Thursday, July 28, 2005
 Program Gives Kids ‘Hand Up’


By William F. West
Montgomery Advertiser















TUSKEGEE, Ala. – As the doors were opened to the fan-cooled room, the children rushed from the sweltering temperatures outside toward a table of new computers.


Taking their seats, they soon were playing their favorite games or tunes. One girl delighted in seeing her face on the screen with the help of a webcam.


That was the scene Wednesday afternoon at the Ridgewood community here. The room will be the future home of both a Youth Safe Haven and a Tuskegee police mini-station.


The program was announced moments earlier at the nearby Tuskegee Housing Authority headquarters by Tuskegee officials and an official with the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation.


The Eisenhower Foundation, named for the brother of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is a nonprofit offshoot of the Kerner Commission report. The group's study concluded the ghetto riots following the 1968 slaying of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stemmed from black frustration at a lack of economic opportunity.


Johnnie Gage, chief operating officer of the Eisenhower Foundation, on Wednesday pledged at least $100,000 yearly to support the project in Tuskegee. He said the Eisenhower Foundation commits approximately four to 10 years to such programs.


















Micky Welsh, Advertiser

Demarcus Thomas, foreground, plays on a computer Wednesday at the future home of a Youth Safe Haven and a police mini-station at the Ridgewood housing community in Tuskegee .





Plans call for a youth safe haven and police mini-station to serve 50 children between ages 5 and 12. The Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation is working on the project with the Tuskegee Housing Authority, the Tuskegee Police Department and the Tuskegee/Macon County Community Development Corp.
















The purpose of the Safe Haven and mini-station will be to keep children ages 5 through 12 off the streets and away from trouble from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday.


Gage said 50 youths would be selected randomly for the Tuskegee program and evaluated. He said he expects services would be started before school opens in August.

Gage said the Safe Haven and mini-station would be based on scientifically proven, sound programs.




"It's not a case of a very well-wishing group of folks that have gotten together to do well-wishing things with their children," he said.


The room the children were in Wednesday afternoon is being converted from a housing unit into classroom, recreational and office space for the Safe Haven and mini-station.


The one who pushed for the project is Stanley Horn, who works for the Tuskegee/Macon County Community Development Corp.


"It's a hand up, not a handout," Horn said.


Horn and others were particularly pleased to see the children dashing toward the cutting-edge machines.




























"The computers give them so much of a world that they've never seen before, had an opportunity to participate in. It is really helping them in school," Horn said.


"Everything we're doing is designed to help them not be behind. The majority of the kids who come from public housing are always behind in public schools, and that is because of social issues and other issues," he said.


The sight of the children at the computers also encouraged Ridgewood resident Joyce Alexander.























"It seems like they're interested in learning," Alexander said, adding she pledges to volunteer as much of her time as possible at the Safe Haven and mini-station.


Tuskegee Housing Authority Director Linda Simpson said the computers already were in place because the Housing Authority has a technology program for children in a nearby separate building.