Pencils are sharpened. Notebooks are open. Students are intently focused. Even though the school day has been over for a while.
“Power Hour” is just getting underway at Hardeeville Elementary.
“Power Hour involves providing a dedicated time for after-school homework help for our members,” explained James Dismond of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry in Jasper County, South Carolina.
This isn’t traditional tutoring. Power Hour is focused on creating an engaging homework partnership between Club volunteers and members to help students of every age become self-directed learners. Power Hour tutoring is also personalized, varying day by day and student by student.
“We connect with teachers to find out where our students need help most,” said Dismond.
The tutoring is incredibly important. But lessons at the Boys & Girls Clubs extend beyond science, math and reading. This is an experiential classroom that promotes members developing interpersonal skills and building relationships with adult volunteers – Club Professionals as they’re called.
It takes one positive adult to change the trajectory of a child’s life.
James Dismond, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry in Jasper County
Jimmie Lawrence is one of those Club Professionals. He mentors students during Power Hour. You’re also likely to see Lawrence setting up and tearing down tables for fundraisers like the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Hunt, Fish and Shoot event or attending a Jasper County Club Board meeting through his leadership role with the nonprofit.
“It brings me joy,” said Lawrence, a branch manager for Regions in Ridgeland, S.C. “This cause is really close to my heart.”
Lawrence’s energy is contagious.
“Jimmie high-fives every member,” said Dismond. “He kneels down when he talks with students to make the playing field equal for them. By doing this, Jimmie is conveying, ‘I hear what you’re saying, and you are important.’”
It’s a message that resonates with – and helps instill a greater sense of self-confidence in – the students. Just ask them.
“Because of Mr. Jimmie and the people at Boys and Girls Club, I know what it feels like to be safe and be loved,” said London, age 9.
“Mr. Jimmie and the board come into the Club and help us with building out of paper and all kinds of fun stuff,” added Jake, age 7.
Lawrence has been involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs since 2014. And while he’s actively volunteered the entire time, he’s played an especially important role in convincing others to join him lately as the organization works to significantly expand outreach.
“The need for our services has exploded,” said Lawrence, pointing out the local Clubs are at full capacity and have a waiting list of children. “Our rural areas face challenges of poverty and food deserts. There are single-parent homes with parents who may work two jobs to make ends meet and grandparents helping to raise their grandchildren.”
To address those needs and the wait list, Lawrence speaks with business leaders about how the Boys & Girls Clubs of Jasper County are more than an after-school resource. They’re crucial for the strength and vitality of the community.
“I want to share insights on how impactful the Clubs are in the community,” said Lawrence. “It’s about bringing something that’s on paper to life.”
Dismond agrees. “I’ve had members tell me the Club has taught them how to dream. They imagine what’s possible for their future. Jimmie is helping us share that message.”
Lawrence makes sure potential partners know the Clubs are about more than tutoring. There’s further education, such as the Clubs’ Passport to Manhood program addressing character and leadership for boys ages 5 to 13. The Clubs offer the SMART Girls program to foster health, fitness and self-esteem among its girl members.
The Clubs also ensure members have other important needs met by serving a hot, healthy dinner, nutritious snacks and creating a sense of connection – from a personal and technology perspective.
“Some of our members don’t have a computer or internet access at home,” said Lawrence. “We can tap into the network at school to help members complete their homework before they leave so they don’t have to visit a store on the way home to access Wi-Fi or leave the assignments incomplete because of lack of access.”
While the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry serves 2,800 children in 10 locations, the Hardeeville Elementary site is a pilot project that just launched in August of 2019 thanks to funding from a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. Dismond is grateful for Lawrence’s commitment to sharing the work of the Hardeeville Club with others in Jasper County in helping obtain the funding.
“It takes one positive adult to change the trajectory of a child’s life,” said Dismond. “Jimmie’s efforts have influenced a lot of programs. He’s helped us structure our ‘Money Matters’ program, collected backpacks and connected us to grant funders through the presentations he gives.”
Lawrence acknowledges he gets something out of this, too. The positive response from students when he visits Hardeeville ranks at the top of the list.
“When someone is that happy to see you enter a room, it makes me feel like a rock star,” said Lawrence.
It’s encouraged his own growth, too.
“I learn something new every time I come to the Club,” he said.
They call it Power Hour. But, really, the impact lasts far longer. Lawrence believes students will look back and see their time in the Clubs as a chance to reach higher and build a brighter future.
“I’m grateful Regions gives me a platform to do this. You never realize the impact you’re making by just being around.”