Behind the Bricks

SouthTown muralThe dusty red bricks of Southtown’s community center have seen people come and go for decades. These old bricks are one of few constants in the housing community. Within the last nine years however, another constant emerged.

About Southtown

Located in the community center, the Southtown after school tutoring program runs every Monday through Thursday afternoon. It is open to elementary and middle school students in the housing community, with the goals of mentoring and tutoring these children.

Aside from tutoring, children participate in youth basketball and a dance team for girls.

Volunteer Doug Clapp and Red Mountain Church began the after school program nine years ago. Since then the program has been run by several different groups.

Non-profit organization T.R. McCOY currently operates the Southtown center as well as several centers for the Birmingham Housing Authority.

T.R. McCOY’s link to Southdown, Love Beverly, is a mother of two who grew up in the suburbs. She moved to Southtown nearly two years ago to run all of the programs at the community center.

“I started working here through volunteering,” Beverly said.

Beverly remains a stable figure at the center, but she insists that she is not the most important person involved. The most important person, or rather persons, are the children of the Southtown community.

For the Children

Volunteer Marshall Pollard said the center exists for the children; the programs would not last if not for them.

Pollard, a senior marketing major at Samford University, volunteers every Wednesday afternoon and ran the tutoring program for two years before Beverly took over. He said that in that time, attendance increased from 12 to 25 kids – an encouraging figure.

Samford students tutor children at a Southtown after-school program.
Samford students tutor children at Southtown.

To Pollard, the children at Southtown learn what it means to reach, to want more.

“Children have an idea of what it means to achieve,” Pollard said, “to be invested in for their sake.”

For many, this is the only time they receive help on their homework, and Beverly tries to make learning a fun experience.

When students come in for the afternoon, they sign in and then go to one of the small classrooms for tutoring.

For the students who do not have anything to work on, or those who finish their homework, Beverly generally sets up some type of learning game.

The kids break into teams and compete for small prizes. These games allow the children to show their skills in topics such as spelling or math. Beverly also tries to involve running, basketball or some other activity to get the kids moving.

Always Optimistic

There aren’t enough resources to go around at the community center, and there is never enough community support either. That does not stop volunteers from doing what they can.

“Thank God for students,” Beverly said, as the majority of the after school volunteers attend nearby Samford University or the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Despite the hardships, Beverly said that during her time at Southtown, she has seen definite improvements.

More and more children come to the center consistently, and Southtown is more stable than when Beverly started. She said that attendance in the younger kids has especially increased. The community center is now in the process of growing and finding new partners.

Children have fun on the Southtown playground.
Children have fun on the Southtown playground.

“We’re trying to help make the program grow,” Beverly said.

In the future, Beverly hopes to see further improvements such as more programs and athletics. She also wants to see more academic achievements.

“A big goal is to have every kid who comes here be on the A and B honor roll,” Beverly said. “That would be a great accomplishment.”

It’s small and it’s underfunded, but the Southtown tutoring program has a lot of hope and potential. People like Love Beverly and Marshall Pollard do what they can in the hopes of encouraging these children to reach for more, to set higher expectations.

The kids at Southtown are not just learning math and English; they are learning what it means to value themselves.