Last year we were lucky enough to be introduced to All Walks of Life, Inc (AWOL), an organization that uses arts and technology education to expose at-risk youth to a new world of possibilities, while keeping them out of trouble during the hours they are most vulnerable.
There are many organizations out there that do a lot of good things, but AWOL has become a Paragon favorite, and I thought I’d give you a bit of background on why, before getting to the real point of this post, which is to ask you to help us, help them.
So I’ve already mentioned that arts and technology are the tools AWOL uses to engage youth, but more specifically, they mentor them through Theater and Performing Arts, Music Education, Film and Information Technology programs. The kids get a lot more than that however; they learn about self-expression, self-respect and develop self-confidence. And for some, they get their only decent meal of the day.
We can’t expect kids who grow up in tough neighborhoods with little or no family support, to stand up to peer pressure and negativity without these. We can’t expect them to become contributing, valuable members of our society if they never feel valued themselves.
That’s where AWOL comes in. And they really do change kids’ lives. Here is an example of what I mean:
Meet Craig: Craig’s life had been less than ideal, to say the least, when he entered AWOL’s programs in 2005. As a 19 year old, Craig was living and working in Midway, Ga. A high-school drop out at the time, Craig had spent nearly all of his adolescent life in a youth detention center leaving him little hope for a prosperous future if he had any hope at all. To make matters worse, when he left the YDC at the age of 17, his mother and father were absent, robbing him of a stable home life.
Then while at work one day, Craig heard a radio spot advertising auditions for AWOL’s first-ever Hip-Hop History Play, now called “Act Up.” With no acting experience, he was not sure what he might do for the audition but he decided to go anyway, in his work uniform. What would happen to Craig after becoming involved with AWOL would be life changing. On the last night of three sell out shows, after the curtain closed, Craig would express to his cast mates tearfully that “he had never experienced something this positive in his life.” Craig would also tell them, that they were lucky to have the family members that had come to see their performance because no one, absolutely no one, had come to see him perform.
AWOL would become Craig’s family for the next three years and it was through that positive mentorship that Craig would go on to complete his GED even after three failed attempts. He even met the Mayor of Savannah, Dr. Otis Johnson, and became enrolled as a student at Savannah State University.
Craig no longer attends SSU but decided to enter the workforce early at a local firm in an entry level Sales position. Craig’s attitude about life is positive and full of hope for the future. He also still goes by the AWOL office and events to offer support and encouragement to new youth.
Why I’m Telling This Story
Despite the incredible job AWOL is doing and the remarkable success they are having changing kids’ lives, 2010 is going to be a year during which the organization will unfortunately see a drastic cut (40%) in their already small $200,000 budget. The impact of this on the lives of kids who will no longer have access to AWOL program will undoubtedly be devastating.
So we want to do something to help.
What We’re Doing
We’re a small firm and by ourselves we can’t solve AWOL’s dilemma. What we can do is help make all of you aware of how important this organization is to our community and ask you to help. We’re looking for 2000 Savannahians to stand strong with us and support AWOL. If 2000 of us committed to giving $100 in 2010, AWOL’s entire operating budget would be met. That’s not a lot of people. We can do this.
We’re officially kicking off the 2K Strong Campaign this Sunday, December 6th at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar (42 MLK Jr. Blvd) from 6-9pm. Please come join us, meet the wonderful folks from AWOL and enjoy a yummy libation…
15% of the gross profits from the night’s sales will go to AWOL along with 100% of sales from a special adult drink, the 2KTini, and 2K cupcakes.
Oh…and just in case you need a little more encouragement…
4 Reasons You Should Support AWOL
1. Our kids really are our future. Every single kid has the potential to be an important builder, innovator, artist or leader in our community….but only if they know they can. It’s not enough to praise the kids who already have bright futures ahead of them. We’ve got to salvage the ones that are falling through the cracks due to difficult circumstances, poverty and neglect. Unless you have the ability to do this yourself, you should support the folks who will and are…AWOL.
2. Failure isn’t an option. It costs us taxpayers around $45,000 – $50,000 a year to keep a youth locked up. Many of the AWOL kids have already started down a path toward a lifetime of such incarcerations or are at-risk of falling prey to bad influences that often end in a similar fashion. Turning their lives around now is not just the morally responsible thing to do, but it will save us all a pretty penny in the future too!
3. A little goes a long way. With an estimated operating budget of only $200,000 for 2010, AWOL will be able to provide around 100 youth with over 5000 hours of arts and technology programs and positive mentorship. They will also get to go on educational trips and are even fed while at AWOL. That’s a lot for only a small amount of money.
4. Your donation will be tax deductible. In fact, when you donate through 2kstrong.org a tax receipt will be generated for you to print out right away. You can give in one lump sum of $100, or set up recurring donations of $25/quarter or $9/month.
Please take a few minutes to check out 2kstrong.org