ST. PETERSBURG — Since the opening of the renovated NAACP computer lab, the goal has been to include an after-school program for middle school students that provided both computer and academic tutorials.
Now, almost a year later, a lack of volunteers has kept these programs from being implemented.
Myron Mills, chairman of Eta Rho Educational Services, the nonprofit organization of the St. Petersburg Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, applied for a $25,000 UPS grant after learning about it from an aide in Sen. Bill Nelson's office.
The grant was awarded to the NAACP on 16th Street S to upgrade the computer lab where GED classes are currently held.
Renovations for the Midtown Technology Center, at 1501 16th St. S, included new carpet, removal of wall air-conditioning units for a central AC system, a new electrical system to run the new AC system effectively, and new paint on the walls, said Terry W. Cox, third vice president of the NAACP. All of this needed to be completed before computer equipment could be brought in.
Now, $25,000 and almost a year later, the NAACP is still searching for volunteers to get the after-school programs off the ground.
The NAACP's educational committee is looking for individuals to coordinate both the computer and academic tutorials. Cox said the computer tutorial program is set to begin April 1, but the academic component is a lot more difficult to implement; the program has to coordinate with what students are learning in the Pinellas County school system.
We "had a couple of false starts," Cox said. "Some teachers volunteered to incorporate their after- school programs into the NAACP lab, but the initiatives fell through."
The NAACP called on the Pinellas County School Board directly in hopes of getting a teacher to assist with the program, which aims to close the achievement gap in the Midtown area.
Cox said the School Board has not replied to that invitation, but has donated desks, chairs and other classroom furniture.
When the after-school program gets under way, the computer lab will be available Monday through Friday after 3 p.m. and until the last student leaves.
Cox thinks the volunteer shortage comes down to the struggling economy.
"I think the economy has really hurt our ability. People who would normally volunteer are probably trying to get a second job and get money instead of actually volunteering. People are trying to do things that will bring in income … This economy has kind of dampened people's ability to volunteer their time."
Despite the setbacks, Cox says the NAACP refuses to call it quits on the tutorial programs. "We are not giving up."
Erica Hampton is a reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau, a program of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.