The noise is loud in the gym, partly because of the space and partly because of the youngsters involved. The kids are young and students from high school service clubs help out.

It is the beginning of the 21st Century grant program at the Boys and Girls Club of Winder in the Wimberly Center for Community Development. The program focuses on academics and “extras” each afternoon Monday to Friday.

The program is formally known as “Making Minutes Count for Success.” The 21st century grant is funded for five-years, and it is $348,917 this year.

It is limited to first- through fifth-grades and includes students from County Line, Holsenbeck, Kennedy, Statham and Winder elementary schools.

Derek Hutchins, executive director of the club, said the program has about 50 percent of the kids it can accommodate. About 120 could be in the program. Hutchins said close to 70 attend.

The students pay $50 each to sign up for the program.

It has kids daily when the schools are in session and for a three-week session in the summer.

The kids congregate in the gym for conversation and chatter. A snack for each is included daily.

Then the day begins – about 4 p.m. The students come to the club by bus, furnished by the Barrow County school system. The program includes students from five elementary schools and is from 3:45 to 6:45 p.m.

A second class starts about 5:15 p.m. and homework is the focus of the last period of the day.

Turn off your voices, one adult says in the math room. She has to say it several times before the students quiet down.

The students get instruction in math and reading, English and writing, homework help and exposure to all sorts of “extra” subjects. Certified teachers and paraprofessionals oversee the lessons.

Some kids go to the kitchen for a session on seeds. They later make a jaunt around a portion of the former school and plant their seeds in raised garden beds.

Other students take guitar lessons and learn to make musical notes. One girl writes a chord.

A science class builds a variety of things from Legos. The students work with teachers to create structures.

Hutchins stops to talk to kids – alumni of the club and current participants – as he also gives a tour.

Hutchins noted the club moved into its current space and nearly tripled the size. The Boys and Girls Club of Winder now has nearly 27,000 square feet. He said the 21st century grant helped with the move.

The club will reapply for the grant when it expires, he said.

The students move from class-to-class and day-to-day. Some academics are on the program daily. The enrichment classes expose the students to a variety of subjects from music to cooking.

The school program is one of several in the Wimberly Center, named for Robert Wimberly, who was a long-time educator in Barrow County and who served on the Winder Housing Authority for years.

Michelle Yawn is the executive director of the housing authority, which bought the former Winder Barrow Middle School on Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. in 2016. The authority bought the school, which was vacant, from Barrow County BOE for $1 million.

It is now a hub for nonprofit groups. Project Search is a new program started this year that teaches special education students who have “aged out” of the school system to handle some jobs in the community.

The building also houses offices for CASA, adult education, Habitat for Humanity and Wimberly Roots. The last one includes a demonstration kitchen and a community garden outside on the 20 acres in conjunction with the University of Georgia and other groups.

Yawn said having a tenant such as Lanier Tech “is huge. It’s made a huge difference.” She said the center concentrates on “hand up” services.


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