Organizers of Project 1-Avoyelles (from left) Dr. Roy Jackson, Charles Jones, Conrad Meyer and Dr. Donald Prier are hoping their non-profit organization will result in a grassroots support for public education and programs focused on supporting the youth in Avoyelles Parish. Jones, a retired Army colonel, former public school teacher/principal and current Police Jury president, lives in Marksville. Avoyelles natives Jackson, Meyer and Prier now live in Houston. {Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

Project 1-Avoyelles aims to aid youth

Will focus on under-performing students in schools

There is a lot of talent, experience, wisdom and resources in Avoyelles Parish. There is also a lot of those same elements in the natives and products of this parish who now live elsewhere.

Three “products of Avoyelles Parish” now living in the Houston area, and another who lives and is active in this parish, have created a program they call “Project 1-Avoyelles.”

The group includes Dr. Roy Jackson of Bunkie a retired chemist from Shell; Dr. Donald Prier of Mansura an author and retired chemist from Dow Chemical, retired Army Col. Conrad Meyer of Moreauville and retired Army Col. Charles Jones of Marksville, who is the group’s local coordinator.

“We want to bring together the resources from those across Avoyelles Parish and to get those who are products of Avoyelles Parish schools to get involved to improve things for the youth of this parish,” Prier said.

The four men stressed that, although all four are African-American, Project 1-Avoyelles is not aimed solely at black youth and children.

“The organization is called Project-1 Avoyelles,” Jackson said. “That is what it means. We need to work together as one unit committed to a common goal -- to raise up Avoyelles from near the bottom of rankings for our education system.”

“Our target group is those children who are under performing for some reason,” Prier said. “We need to be asking, ‘How can we help?’”

SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION

Jones said the “mission of the organization is to support and enhance the public school system by providing services like mentoring, after school and summer programs.”

The men said there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed in Avoyelles Parish schools. Fortunately, there are also a lot of people in this community who are able to tackle those problems.

While all children, from elementary through high school, are in need of some assistance, the men said the crucial area is in the middle grades, 6-8.

Roy said the group was inspired when Bunkie honored native son Isiah Warner, a noted scholar, chemist and professor at LSU. It worked with Red River Charter Academy to obtain a grant from the Central Louisiana Community Foundation to conduct a robotics camp at the Bethune Center in Marksville.

“A majority of the people in Avoyelles Parish will be educated by the public schools,” Jackson said. “It is important that we do everything we can do to help ensure the public schools are successful.”

Prier said the group met with APSD Superintendent Blaine Dauzat and other Central Office staff and is encouraged by their support of the Project 1 proposals.

PLANNED EVENTS

One planned event will be to take students on a field trip to LSU to meet with Warner and his graduate students so they can see
firsthand what someone from Avoyelles Parish can achieve.

One program Project 1 wants to develop is mentoring. “We need to identify the students in need of mentoring and the mentors for the program,” Prier said. “We also have to get the parents involved in the program.”

That program will target the three traditional high schools.

The program will involve recruiting and training mentors, working with school personnel to select students and parents for the
program and working with school personnel to ensure students in the program are getting a complete benefit from the mentoring experience.

Meyer said Project 1 “wants to team up with the parents to improve their children’s academic performance. We are not trying to take over their children or take over the responsibility for their children.”

Proposed events include workshops on such things as etiquette and workplace essentials such as how to fill o ut applications.

“Most action will be taken by the volunteers on the ground here in Avoyelles Parish,” Jackson said. “Those of us from Avoyelles will be able to provide feedback, expertise and other resources.”

Advisory boards comprised of community members will be set up in the communities around the parish. Those board members will coordinate efforts and provide support for the organization’s programs in the schools in their area.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Prier said. “Avoyelles Parish is a village.”

Prior said the group’s activities will be held across the parish, and not centered around a specific location such as the Bethune Center in Marksville.

SUMMER FIELD TRIPS

Jones said the group wants to conduct educational field trips to museums in New Orleans or possibly to NASA in Houston during the summer.

“One thing we would like to have is after-school programs, study halls, to help students,” he said. “We need to get the parents involved in the programs. They have to be a part of it for the programs to be successful.”

The bottom line goal of the organization is for the parish’s under performing youth to “obtain the knowledge, skills, support and clear pathway to becoming successful citizens at the highest levels,” Meyer said.

That can only happen if committed citizens of Avoyelles Parish “provide their time and resources in a focused fashion to assist the youth of the parish in attaining the vision of the future,” Prier added.

Jackson said the goal will be achieved by using a team approach, in partnership with the public schools, library system and municipal governments. system.

Programs will include tutoring, instruction on how to prepare for and take tests, guidance in life and career choices, field trips, scholarships and other activities to encourage and enhance the students’ academic performance.

For more information or to volunteer to assist Project 1-Avoyelles in its efforts, call Jones at 359-1666, Jackson at 281-513-6961, Meyer at 703-244-5949 or Prier at 281-961-5087.

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