Rare opportunity

Published 1:59 am Friday, January 9, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The Multicultural Involvement Council will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its unique program called Project Fresh Start, which caters to students who have been expelled from area schools.
The program which offers a chance for expelled students to do something productive, will have its celebration on Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. at Michiana Christian Embassy.
Charlie McAfee, vice-chair of the Multicultural Involvement Council and one of the founders of Fresh Start, said "We offer a rare opportunity for these kids to do something good rather than sit at home and do nothing."
Fresh Start is a collaborative effort between the Multicultural Involvement Council and Niles Community Schools.
The Multicultural Involvement Council was formed in 1993 as a result of the Friends of Niles Initiative. Their purpose is to focus on and improve community growth and development.
The following year, the council created the Fresh Start program to help expelled students to return to the regular school program as productive, well-behaved individuals.
Burt Stitt, the facilitator for the Friends Of Niles Initiative, will be the guest speaker at the anniversary celebration.
The evening will feature a short recognition program with an open house to follow. Refreshments will be served and all members of the public are encouraged to attend.
In its brief ten year history, the program has served more than 200 students in the area.
McAfee said most of the students who return to school go on to graduate from high school.
She said one of the main reasons the program was set up was to provide a positive outlet for these kids in troubling times.
The non-profit organization functions much like a normal school by offering instruction in subjects like English, math, history and science.
In addition to providing education and support, the program also has regular roundtable discussions in which they talk about what happened and
how you can change it.
The program is currently serving 14 students from Niles, Brandywine and Buchanan schools.
McAfee said many of the current students will be going back into the school system when the new semester starts in late January.
The amount of time the students are kept out of school depends on the offense.
McAfee said serious offenses like bringing a weapon to school can keep kids out of school from six months to a year, while most offenses only keep them out for a semester or two.
The program has a staff of five to help with the three different classes of elementary, middle school and high school students.
It is McAfee's greatest hope that the students will realize their full potential and go on to further their education.