Milwaukee -- When Charlie Drake's father was in the service during World War II, parishioners from the family's church helped Charlie with his homework.
Today, Drake is the one helping kids with their homework.
Drake, 78, a Whitefish Bay resident, helped start Our Next Generation's Homework Club 18 years ago.
"I was just concerned about what I read in the papers -- poor education and violence, kids dropping out of high school," he said.
So Drake attended St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Milwaukee's central city and, along with some other parishioners, decided "to help the kids who were going to this church get through school and get a job."
And so began the Homework Club.
The success of the after-school tutoring and mentoring program still surprises Drake. "I was flying blind," he admits. But he felt compelled to try. "I had a need to pay back. I was about 60 at the time. My career was in good shape. I looked around and said, 'There are a lot of kids hurting.'"
Poverty in the surrounding neighborhood is widespread, and many families don't have medical care. “It's given me an understanding of what goes on in the inner city,” Drake said. "The violence pervades everything. One violent act ripples through the whole community.”
In 2005, Drake was instrumental in developing Our Next Generation’s newest pathway to academic and personal success: High School Connections. This program helps middle and high school students gain the skills, mind-set and ability to navigate complex systems to attain higher education, personal success and family-sustaining jobs. The program has a nearly 100% graduation rate among seniors.
Drake’s commitment to Our Next Generation goes far beyond supporting its programs. As an advocate for change, he actively pursues adult role models to engage children in academic success and personal development. By himself, Drake has recruited about 100 volunteers to work one-on-one with students, the equivalent of more than $1 million in volunteer support.
“The students are appreciative of the time and attention their tutors give them, and they get that at Our Next Generation. And they get the idea that they're worth something," Drake said.
Just as Charlie Drake’s homework experience has come full circle, so has Our Next Generation.
In November 2010, Our Next Generation acquired the former St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church at 3421 W. Lisbon Ave. in Milwaukee. The acquisition will allow the group to continue to offer educational programs targeted at community youth from its current central location.
Our Next Generation Inc. is a nonprofit, community-based organization providing academic mentoring and associated support programs for urban youth. Our Next Generation serves nearly 600 neighborhood children from 25 schools and is supported by hundreds of volunteers providing hundreds of hours of time annually.
Our Next Generation is working to build an effective team of parents, teachers, staff and volunteers through one-on-one relationships. To become instrumental in the continued success of this organization, please contact Our Next Generation.
For more information, contact Robert Dunn at (414) 344-2111 or visit www.ongkids.org
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