A program that is increasing Atlanta students’ academic performance will expand dramatically as a result of a $1.5 million gift from Wells Fargo, Mayor Kasim Reed has announced.

The gift, Wells Fargo’s largest single gift to any group in Atlanta, was presented to Mayor Reed today after he visited students at the Thomasville Center of Hope. There, Boys &Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta delivers programming and works closely with Thomasville Heights Elementary School across the street. The Metro Atlanta YMCA provides programming at the Adamsville center.

The programs are the models for after-school education for the city’s other recreation centers. Both centers are emphasizing not just academics but character-building, fitness, and service to the surrounding community.

“Wells Fargo’s generous commitment of $1.5 million strengthens our efforts to positively impact the lives of deserving children and families in neighborhoods across Atlanta,” Mayor Reed said. “We know that kids need safe, structured learning environments, and the Centers of Hope initiative has been making a tangible difference in the lives of young people at these two centers. Through after-school and enrichment programs supported by vital business partners such as Wells Fargo, we will be able to help transform young boys and girls into strong men and women.”

Last year, following the reopening of 16 recreation centers and seven pools in the first year of his administration, Mayor Reed launched the two Centers of Hope pilot programs with the aim of expanding the programming to other recreation centers. The two centers had less than 100 youth participating at the start of the pilot programs, and now serve more than 350 young people a week.

The donation from Wells Fargo comes on top of nearly $2 million in private funding raised previously, including an initial $100,000 gift from the company.

Thomasville Heights Principal Cynthia Jewell noted that many of her students are disadvantaged, and the federal penitentiary is just down the road. “The Thomasville center is a beacon of light where there is so much darkness around us,” she said. “The kids love going there and we are definitely seeing academic gains.”

The school’s teachers share assessment tests of students and lesson plans so Boys &Girls Club tutors and program staff can focus precisely on the needs of the 60 to 70 children who go to the center each afternoon. Total enrollment at the center is 180.Educators at the Thomasville and Adamsville Centers of Hope, working closely with those at nearby public schools, are reporting solid improvement as a result of after-school programming.

Photo: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed watches as 9-year-old Trey Boykin plays a computer learning game at the Thomasville Center of Hope in Atlanta. Mike Donnelly, Atlanta regional president for Wells Fargo, presented a $1.5 million donation to Mayor Reed to expand education programs for the city’s Centers of Hope.Courtesy of Jay Lawrence, Wells Fargo.

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