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Tampa church sustains successful youth program

For nearly 30 years, a program designed to inspire and instill positive values in youth has thrived at New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa.

Saving Our Children, a ministry founded in 1988 by deacon Clarence Fort, teaches children and teens life skills ranging from public speaking to budgeting and cooking.

In 2015, 70 youth participated in the program, with about 80 percent coming from the New Mount Zion congregation.

"The ministry strengthens values by encouraging self-confidence, bolstering (youth) willingness to achieve academically and reinforcing their resistance to negative peer pressure," said volunteer Rick Banks.

Banks said Saving Our Children reports 99 percent of its participants as being promoted to their next grade level in school and avoiding problems with faculty or law enforcement. The ministry has seen all participating high school seniors go on to either college, trade school or a military career.

"This ministry has verifiable successes via its former graduates," Banks said. "We have an absolutely outstanding staff of dedicated volunteers, including retired educators and others who have dealt with children successfully."

Saving Our Children begins its 2016-2017 year Saturday. Youth meet at the church at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays throughout the year and new participants are accepted each week. At the first meeting, a parent or guardian must also attend to fill out paper work. Contact the church before attending in case the group has a field trip planned.

In addition to the youth ministry, New Mount Zion, 2511 E Columbus Drive, also offers a Golden Gems Ministry for Senior Citizens, a clothes closet and a food pantry. On Oct. 16, the church, led by the Rev. Larry Roundtree II, celebrates 114 years.

For more information, visit newmtzion-tampa.com/index.php.

Contact Sarah Whitman at sarahrothwhitman@gmail.com.

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