“I come from a poor family,” says Sylvia Tisdale, director of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers in Pensacol. Fla.. “But I had a math teacher who took a little extra time with me: she encouraged me. She became my role model.”
Sponsored by both the U.S. Department of Education and Florida Department of Education, 21st Century’s, a national initiative, mission is to “support the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.”
“We offer tutoring and homework help,” Tisdale added, “We enrich what the students have learned during the school day.”
Aside from academic assistance, participates in the program also engage in visual art, physical education and technology sessions for additional personal development.
“The children that we get [reside in] deprived areas,” Tisdale said.
According to the Florida Association of Counties, 27 percent of children in Escambia County live below the poverty line.
“The area we’re in is the poorest section of Escambia County,” Tisdale said. “The children who qualify for the program have to receive free to reduced school lunch and have to have both academic and disciplinary issues.”
Operated at three locations, Bellview Middle School, Escambia Charter High School and Epps Christian Center, the program also acts as a deterrent to negative after-school activities.
“Between the hours of 3pm to 7pm is when the most crime is committed by juveniles,” said Dr. Calvin Avant, program coordinator for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. “It allows parents, who otherwise couldn’t afford, to have activities for their kids to participate in during very crucial hours of the day.”
For more information, contact Sylvia Tisdale at (850) 572-5761.