McDuffie Educational Enrichment Program for Students (formerly 21st Century After School Program) is receiving some help this year in getting parents involved in the students' lives and helping students make good choices.
Partners For Success Executive Director Miriam Smith recently met with parents and students of the after school programs at Thomson Middle and Thomson-McDuffie Junior High schools to talk about the abstinence leadership program offered by MEEPS and PFA and incentives for the students to attend.
"These students are at an age where the choices they make are much more vital, and we want them to be aware of what they're doing," Mrs. Smith said. "And we have an incentive to keep them in the programs."
Partners For Success is sponsoring three field trips for students and their parents through a Positive Choices for Life grant from the Governor's Office for Children and Families. The first field trip, in November, will be a day spent in Augusta at the Morris Museum of Arts, Fort Discovery and the Augusta Lynx hockey game. A chorus of "mmm's" sounded from the students when Mrs. Smith mentioned there would be an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Lynx game.
"Oh I see," she quipped. "Forget the museum. That doesn't excite you, but the buffet excites you."
The second field trip, in February, will be to Atlanta to the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coke museum and to have lunch at the CNN building. The final field trip will be back to Augusta in April for a tour of Augusta State University and to attend an Augusta Green Jackets baseball game.
"I think it's a good idea," parent Gwen Roberts said. "The field trips will keep them excited and wanting to be involved."
In order to be eligible for the field trips, the students must attend 80 percent of the sessions, as well as do the work assigned, be a team player, and exhibit good behavior at all times prior to, and during, the field trip. Students and parents also had to purchase a t-shirt to wear on the field trips as a safety precaution.
"I think it's a challenge for the students, and I'm all for it," parent Janice Gant said.
The sessions, which are taught in the middle school by MEEPS instructor Brandy Lamb, and at the junior high school by teacher Butch Evans, include Character Quest, WAIT Training and Leadership Training.
Mr. Evans said the curriculum teaches abstinence from sex, drugs and alcohol, as well as helps the students learn about themselves, friendship, dating, gender-related differences, dealing with conflict, communication, role playing and commitment.
"We will tackle a lot of myths about it, too," Mr. Evans said during the meeting. "And the parents are welcome to sit in the classroom with us at any time. We don't approach it from a religious point of view, but more from a physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual point of view. It's about developing relationships the correct way."
"I think it will give the kids the opportunity to express themselves while giving them the information to make informed decisions," said Ms. Roberts, whose son, Jimmie, attends TMJHS.