After-school Program transforms Lives

Earnestine Russell-Drumgold struggled to create a safe haven for kids

Dave Jones was a 17-year-old self-described street hustler in Baychester, New York, when he found himself at a crossroads. “I got pistol-whipped by seven dudes,” he says. His mother gave him an ultimatum: stay on his current path and end up in prison or take part in an after-school tutoring and mentoring program called the Baychester Youth Council.

He chose the latter, and now Jones, 26, works as a counselor for the organization. Had he not taken part in the program, Jones says, “I’d probably be locked up.”

The program behind Jones’ transformation is the brainchild of 54-year-old Earnestine Russell-Drumgold. In 1984, Russell-Drumgold started the organization after noticing that young people in her community needed training and guidance that would help them get jobs.

“We start [by] tutoring, mentoring, [and providing] homework help,” says Russell-Drumgold. “We get them into test [preparation courses] and make sure they pass these tests and don’t get left back. We teach them grooming; we teach them how to speak.” She also finds out their aspirations [and] teaches them how to get on the right track as they enter high school.

But even more impressive: Russell-Drumgold has run the program for 20 years with no funding. She received her first grant–$450,000 from the New York State Education Department–this year. Before that, she paid for everything out of pocket. Recently, she also became the recipient of a $50,000 prize and a new Volvo every three years. “You look at what she’s sacrificed, … and there is no better example of somebody who understands the value and quality of life,” says Nita Mitchell, vice president of human resources for Volvo.

Programs Around the Country
The After-School Institute
2 E. Read St.
Third Fl.
Baltimore, MD 21202
410-332-7467
www.afterschoolinstitute.com

Heart House
P.O. Box 823162
Dallas, TX 75382
www.hearthouse.org

Tips For Starting An Organization
Search for funding. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program offers $325 million in grants, handled by each state’s respective State Education Agency.

Find a committed staff and volunteers. An after-school program is only as good as its employees. Find people committed to the development of children.

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