The Project Reach God’s Anointed Now Generation hosted its 15th annual Back to School Rally on Saturday at Briar Bay Park in Riceboro.
The nonprofit organization serves the youth community and motivates it to recognize and reach their goals.
“Our objective is to reach the children,” organization founder Lavonia LeCounte said. “We help them with life skills from academics to health and wellness and other areas.”
The group meets Monday nights, and the sessions consist of tutoring, mentoring, career training, life-skill development, vocal training and leadership training. The organization hosts a back-to-school rally every summer to get children ready for the upcoming school year, which starts Aug. 7.
“We want to motivate them to get ready to go back to school,” LeCounte said. “And we want to provide them the necessary resources that they need before schools starts.”
The rally provided free school supplies, health checks and educational booths to families and students. Motivational speakers also advised children on the importance of education to their future.
Maj. Tony Jones, of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, explained to the students that there is no limit to what they can do with their futures. He also said that nowhere else in the world is education as accessible to children as it is in the United States.
“Education is key to reaching our goals,” LeCounte said. “We need children to understand how important it is to stay in school and go to college.”
LeCounte founded Project Reach in 1998, and hosted the first back-to-school rally that summer. She said she was inspired by God to start the program in 1990, but it took eight years for it to come to fruition.
“My vision came to me in 1990, and each year I continued to get ideas and make attempts to do it, but it never came forth,” she said “Then finally, in 1998, everything came together.”
The first year was a success, she said, and each year since, the rally has helped many families in Liberty County.
LeCounte also formed a gospel choir for entertainment at that first rally. Children in the program sing in the choir, and it has grown during the years. The choir recorded its first CD in 2010.
“Two-hundred-plus children built this group,” she said. “Children come, work with us and then move on to college or join the military, but they always come back and help mentor younger children in the group.”
At Monday’s sessions, students receive training in academics, health and wellness, mentorship and cultural awareness.
“An unfulfilled life is a wasted life,” LeCounte said. “We all have a purpose in life, and we have to set goals for ourselves.”
LeCounte tells her students that they are all “A” students when they walk through the doors on the first day of class. It is up to them to maintain that “A” throughout the school year.
“The resources will be there, and the teachers are there to help,” she said. “But the students have to do their homework and use their resources.”
LeCounte believes family involvement also is important to a student’s success.
“We want the parents to check up on their student … don’t wait until they get in trouble,” she said. “Parents should email their teachers and ask how their child is doing in class.”
Project Reach offers a program, called “I Care,” which stresses to parents the importance of getting involved in their children’s studies.
“Every month, we send home a suggested-activity sheet for parents to do with their students,” LeCounte said. “They have a whole month to do the activities and send it back, detailing how many activities they did.”
Though this program, LeCounte can measure how involved parents are with their students’ academics.
“Through initiatives like this, we can continue to build our youth of today,” she said.