Dwayne Walton, executive director of the Parkesburg Point, told members of the Octorara Area school board Monday that he was once the kind of student who got in trouble every single day.
"I forced teachers to become social workers," he said of his years in New York City schools. "I forced teachers to become baby sitters."
One of 11 children growing up in a cramped basement apartment - before eventually becoming homeless, Walton said the problems his family faced are the same as some Octorara students are now encountering.
Walton said the problems these kids are dealing with are so complicated they need a lot of helping hands, and that's exactly what the Parkesburg Point is trying to provide.
The community organization, made up of more than 120 volunteers from 13 churches, local businesses and Octorara schools, offers an after-school haven for students.
Through the program, students 10 to 18 can get homework help, participate in recreational activities, volunteer and find employment opportunities.
"The Point is an example of a shining star working with families and students," Walton said.
He also added that more support from the school district and community is always appreciated.
"The solution should not be on one entity," said Walton. "Imagine what we can do if we get together. I want to invite everyone to the table to work with these kids."
Walton shared with the board the newest way the nonprofit group will be reaching out to at-risk students. The Point will celebrate its 10th anniversary by opening a new facility.
The board of directors recently purchased the vacant building at 700 Main Street that housed Charlie's Thriftway for $951,000. Walton said the group raised funds through donations and contributions from businesses that used the Neighborhood Assistance Program tax incentive.
Plans for the spacious property include a basketball court, fine arts center, homework laboratory, cafe, indoor skate park, kitchen, recreation area, girls center and an on-site dormitory for mission groups. Walton estimates the renovation to cost about $1.4 million.
Walton told the school board the group would like to have the center completed by January, but will most likely open next summer. He said the Point is raising money for the renovation project while continuing to look after the spiritual, academic, recreational and emotional needs of young people.
The Point is open from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays, and from 4:30 to 7:45 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. There are presently two full-time and three part-time staff members. Walton said 60 to 70 young people are there during the winter, and about 30 show up during the summer.
There are many activities, including chaperoned skateboarding, Bible studies, cooking lessons and tutoring, offered at the facility. Some Point members have been working on a local farm this summer and participated in a mission trip to Haiti.
Adam Straubel, director of development for the Point, said the group has partnered with the Khan Academy to provide more academic opportunities.
With more than 3,300 educational videos on everything from arithmetic to physics, finance and history, staff members are encouraging students to spend one hour a week learning about a topic.
Members of the Point's board of directors are local church and business leaders: Joe Fisher, Dan Hershey, Kurt Hershey, Parmelle Hershey, Bob Hunter, Nelson Nafziger, Dr. Thomas Newcome, Walton, Ron Bare, Aldus Wertz and Caleb Wilde. The board is currently looking for volunteers with construction expertise.
This Sunday, Aug. 19, the Point will host a bookbag drive and pig roast from 4:15 to 6 p.m. at its present location, 356 Main St.
At the drive, volunteers will also present laptops to graduating seniors, gift cards to honor roll students and school supplies to Point members.
Walton said five students from the Point are now attending Eastern University with scholarships provided by te organization. The scholarships helped to reduce tuition costs by 50 percent.
Parents may request a bookbag for their child by calling (610) 857-3393.