by Alan Hodge
HUNTERSVILLE – The Pottstown Learning Center After School Program was founded on the principles of teaching and mentoring youth and founder Bee Jay Caldwell built a staff eager to work with students in subjects from computers to music history. But there’s a problem – a lack of kids to mentor and teach.
That’s the situation Caldwell and her staff of assistants are facing with the departure of the first group of students that had been working with the mentors and teachers at the Torrence-Lytle Community Center, 310 Dellwood Drive in the historic Pottstown neighborhood.
“We started the program in January 2011 with three children from the same household,” Caldwell said. “We had a great time, but by March they had moved away.”
Caldwell, a longtime educator, had been working one child in kindergarten, one in second grade, and another in seventh.
The Torrence-Lytle Center is located in the former 1921 Rosenwald School building.
“We wanted a local site where kids could complete their homework, get a snack, operate a computer and have other activities,” Caldwell said.
The site has 10 computers donated by Central Piedmont Community College, but still needs Internet service.
In addition to the computers, the Torrence-Lytle Community Center has desks, chairs, bookcases, and a CD player for students to use.
Daily activities for the program are structured to include socializing, computer access, cultural awareness, homework help, a snack, social values and reading tutoring.
“One thing we are thinking about is a reading clinic,” Caldwell said. “The kids can tell us where they are deficient, and we can then seek out the resources they need.”
Caldwell worked for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and retired after 30 years of service. When she came up with the idea for the after-school program, she enlisted help from folks she knew would be a good fit based not only on academic, but life skills as well.
One of the first to join with Caldwell was 78-year-old Furman Smith who has lived in the Pottstown community for more than half a century. One of Smith’s main contributions is offering what might be termed “grandfatherly advice” to kids, Caldwell said.
“First of all you got to be obedient to learn,” Smith said. “We need to bring children up to be responsible.”
Another volunteer is 35-year-old Tucker Hayes from Charlotte. Hayes is an authority on music and TV programming.
“I let them listen to music like gospel, rhythm and blues and jazz from the 60s and 70s,” Hayes says. “That way they can compare it to today’s music. I also teach them about how TV used to be with shows like ‘The Jeffersons’ and ‘Good Times.’”
To attract more students, Caldwell plans to put out feelers to teachers at surrounding Huntersville schools who might have students within walking distance of the Torrence-Lytle Community Center and who could benefit from the program.
Want to know more?
For more information on The Pottstown Learning Center After School Program, contact Bee Jay Caldwell at 704-875-0367 or 704-947-7291 or Bee7ware@aol.com.