Gainesville Daily Register
By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Project Turning Point’s (PTP) annual back-to-school rally for the community will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Aug. 24 at Leonard Park.
The event is designed to refocus students on the promises of a new and exciting school year and to reaffirm and nurture good habits in children from kindergarten through high school. Bounce houses for fun, lunches and some school supplies for the first 200 students attending will be handed out.
The nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization utilizes a volunteer base consisting of area volunteers and local churches to meet the social and spiritual needs of youth and their families. PTP Director Maggie Sykes modeled the program after one initiated by Dr. Tony Evans of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas known as Project Turn Around. Evan’s program has been endorsed by President George Bush and many educators in Dallas.
Sykes trained under the direction of Evans and introduced the program to Gainesville in 2007.
“Dr. Evans program in Dallas has mentored over 4,000 kids in the Dallas area and we wanted to bring that inspiration to Gainesville,” she said.
Sykes reaffirmed that the organization is not there to replace parents but that many of the kids mentored may come from a single parent home. Each child in the program meets once a week with mentors who make a positive difference in the child’s life while giving encouragement, direction, guidance and support.
The goal of the organization is to model and teach such attitudes as stay-in-school, no drugs, no alcohol, no violence, no gangs, sexual abstinence and family involvement.
“We accomplish this task primarily through the interaction of our mentors with their designated kids at the local schools for 30 minutes each week,” she continued. “A little time goes a long way in a child’s life.”
Sykes said that for stability, the program attempts to keep the same mentor with each child throughout the school year if not longer. A relationship of trust and knowledge is developed between both the student and the mentor.
At the end of this past school year, 46 kids were involved in the program. Sykes said that it would be great if more men would volunteer.
“We have 9 boys between grades 4-6 that we need men to mentor,” she said. “We have 21 boys total that need male mentors, but meeting at least the needs of the kids grades 4-6 is our goal this year. And we do like to have men with our boys in these grades.”
Currently the program has kids primarily from the Gainesville and Callisburg school district with three students also from Valley View.
Current PTP board of directors include: Reynolds Ansley, Rey Lizalde, Judy Beard, Jeanie Kelley, Andrea Luster, Kelly Stogner, Jeremy Morgan, Sam Samuel and Wayne Shearer
PTP is looking for willing Christian volunteers to be mentors. Training will be provided. Those interested in the mentoring program can fill out an application online at www.projectturningpoint.org or e-mail Maggie Sykes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students who wish to enroll in the program are also encouraged to apply.