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YMCA hires local to head state finance

COVINGTON - A local lawyer has just been named a finance chair for the State YMCA of Georgia and is heading up an effort to bring the organization's Y Clubs back to the Newton County School System.

W. Gregory Pope of Covington will lead the Newton County finance drive to support the State YMCA programs in middle and high schools, known as Hi-Y, Tri-Hi-Y and Co-ed Y Clubs.

The clubs are leadership development, service-oriented and faith-based school organizations for sixth- through 12th-graders. The clubs conduct monthly school and community service projects and participate in a variety of conferences geared toward government education and developing Christian character.

Pope, a practicing attorney and former part-time Newton County magistrate judge, is a product of Y Clubs and said he wants to see other local students benefit from them as well.

The Y Clubs were a successful part of the Newton County School System for years but faded several years ago when it became difficult to find enough adult volunteers and generate parental involvement, according to Lee Aldridge, a former Y Club adviser.

Aldridge said the county had "a very winning" Y Club, often taking first prize in debates.

"Newton County has a long, proud history and a lot of accomplishments. We've had very strong Y Clubs through the years," said Pope, adding that his own experience in Y Clubs in junior and high school had a profound effect on his career choice.

"It gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the state and to do things I otherwise never would have had the opportunity to do," he said. "It gave me a much broader appreciation for local government and a respect for government and allowed me to hone my leadership skills."

Pope is on a personal mission to bring back Y Clubs to the local school system and said he has been in discussions with school officials. The school system's administrative offices were closed Tuesday and representatives could not be reached for comment.

"Y Clubs provide leadership opportunities you can't replicate in the classroom," Pope said, citing in particular the Youth Leadership program in which students hold mock assemblies at the state House and Senate and debate bills already passed by the General Assembly.

The State YMCA of Georgia Inc. was chartered in 1929 to develop leadership skills and a sense of moral and civic responsibility in middle and high school students. The nonprofit organization is dependent upon donations to continue its programs. To learn more about the organization, visit www.yclub.org or call 770-455-9622.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.