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Published: Wednesday, 2/22/2006

Toledo: Program called boost to youths' lives

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For Richard Anderson, there seems to be no double-entendre with the organization named "Chance for Change."

Chance for Change Inc. has meant just that for many poor and disadvantaged youth in the Toledo-area, said the former executive with The Andersons Inc. and board chairman of the organization, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year helping over 100 students.

And its waiting list is overflowing, Mr. Anderson said.

"It was a program developed in Harlem in the late '60s and it's now in almost 50 different communities around the country," said Mr. Anderson, who has been involved with the local organization for the past five years. "It's a well thought out, comprehensive program to help disadvantaged youth really tap into their potential and go onto college, get a career and realize their dreams, as you will. It takes a lot of blocking and tackling to make that happen."

Morlon Harris, the organization's executive director, said Chance for Change works hard not only to reach the children involved but their parents as well.

"Change can't just happen within the program," Mr. Harris said. "We can make this happen working with the parents. We start with kids as young as 11 and stay with them year after year. We want to establish a relationship with them."

Chance for Change targets seven areas in an effort to enrich the lives of its participants: job and career planning; creative self expression; family life and sex education; basic health services; mental health services; academics, and lifetime sports.

"Kids who are coming from fractured homes and difficult economic circumstances, you pretty much have to rebuild the infrastructure around them that a healthy family would provide," Mr. Anderson said.

Mr. Harris and Mr. Anderson said many of the students come from the neighborhood surrounding Chance for Change's office at 7 East Bancroft, across from the Bancroft-Franklin Plaza. They said students have come by word of mouth but also through school contacts and ad-vertisements.

"Most of our kids are a stone's throw away," Mr. Anderson said. "Generally, the kids we take in are kids that need this program, whether it's economic circumstances or family circumstances. The neat thing is that the parents are really starting to plug in. We had 71 parents at our last meeting. When you start to get the parents engaged then you really have something powerful going on there."

Students attend after-school tutoring and homework sessions at its facilities. Mr. Harris said the academic component is an on-going process in an effort to bring the students up to speed with their studying. Mr. Anderson said they are exposed to cultural activities like the Toledo Symphony and Toledo Museum of Art.

Mr. Anderson said last summer, the St. John's Jesuit golf team assisted in teaching students how to play that sport.

The organization gets some help from the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo.

Melanie Grohowski, executive director of the YMCA's Youth Opportunities Program, said Chance for Change has helped give students a new look into what their future may hold.

"[Chance for Change] has absolutely been a positive experience for the kids," Ms. Grohowski said. "What it does is teach kids basic skills to get through life and basic communication skills. It also provides an atmosphere where the kids feel like they are part of a family, so we feel that family support is there as well."

Mr. Anderson said Chance for Change recently won a grant from the Tiger Woods Foundation to continue its work. He said about 40 percent of its $350,000 budget comes from the government.

He said Chance for Change has worked to reduce pregnancy among teens and won a grant last year from the Marguerite d'Youville Foundation for its Healthy Communities Project.

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Harris said Chance for Change is over its 100-student limit, but with more funding would like to expand its services and help more kids.

Contact Clyde Hughes

at: chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095



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