Hillcrest Enrichment Program

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Youth participants and counselors of Hillcrest Enrichment Program.

by Sarah Williams

The Hillcrest Enrichment Program has been in existence for approximately thirty years. It was founded and directed by Elder John R. Hayes, and early on was recognized as one of the nation’s best early intervention and prevention programs for families and communities. The program was established to provide cultural, educational, recreational, and motivational experiences. It deterred juvenile delinquency while helping to improve behavior and attitude, and it encouraged scholastic achievement that was essential to the development of high self-esteem.

Housed at Hillcrest Apartments, the program was and is an entity of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville, under its former Executive Director David Jones and current Executive Director Gene Bell.

The parts that made
up the whole ranged across the spectrum of activities for young people.
The High Steppin’ Majorettes and Drum Corps included girls and boys
ages 3 to 18. Young men ages 15 to 19 took part in the drug free
basketball program. Hillcrest Enrichment also provided computer
classes, open to both children and adults. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
for children ages 9 to 18 played an integral part in students’ daily
lives. And, of course, a tutoring program has always been an essential
feature of the Enrichment Program.

In past
years, a summer curriculum was also in place. To ensure year-round
activities, Asheville City Schools and the Housing Authority of the
City of Asheville offered facilities for the program at Asheville
Middle School, Hillcrest Apartments, and Lee Walker Heights.

Today
the Hillcrest Enrichment Program is still housed at Hillcrest
Apartments and is funded by the Asheville Housing Authority. Mrs.
Patricia Griffin is Community Activities Program Manager, and Mrs.
Lillian Butler is her Administrative Assistant. Mrs. Butler, who has
worked in the program for eleven years, is a true champion of its
causes.

“We are
able, as a community, to support children in academics and character
building,” says Mrs. Griffin. “As time passes and the community
continues to support the children, we will see great academic progress.”

She
readily outlines highlights of Hillcrest Enrichment that benefit the
community as well as the student participants. “[It] also gives the
residents of the development an opportunity for employment. Retired
teachers are part of our staff. This is a fantastic element of our
success. Twenty tutors from UNC-A will help us this year. This will
make the ratio approximately two students to one tutor. We will be
using the SRA program which will be of great help for our students in
grades one through three.”

She
continues, “Eric Howard, a social worker for Asheville City Schools,
will volunteer time after school to guide our students down the right
paths. Benny Lake’s organization, Upfront Management Sports, perhaps
will join us this school year. The possibility of his organization
joining us is in the planning stage right now. Should this materialize,
this will be a way of helping to keep young people off the streets
during the evening hours.”

The
Hillcrest Enrichment Program is successful because both staff and
volunteers are committed to the program. They have the dedication to
effectively guide and motivate students to be the best that they can be.

The
heart of the program at present is its homework assistance tutorial
component. Students are given assistance with homework and school
projects Monday through Thursday every week, while Fridays are set
aside for recreational or educational activities.

The
tutors are responsible for communicating with teachers regularly by
phone or by visits to the various schools, assisting students in the
successful completion of their homework, and communicating with parents
when necessary. The homework assistants are Karla Johnson, Cedric
Whiteside, Florence Green, Rochelle Clement, Bonita Jackson, and Tasha
Lyles. Most of the tutors are residents of Hillcrest.

Support
personnel are also key to the program’s success. Mrs. Ernestine Watts
helps with math, and Mrs. Sheila Dixon is the custodian. Mrs. Deborah
Johnson-Cannady, who serves as cook, comes in early to prepare a
healthy, tasty snack to be ready as soon as the students arrive.

Three
city schools – Isaac Dickson, Hall Fletcher, and Ira B. Jones – host
parent/student nights once a month on the grounds of Hillcrest
Apartments. parents and students work on hands-on, creative activities
in science, reading, and math.

A summer
program is also incorporated into today’s program. Staff members plan
activities that start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. Along with academics,
summer activities include swimming, bowling, music, dance, movies,
quilting, arts and crafts, and trips to places such as Fun Depot,
Carowinds, Waynesville Water Park, Dollywood, and the zoo.

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