Immanuel Reed knows first-hand just how important after school programs for children in underserved and disadvantaged communities can be. After all, the site director at the Thomasville Center for Hope, benefitted from the very same kinds of programs he now oversees, when he was young.
On any given day, a visitor to the center in the Thomasville Heights neighborhood in southwest Atlanta, might see dozens of children engaged in any number of wide-ranging activities, from studying and homework, to sports and fun physical activities, to art and sewing, or even gardening.
“We have approximately 100 kids, who arrive daily,” Reed said. “And we give them a full day until the time they are dismissed at 8.”
When I was a kid, being a part of a program like this helped me tremendously, and I think that me doing the same thing for others, giving them chances, giving them the opportunity to make the best decisions, it’s full circle for me
The Thomasville Center of Hope, which operates in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, is part of a pledge and an initiative by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed that started when he was running for mayor in 2009. Then-candidate Reed pledged to reopen all of the city’s 33 community recreational centers, which had been closed down due to a lack of funding. Of those 33 recreational centers, 10 were identified as so-called “Centers of Hope” and Thomasville was one of them.
Mayor Reed’s Centers of Hope program for children included five requirements that form the basis of each center: academic enrichment, character leadership, health and fitness, technology, and community.
The first order of business when the kids arrive at Thomasville is 30 to 40 minutes of homework, according to director Reed.
“From there the kids are participating in various programs, from educational programs to health and PE programs. We have a garden program and we have a STEMS program. We have a ton of things, a ton of enrichment programs that these kids are participating in.”
“A Center of Hope is a high-performing recreation center with enhanced youth development programming,” according to the City of Atlanta.
Thomasville was one of the first two centers to open under the mayor’s initiative to reopen the city’s rec centers and it was designated as a Center of Hope.
But for director Immanuel Reed, the club offers more than fun activities and a way for parents to keep their children out of trouble after school.
“For me it’s easy to talk about the good things,” Reed explained.
“But for kids to see older kids who have gone through this program and that are from this neighborhood, to see them make it, it pushes them. It inspires them,” he added.
But what it really boils down to for Reed is this: “When I was a kid, being a part of a program like this helped me tremendously, and I think that me doing the same thing for others, giving them chances, giving them the opportunity to make the best decisions, it’s full circle for me.”
And that is why Immanuel Reed is an American Graduate Champion.
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