The Georgetown Project is a non-profit organization that serves as the lead advocate for young people in the Georgetown community. The program seeks to collaborate with the adult community to support the positive development of young people
Founded in 1997 by Barbara Pierce, a former school nurse, the organization originally started with addressing the issue of substance abuse. “What evolved was a community commitment to play its role in supporting schools and other entities to get kids out of drugs and alcohol,” said Executive Director Gene Davenport.
Serving as executive director since July 2007, Davenport oversees the local organization. “We want all the kids in this community to be developmentally sound,” Davenport said. Working with research findings from the Minn.-based Search Institute, the Georgetown Project utilizes the 40 Developmental Assets. These building blocks promote positive growth in young people with the different assets categorized under support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, commitment to learning, positive values, social competence and positive identity.
Since those early beginnings, the program has pursued additional avenues, including the issue of poverty and youth homelessness in Georgetown. “Just because a child is poor, does not mean anything negative other than poverty sometimes bring with it uneducated parents, in many cases, who are struggling for livelihood and not able to produce enough income to provide experiences for their kids,” Davenport said. Among the approximately 12,000 students in the Georgetown Independent School District, 45 percent of students in Georgetown schools are on free or reduced lunch programs and 149 students are homeless, which include students who are couch surfing or families that are doubling up.
The local program also receives help from businesses and members of the community, including Georgetown Southwestern University. Senior Advisor to President for Strategic Planning & Assessment Ronald Swain represents the university and serves on the program’s executive board of directors. Swain assists with the strategic planning for the Georgetown Project, as well. “These organizations [like the Georgetown Project] provide a service that contributes to an improved a quality of life for the citizens of our city,” Swain said.
The Georgetown Project coordinates multiple programs to provide support for the Georgetown community. Among these programs are Bridges to Growth, an educational program for parents, Kid City, a summer program for youth who would otherwise not have a summer experience because of financial reasons, and Community in Partnership, which helps university students find human service job assignments.
Another instrumental program that was started by the Georgetown Project, but later passed onto the school district, is the After School Action Program, which SU students are involved with helping, said Director of Civic Engagement Suzy Pukys. The program meets at every middle school three days a week and provides an hour of tutorials and an hour of enrichment. “Students are always welcome to volunteer in any way, whether it’s being a tutor or bringing in something cool [to show the youth],” Pukys said. “It’s really meant to target kids who would go home to an empty house.”
Fundraising efforts are used to benefit the Georgetown Project and its various programs. A recently held bowl-a-thon was sponsored by the Georgetown Business Network in conjunction with Mel’s Bowling last Saturday. This Saturday morning, an Applebee’s Flapjack Fundraiser will specifically support Homeless Youth in Georgetown. Additionally, a variety show put on by the Brett Family from Branson, MO. will take place at Georgetown High School on Oct. 24. Tickets for the event are $10. The high school also features Eagle Locker, an ongoing project where homeless students can receive food, clothes, toiletries and other basic necessities. A new fundraising initiative that benefits Eagle Locker and the prospective Eagles’ Nest, a shelter for homeless youth, is Kicking for Kids. Through this initiative, people can pledge according the number of field goals and extra points that Georgetown-raised, Green Bay Packer Mason Crosby kicks.
The focus of the Georgetown Project remains always on the youth “I just love to see kids being successful,” Davenport said. Swain also shared that sentiment and added, “Southwestern sees this as one way that it can participate with making Georgetown a better place to live because this is our home.”