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Family Hope Center Houston/Aldine Series: The Children

Brandy Marsh is self-motivated to succeed. The McArthur High School senior loves music and friends -- and business. She has completed three cycles at Buckner Family Hope Center Houston/Aldine’s business and life skills classes.

But she wasn’t always so motivated. “I would describe myself before the program as lazy. I would do things, but not up to par, just the normal. I wouldn’t really exceed in anything. Now, after the program, I get straight A’s in all of my classes, I'm above and beyond. This is what this program all about.”

Not bad for a girl who admits it’s a fluke she even started attending. “It’s a very peculiar story. During my freshman year, a guy standing at the end of the street corner was passing out flyers, and I took one just to be nice. I stuffed it in my pocket and went home. It fell out of my pocket as I was on the phone with my friend, and she was like, ‘What are you going to do this summer? Chill?’”

But Marsh said she looked down at the flyer and answered, “You know what? I’m not going to chill this summer.” So she told her dad to drive her to the Hope Center, adding, “I'm going to make something of myself.”

Monique Stewart, the center’s life skills coordinator, picks up the story from there. “Her dad just dropped her off with no registration, no nothing. He gave her some money and just dropped her off. And I'm asking, ‘Who are you and where are you from?”

But ever since, Marsh has been a faithful student to Stewart’s guidance and teaching. “I’ve been through three cycles, three graduations,” Marsh said. “My big takeaway is knowledge. So many kids just don't have the knowledge and then they don't have the perseverance. This is what this program teaches you.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for this program. I’d probably be on my couch, watching TV, and on Facebook. Now I have more experience with interviews. It makes me a very a likeable person which is very important out in the world. It gives me experience with cash registering and just business handling.”

Charlena Labome, the Hope Center’s children’s program coordinator, said children’s programs like life skills classes and the after-school and summer programs don’t just provide activities, but skills they can use the rest of their lives.

For Labome, the mission to provide for the children is personal. “I feel that kids are my passion and I want to make sure that kids are having the most fun, but they’re in a safe environment and I want to make sure that I’m giving them something that they may not be receiving at home or in the community.”

The children’s program doesn’t just help children and their parents, said Betty Morrow, principal at nearby Orange Grove Elementary School. Morrow points to the Hope Center’s after-school program as a great resource to her students.

“It’s the tutoring program that they do after school and it’s also providing that care for those children so parents don’t have to worry about them being a latch-key student,” she said. “It’s very important partnership because it allows us to have the connection and reach out to our students and their families.”

Morrow said the Hope Center also removes barriers to learning for students. “One of the barriers is the financial end of it. All programs have to run on money. So, I think what is really important is that they always find a way that our families can be a part of their program and not allow money to be an issue.”

She pointed to one student in particular who needed the Hope Center's after-school program to succeed. We were having a really severe problem a couple of years ago with one of our students, a behavior issue. We went to the (Hope Center) and said, ‘We really think this child needs some support and effort and if maybe we can get him into some after school programs, it would help.’ And sure enough, we saw a complete turnaround of that child and his efforts at school.”

That’s the goal, said Labome. “We want to make sure that we are making a difference, that we are providing a safe, fun environment for them away from home and giving them that secure spot here at Aldine. I think Aldine has done a great job for the community. Where there were parents who were worried about their kids being at home by themselves now, the kids have someplace where they can go and the parents have a safe place in their hearts where they know their kids are.”

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