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Archive for Saturday, July 31, 1993

PROGRAM NURTURES CHILDREN

July 31, 1993

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Steve Jeltz, a former shortstop for the Kansas City Royals and Philadelphia Phillies, was just one of the many helpers in this summer's "I CAN BE" program.

But when youngsters in the Lawrence program asked what Jeltz was famous for, Cynthia Turner stressed his accomplishments off the field.

"I said, 'He's famous for being a man, for being one of many people who've made it on their own,' " Turner, co-director of "I CAN BE," explained. "That's what this program is about. We want decent young men and women who'll grow up in the community."

Friday culminated the fourth summer session of "I CAN BE," which helps underachievers develop confidence through a variety of activities.

Twenty children in grades kindergarten through six participated in the five-week program, which took place at Second Christian Church, 1245 Conn.

On Friday, the children were awarded certificates for participating in the program, and several children were recognized for such things as best behavior and greatest academic improvement during the past five weeks.

Five Kansas University students served as tutors and helped children with reading, writing and math skills. But one thing that differentiates the program from traditional schooling is the strong focus on social behavior.

"I don't care how much education you've had. You have to make sure that social behavior is there," Turner said. "If you don't know real life, then you're going to be in bad shape when you grow up."

On Friday, the children heard from Karen Ross of the DCCCA drug abuse prevention center. Ross told the children about human potential and how drugs and alcohol can interfere with that.

Maxwell Woods, 8, said he'd picked up that message from other speakers during the program.

"You can be whatever you want to be if you stay off drugs," Maxwell said.

Mixed in with the academic work and visiting speakers were lots of fun activities.

The children visited local parks, played ball and played lots of board games indoors. Rosa Robinson, who'll be in first grade this fall, said she enjoyed playing checkers and Twister.

Among the five KU tutors are students from Malaysia and Yemen. Turner said she always likes to involve international students in the program.

"It's important that the children relate to all races and relate to each other," Turner said.

Hadi Alhassan, the student from Yemen, introduced the children to a play from his culture about not being greedy. Several of the children performed the play.

Kathy Arenal, a KU tutor from El Paso, Tex., agreed with Turner that focusing on basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic isn't enough to help the children in the program.

"They need a lot of help with their self-esteem. That's the reason for all their other problems, so that's what I try to work on," Arenal said. "They're really smart. They just kind of hold themselves back when they feel frustrated with themselves."

"I CAN BE" also provides KU tutors to work with children during the regular school year. This spring, 46 KU tutors worked with children in 10 Lawrence elementary schools.

The KU Student Senate provides funding to hire the tutors during the regular school year. For this year's summer program, Hallmark Cards Inc. and Mercantile Bank provided funding for the tutors.

Providing free eats for the children on their weekly fun days were Yello Sub, Bonanza, Pizza Hut, Bum Steer Bar-B-Q and McDonald's.

Several private donations helped the program purchase materials, and the Lawrence school district provided the program the same textbooks the children will use in school.

But Della Hamilton, the program's other co-director, said "I CAN BE" could always use more donations. The money might be used to add a music program to "I CAN BE" or to provide the directors with a small stipend for their work.

Hamilton said she'd prefer that people invest in children now so they won't get involved in gangs, drugs and crime later in life.

"People have got to pay now or later," Hamilton said. "They're paying now for the ones that should have been tutored a few years ago.

"If we have them here, maybe we'll help them before they get that far."

Turner said she helped initiate "I CAN BE" because "I love children, and we need to save the children of Lawrence."

Hamilton feels the same way.

"When I go to bed and turn the lights out, I see their little eyes looking at me," she said.

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