College of Education's Can Do program motivates children in the 3rd Ward

Sylvia Bradshaw

Staff Writer

More than 70 Houston area youths have developed a "can-do" attitude as a result of a program offered by the University of Houston Institute for Urban Education.

Can Do Project Houston, sponsored by the College of Education, is designed to support and aid at-risk children in Houston's 3rd Ward.

Program coordinator Samoan Johnson said the participants in the Can Do program are exposed to areas that have not been readily available in their community.

"We work with at-risk adolescents ranging from third grade through high school," Johnson said. "We work at Thompson and Cullen elementary as well as at Yates High School. Our after-school program prepares students to participate more fully in their educational process."

Ronique Wilson is program director and has a staff of approximately 15 tutors. Celebrating its fifth year of operation, the program sessions are structured to ensure both efficiency and quality with a 3-to-1 classroom ratio.

According to its brochure, the goals of the program are to increase the academic achievement level of each student, encouraging them to remain in school through graduation and continue their studies beyond high school.

Students are tutored in basic skills, such as reading, writing and mathematics, and helped with school assignments and test taking.

On April 24, the program held its 2nd Annual Career Day in the Kiva Room at the College of Education. Students heard from several presenters from various fields, including businessman Tyrone Dorsey from Quaker Oats Co.; entrepreneur James Jones, owner of three McDonald's franchises; and Olympic track star Michael Marsh. Other areas represented were law, law enforcement, psychology, counseling, medicine and computer programming.

"Many of the students have not been exposed to different professions, and therefore have no idea what opportunities await them. When they get that exposure, they love it," Johnson said.

David Banks, a graduate of the University of Georgia who works with an after-school program at the Shrine of the Black Madonna located near the UH campus, said that after-school programs are a valuable resource in the community and have a tremendous effect upon today's youth.

"Math and reading are our primary concerns," Banks said. "With the elimination of many programs, especially those geared towards affirmative action, we have had to create a 'new' affirmative action that prepares inner-city youth to compete in this highly technological world."

High school participants in the Can Do program have shown marked improvements, Jones said.

"All of our students passed all sections of the TAAS Test, so we definitely see the progress that our program is making," Jones said.

During the summer the program projects to offer two 4-week summer enrichment segments at Thompson and Cullen that will center on field trips, conflict resolution and promoting self-esteem.

The Can Do program welcomes donations to ensure the continuation of their services to the community.

"We are a nonprofit corporation and, although we receive funding from various sources, we are in constant need of critical tax deductible investments - which go to aid our youth."

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer tutor or making a contribution to Can Do Project Houston should contact the UH Institute for Urban Education at (713) 743-5023.

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