Holding her hand was her son, 2-year-old Bryson, who pulled her along toward their final destination, a giant “graduation bell” perched on a white five-foot wooden column covered in the signatures of graduates from prior years.
Styles, a senior at PLC, picked up her son and together they rang the bell, signifying her long hours of hard work had finally paid off. She then proudly added her name to the pole.
One special onlooker was an honored guest invited to witness the special procession. Georgia first lady Sandra Deal visited the PLC to get a first-hand look at the success of the CHaSYN program, which is funded by the Gover-nor’s Office for Children’s and Families Caring Community Grant.
CHaSYN, which stands for Creating Healthy and Strong Youth Now, addresses the physical and mental health needs of the PLC students and their families. CHaSYN also focuses on prevention and early intervention programs for alcohol, tobacco, other drug usage, and teen pregnancy.
The PLC is geared toward students at risk for dropping out and is centered on the success of students who are behind in credits, have attendance issues, are disenchanted with their home school, or are going through life changing experiences.
CHaSYN uses many of its services and resources to empower these students to stay in school and achieve in life.
“I’m so glad to see these young girls getting the counseling they need,” Deal said. “It gives these young parents the education they need and also gives their children a chance to succeed. They see how important it is to help their children learn to read and they understand how important education and job skills are.”
The first lady spoke with an English class and also visited the welding shop where she spoke with welding in-structor Jack Towns and a few of his students. Deal commented on how imperative skilled workers are to the com-munity and how valuable a trade can be for a young student.
“I loved seeing all the art work,” Deal said, regarding the unique welding projects by the students. “It’s such an unusual opportunity and aspect of their education. It transcends a regular education. Even though what they’re learning is just basic and primitive, it gives them somewhere to start, and it’s something they’ll always have to use on their own.”
Deal also had the opportunity to sit in on a “model” Parents As Teachers (PAT) “home visit.” PAT is a special program at PLC, whose basis is that parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers. PAT serves families, prenatal to five years, by using a holistic approach to parenting, which includes personal home visits, par-ent group connections, screenings and a resource network.
PAT educator Lorie Eaker spends time with each teen parent and their child to help give them a jumpstart in learning how their child develops physically and mentally. Each visit is personally customized to meet the needs of the individual parent and child. Eaker also coordinates parent and child outings to teach teen parents healthy ways to interact with their child in a public setting and to give them an outlet from the stress of trying to succeed in their dual roles. This school year, of the 16 PLC students in PAT, Eaker has celebrated five “ringing the bell” and expects to watch at least three more graduate by the end of this school year.
Deal said she was very pleased with the success of the program and glad to see it being utilized by so many stu-dents.
“It was good to see so many (over 120) students who are choosing an alternate route for their education,” she said. “For some students who are not able to function or don’t function well in the typical environment, this (PLC) gives them a great opportunity to succeed and not give up.”
For more information about the CHaSYN program or to learn how you can help, contact Suzanne Chovanec, pro-gram director, 706-861-2772; or write to 2 Barnhardt Circle, Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742; or email email@example.com.