Project Success gets $4.2 million in grants for after-school programs

Project Success gets $4.2 million in grants for after-school programs

DANVILLE — Project Success of Vermilion County celebrated its 20th anniversary recently by announcing two competitive grants, totaling $4.2 million, that allow it to continue providing after-school programming at two schools and expand to several more.

Executive Director Rickey Williams Jr. said the nonprofit organization will receive $450,000 a year over the next five years to run the 21st Century Community Learning Center program at Judith Giacoma Elementary in Westville and Pinecrest Elementary and reinstate the program at Mary Miller Junior High School in Georgetown.

It also will receive $390,000 a year over the next five years to expand the program to Oakwood's elementary, junior high school and high school.

"We're so thankful to have the opportunity to work with students in areas that we've been unable to serve before," Williams said, adding Project Success was one of 26 agencies in the state — and only one of three downstate — to win the federal funding, funneled through the Illinois State Board of Education.

The local organization officially incorporated on Aug. 20, 1998 with a Project Success grant from the state, and it's only one of two original Project Success-funded organizations still in operation.

In 2000, the agency launched the Teen REACH (Responsibility, Education, Achievement, Caring and Hope) initiative, funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services.

That program currently serves students at Hoopeston Area Middle School, Kenneth D. Bailey Academy in Danville and Westville Junior High.

Williams said the program will expand to Salt Fork Junior High, starting Sept. 24.

Also that year, it started its Christmas Wish program, which is supplemented by local donations.

In 2005, the organization received 21st Century grant funding to establish after-school programs at Georgetown and Westville high schools. A decade later, it expanded the program to North Ridge, South View and Laura Lee Fellowship Center in Danville.

Last year, the organization served more than 700 students and their families through its programs, Williams said.

He added the new funding will allow him to add six new full-time positions and about 40 part-time positions and allow the agency to serve another 350 students and their families.

"Project Success has had a positive impact on students all over Vermilion County, and we are honored to join this group," said Oakwood schools Superintendent Gary Lewis. "This will give our students another resource to use in their education. It will also allow our students to participate in projects that we aren't able to offer during the school day."

The after-school program provides homework assistance and tutoring, as well as a variety of enrichment programs.

"One of the programs I'm really excited about is our Character Counts, a national, research-based program that helps students learn to respect themselves and others and just to be better people," he said.

"We also offer everything from STEM experiments to cooking clubs. We have a cooking club at every one of our sites, and it's one of the most popular things we do. The kids absolutely love it."

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