Summer camp for ‘Shining Minds’

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Southside Literacy Project wraps up program that helps students retain what they’ve learned

By Kayland Hagwood

The Southside Adult Family Literacy Project wrapped up its third-annual youth summer camp with the theme Shining Minds.
The camp, which had 31 participants throughout the month and ended on July 28, was created to help at-risk youth retain information that they learned in the previous school year.
Participants worked on interactive-learning activities in the Literacy Project’s Preston Blackmon Center computer lab on Sowell Street in Lancaster.
They also worked on various activities involving character development and positive thinking skills, learned black history and had a karate lesson from the Kenaki Karate Association in Lancaster, which offered each person two weeks of free lessons.
Tay Brown, 17, attended the camp this summer and has been working with the Literacy Project and other youth programming since the second grade.
As a kid growing up in Southside, he remembers walking to Deliverance Word of Faith Church to attend youth programs, before the Literacy Project moved to the Preston Blackmon Center next door.
He said it’s the “family-love feeling” that keeps him coming back.
“Like, having someone to talk to when you don’t have anyone,” he said.
Deliverance Word of Faith Church Pastor Stella Williams and her husband, George Williams Jr., started the Literacy Project in 2002.
The program focuses on breaking the cycle of illiteracy in low income, predominantly African-American families in Lancaster’s Southside community by working with the families holistically.
“Our desire is to break the cycle of poverty -- mental and financial,” Stella Williams said. “We want people to think positive and to realize they can achieve more.”
Clinton Elementary School teacher Monique James assisted with the Literacy Project’s summer camp, working on reading skills, craft assignments and acting as a mentor for those involved.
I hope (the Literacy Project) will continue to grow stronger, and that there will be more funding or even a van,” James said.
Williams continues to seek expansion opportunities for the Literacy Project.
She plans to incorporate more of Lancaster County’s African-American history and has already added a component that allows parents of young participants to work toward career and academic success, while their children are in the program.  
“I’m 71 and I have all these desires and passions that haven’t even come forth yet,” Stella Williams said. “We have all this property in front of the church. My vision is, we create a building and have a campus – something like the YMCA, where kids can come in at all times and be involved in recreational, educational type programs.
“I want to upgrade the whole Southside community where people feel good about coming to the community,” she said.
The program has received grants from The J. Marion Sims Foundation and donations from Founders Federal Credit Union, but more funding is needed for the program to expand.
“Right now, we’re spreading the funding we have and using it for the after-school program too,” Williams said. “The people here are volunteering…. We need more money if we’re going to employ staff. … I’d also like to add neighborhood outreach programs to do small-group family counseling for the community… (and) we needed to expand the building.”
To register for the Shining Minds after-school program, donate, or sponsor a child visit www.prestonblackmoncenter.org or call (803) 286-5442.