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Donations, participants sought for at-risk teen summer program

Eric Humphrey admits he made a few mistakes in his youth but he’s determined not to let the up and coming generation stray down the same wayward path he chose.

Humphrey, along with other leaders from his church, Christian Growth Cathedral located in Conyers, have reached out to the juvenile justice system, law enforcement and the school system in an effort to identify children at-risk who might benefit from a program, created by his church, called Project Warriors on the Rise, or Project W.O.R.

The aim of the nonprofit is to turn the lives of troubled children around by giving them the tools they need to successfully navigate the teen and young adults years. Special attention is given to developing acceptable behavior in the children.

Humphrey, a minister at Christian Growth, said he grew up in Indianapolis in a stable home but was “attracted to the streets and got myself into to some trouble.”

“As a result, it cost my family a lot and it cost me a lot, but I vowed if God blessed me with another chance, I could give back to the community; that was 20 years ago,” said Humphrey, a business consultant who holds a bachelor’s degree in business and theology and is attending Luther Rice Seminary in preparation to become a pastor.

“I’m a living example, living proof that if we can reach (the youth), we know we can save a good bit of them.”

To kick-start Project W.O.R., the church’s Son-Rise Outreach group is offering a summer mentoring program that is designed to accommodate youth who have either been in the penal system or who are on the verge of participating in behavior that could lead to criminal activity. The camp accepts boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 20.

“We’re trying to find some solution for troubled teens, predominantly,” said Humphrey.

Working alongside those youth will be adults and teen mentors.

The reason for the peer mentoring is to break down communication barriers that might exist between teens and adults.

“When you group them together, they may be able to have some conversation with teens that are struggling,” said Humphrey, who added that he has 11 teen mentors enrolled so far.

Humphrey said that the program is still open to both the mentors and the troubled teens. The goal is to have 100 campers, from Rockdale and surrounding counties including Newton, Henry and DeKalb.

Topics on the agenda for the camp include public speaking, critical thinking and self-identity, said Humphrey.

“We’re going to be focusing more on life skills and critical thinking,” said Humphrey, adding that he hopes to have the teens consider the behavior and actions that got them into trouble. “What we really want to work on is inward reasoning. Whatever you put your mind to is the path you can take.”

Humphrey said a lot of the children need improvements in presenting themselves in public.

“One of the things I’ve noticed is that a lot of these kids are clueless of the laws and how much trouble they face, and they don’t make it any better on the way they carry themselves and dress,” said Humphrey, himself a father of three sons. “When you stand before people, you have to stand straight and mean what you say.”

The hours of the summer pilot program for Project W.O.R. are 8 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with the program beginning the week of May 19 and running through June 19.

Humphrey said the summer effort is a pilot program for Project W.O.R., which should kick into high gear in August.

“From that, we’ll really be able to get a good feel of what we need to do when school starts,” he said.

Humphrey said the church made a concerted effort to bring together representatives from law enforcement, schools and the judicial system in both Rockdale and Newton counties to serve on the coalition to help create the program.

“There have been a lot of programs similar to this that have fizzled out, and we wanted to find out why that is and not allow it to happen to us,” said Humphrey.

The church is funding the bulk of the program, but is also looking for sponsors for the children to attend the camp. The cost is $300 to sponsor a child, he said.

The money will not only pay for the classes, but also for transportation, two meals a day and one field trip.

Humphrey said that although he is co-chairing the program, the genesis of the idea for it came from the senior pastor of his church, Dr. David Kenney.

“It’s his vision. We’re just executing it,” said Humphrey.

The program is faith-based but there won’t be any discussion of religion, unless a child requests it.

“Were not trying to gain new church members; it’s community-based,” said Humphrey, who added that he encourages other churches to become involved with Project W.O.R.

To register for the camp or to donate, call Eric Humphrey at 404-447-2143.