilized for younger club members to give them a preview of work they might want to consider in the future.
The 2006 cycle of 21st Century reimbursement funds ended in the spring of 2009, but the local club applied once again, working through the Tennessee Alliance of clubs. And, thankfully, the Alliance decided to send a portion of the $250,000 allocated to Tennessee’s Boys & Girls Clubs to northwest Tennessee. Those who made the decision said they were impressed by the way Green and his staff and Union City Director of Schools Gary Houston worked together for the good of the student club members and felt they would use the $45,000 wisely.
“Union City Elementary School is no longer facing a problem with their test scores, but the Alliance looked at our past history of success in working with those students and saw the outstanding way Mr. Houston worked with us and they signed a letter of agreement to give us another go at the three-year cycle of reimbursable funds so we can keep on writing success stories,” Green explains.
Along with the $45,000 comes 20 pages of directives from the federal government on how it can be spent. The money is strictly allocated and must be accounted for carefully.
There is no doubt the club can use the funding and is grateful to be receiving it, but the grant does not begin to address many of the other programs offered or to pay the salaries of those who are on hand each day to work with the 100-plus elementary school age children, according to Green. Nor does it take into account the teen program or the expenses associated with meeting the needs of these older members. Neither does it — nor can it, under the stipulations inherent in the grant — pay the bills for rent and utilities and supplies.
Because Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Tennessee offers a variety of options and possibilities in its after-school program and because these must each be staffed and supplied, additional funding is always a concern.
“We wish the $250,000 could have been ours, but we will use the $45,000 we’ll actually be receiving wisely. And we’ll be trusting our community to go on supporting us as we reach more and more children each year,” Green says. “No matter what comes to us because of our membership in the Alliance or what other grants we might receive, local support will make the difference between keeping our club open and functioning for the benefit of these hundreds of children who pass through our setting or sending them back to find an ‘education’ on the streets.”
Glenda Caudle may be contacted by e-mail at glendacaudle@ ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 8.3.09

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