Auburn Family

Auburn University is home to Project Uplift, an organization that actively works to encourage children to see a brighter future for themselves.

Since it’s creation in 1973, Project Uplift has worked to reduce and prevent juvenile delinquency in Lee County. The program, a unit of the Lee County Youth Development Center, Inc., is an agency that uses a one-on-one volunteer mentoring program.

One of the main goals of the program is to build children’s self-esteem. Mentors spend three hours per week with their child. Activities include going to the local parks, bowling, skating or attending Auburn sporting events like gymnastics meets or baseball games.

Most businesses even offer discounts for children in the program. The university student only has to pay for his/her ticket and the child receives admission free.

Auburn University junior Alexa Womack attended her first Project Uplift training session Monday, April 27, 2015. Womack said she was shocked to find out about the situations that the children in the program faced.

“Some of these children don’t have parents at all,” Womack said. “Because their parents are in prison. Some are the only survivors of families that have been shot to death.”

Womack said the children usually begin to fall behind in school because they don’t always have a stable home environment. They begin to feel discouraged and act out in negative ways.

“That’s what the program is all about,” Womack said. “It’s about making a child believe that they are important; that they can rise above their circumstances and be whatever they want to be.”

Supports Services Manager Emily Walsh agrees that making a child feel loved is one of the most rewarding experiences. She explained how at the recent movie night event, where the children are served popcorn and snacks, one child was only able to stay for 30 minutes of the event.

“When he left, he told us it was the best 30 minutes of his life,” Walsh said. “And you knew he was telling the truth.”

Project Uplift proudly has 173 volunteers, but that’s not nearly enough for the amount of children on the wait list. Walsh explained that for every child, there must always be two mentors present.

Currently, there are 111 children on the waiting list, ready to be chosen by a loving mentor. Additionally, the office received 50 referrals (children who fit the criteria for acceptance into the mentor program) this week.

“It only takes three hours of your week to be a part of Project Uplift,” Walsh said.

Three hours per week could be the difference in a child’s future.

Upcoming training sessions for Project Uplift:
1. May 26, 2015 from 4-8 p.m.
2. June 14, 2015 from 3-7 p.m.
3. June 29, 2015 from 4-8 p.m.
4. July 13, 2015 from 4-8 p.m.

For more information about Project Uplift, visit their website here: Project Uplift.

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