New program promotes education in Baker County

Baker County community center provides outlet for children. / Jessica Fairley

Baker County officials are starting a program that give kids something to do after school. The old Baker County School has been turned into a community center where students can continue learning and entertain themselves.

Parents and mentors showed up to the event on Thursday hoping the students would be impressed with the opportunity before them.

The opening ceremony for the East Baker 21st Century Center began with those from the school's past showing up to motivate and give back. A recent graduate from Albany State University, who's from Baker County, says he refuses to let the youths in his community fail.

"I want to see them grow. I want to see them have the same opportunity that I was afforded from the great instruction," said Teacher O'Brian Arnett.

Some of the same teachers who educated Arnett will run the afterschool program. As they sat in the rally with the students, they realized the sacrifice they're making, giving up retirement to once again become mentors.

"It's not about us. It's about doing what's right and making sure that we're taking care of the future," said event organizer David Milliner.

The kids had the chance to sample what's being offered. On the table is everything from voice and music lessons, football, basketball, and even martial arts.

Karate students who were featured during the event say the sport helps them in school.

"It's kind of a good thing to know. When bullies try to pick on you, they run away because they know what you do," said karate student Nicholas Johnson.

He says the meditation also helps him stay focused in class. Onlookers stared in awe as the belted crew showed off their skills, but there was no need for the kids to be jealous because classes will be offered to any child who wants to participate. Although entertainment will be provided during the program, organizers say education remains the primary goal.

"We are re-teaching what the teachers are taking care of everyday during school time," said David Milliner.

He says the goal of the after school program is to build the total person.

The after school endeavor is a partnership between the Baker County School System and the east Baker Historical Society. It's being funded by a one million dollar grant to use over the next three years.