LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Non-Traditional Instruction, poverty, and bullying on social media are just a few things students are facing as part of their educational journey today. They not only have a lot to learn, but they have a lot to overcome.
One program in Louisville has been helping students pursue high educational and career goals for more than 40 years. The YMCA Black Achievers program focuses on social skills and self-esteem while helping kids learn to make friends.
Lynn Johnson has been with that program for more than half of its existence.
“I’ve been there for 23 years,” Johnson boasted to WAVE 3 News. “We have a new person in my place.”
Under the direction of Johnson, the YMCA Black Achievers program expanded from just high school students to include youth achievers in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. The idea of starting students in the program earlier is also to be able to start their positive activities earlier.
“The young people, they were my inspiration,” Johnson proclaimed.
In 1979, Louisville embraced the format of the Black Achievers program out of Harlem. The program in WAVE Country is now the largest and longest-running program of its kind in the country.
“Learning leadership skills, social skills, etiquette,” Johnson said, “this program is for them. It’s for all students.”
Any students that are willing to work and learn are invited. If they are not able to pay the registration fee there are even programs that can help.
“It doesn’t matter what background you come from,” Johnson said. “What financial household you’re in. It doesn’t matter what nationality you’re in. It is for all young people.”
Volunteers in the program help youth raise their academic standards and develop a positive sense of self. Volunteers from businesses in WAVE Country help students learn about different careers that may hold some interest for them. The clusters include arts, business, communications, computers, education, engineering, health and medical, and law and government.
It’s also a time when students can make friends and find a little support.
“Sometimes we just need people to be there for a listening ear,” Johnson shared. “Young people want somebody to listen to them.”
Not only do young people get a listening ear from the mentors in the program but Black Achievers has given away over $23 million in scholarships during Johnson’s tenure.
“It’s always been one plus million that we have always given away in scholarships for students every year,” she boasted.
From spring break college tours, community service projects, leadership training, ACT workshops, career readiness, and more, Louisville’s Black Achievers is still going strong.
“Any child, any student that wants to be part of the program to improve themselves and get knowledge of college readiness this is the program for them,” Johnson said. “It’s for all students.”
Due to COVID-19, all program sessions this year are being held virtually. Black Achievers is not only looking for students, but they always need volunteers too. For more on the program, click here.