By Joel Hall
State Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro) has secured nearly $20,000 in Local Assistance Grants (LAGs) for three different Clayton County non-profit groups geared toward improving and protecting the lives of young people.
The Krystal Williams Foundation -- an organization established to erect a youth center in honor of a slain Forest Park High School student -- received $5,000. Youth Under Construction, a character-and academic-skill-building program for young people, received $8,200; and Family Connection Unlimited, a program that teaches high school students proper road safety, received $8,675.
LAG recipients will receive 75 percent of the grant upfront and the other 25 percent once the majority of the 75 percent has been spent, according to Davenport's office.
The grants were secured through the Senate's Committee for Local Assistance Grants and approved by the General Assembly, said Davenport, who described herself as "an advocate of youth."
"We're just so delighted that these three organizations could receive these funds," said Davenport. "I was excited that we could get these for the youth of Clayton County. Any programs we can do to help them be involved and not get into trouble ... that's a good thing."
Youth Under Construction, established in 2003, has hosted a series of weekend, spring break, and summer programs to enrich and educate students during their down time.
On Saturdays during the school year, the organization hosts S.T.E.P.S. (Students Taking Extra Preparation for Success). It is a program to build test-taking skills and prepare students for their futures.
During spring break, students throughout the Southern Crescent are invited to participate in a Spring Break College Tour. Over the past five years, the program has taken high school upperclassmen to visit colleges all over the country.
From Sunday to Thursday next week, students involved in this year's tour will travel to the University of West Georgia, Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University, Fort Valley State University, Gordon College, and the Atlanta University Center.
Shenita Scott, executive director of Youth Under Construction, said the grant will help sponsor students whose parents cannot afford the programs.
"We have so many parents who can't afford to send their children to out-of-school programs, so they stay at home and get into all kinds of trouble," said Scott. "Usually, all the parents pay, unless we get funding."
Jeraline Reynolds, founder and director of Family Connection Unlimited, is working with Clayton County Public Schools to create a free driver-safety program in order to help young drivers satisfy their 30-hour drive-education requirements.
While the program is still in negotiation with the school board, Reynolds said the grant will provide her with the means to get it off the ground. "Too many kids are getting killed on Georgia highways," said Reynolds. "They have not been properly taught how to drive." The LAG will "be very helpful to students, because times are a little tough now. It's going to help the parents because these programs are quite costly."
The Krystal Williams Foundation was established by the family of the 14 year-old Forest Park High School student, who was killed in a shooting on April 22, 2005. The foundation was established to build a youth center in her honor, which would engage young people in athletic and educational activities, mentoring, and job training.
A representative from the Krystal Williams Foundation could not be reached for comment.