Sunday, November 10, 2002

Some Good News

Kids get help after school


Larry Burnett, 8, hardly notices anyone watching him as he traces a diagram of a pumpkin. He is more concerned about lines, colors and focusing his mind on a specific task.

Larry Burnett, 8, works on homework at an after-school program.
"I am learning a lot,'' said Larry, a third-grader at Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Walnut Hills. Larry attends Youth Opportunities United, an after-school program that focuses on, among other things, support, responsibility and commitment.

Holley Sowels, executive director, refers to the areas as "cornerstones.'' She said students are taught how to make a commitment and be responsible for living up to it. The sessions also include tutoring, conflict resolution and anger management.

"All the things we do here helps me with my homework,'' Larry said.

A couple of seats away from Larry, Yuradon Watkins, also 8 and a third-grader, is working on the same project.

"I like it because it keeps my mind busy,'' Yuradon said. "When I learn how to think about one thing at a time, it helps me with schoolwork.''

"We help them with their homework,'' Ms. Sowels said. "If they don't have homework, we give them some.

"As we go along, we emphasize each cornerstone and what it means to them, individually and as a group. It is important that they get support, but also important that they learn how to help others.''

Third- to seventh-graders may join the program, which has 33 students.

"We want to develop them academically and socially while also pulling out whatever natural talents they have,'' she said. "They also have to understand that we do not tolerate unsafe activity, such as fighting."

If they don't behave, they are sent home.

Rick Muhlhauser, president of the board and a founder of the group, sees the importance of mixing community and school.

The program brings adjuncts - including artists and community leaders - to classroom activities.

"It is as important developing them socially as academically,'' he said. "Things get done when you relate them to people.''

Dr. Rina Wallace, program coordinator for Family and Children First Council, which partially funds the program, believes Youth Opportunities United plays a vital role in Walnut Hills..

"The program is one of the pieces that is helping the children in that area to be successful,'' she said.

Allen Howard's "Some Good News'' column runs Sunday-Friday. Contact him at 768-8362, at or by fax at 768-8340.

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