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AT&T donates 30 laptops to after-school program, inspires additional City funding

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Drive-To-Thrive laptop donation
Photo by Kelley Branch
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It takes a village

Drive-To-Thrive is a nonprofit youth mentoring program created to support at-risk youth who are struggling academically or behaviorally. The fledgling program is currently in its second term and has grown from just two students to more than 16.

Drive-To-Thrive
Drive-To-Thrive sponsored several field trips for students over summer break (photo courtesy of Fateca Grant).

“I truly did not know we would be here in this stage of our program where we have literally quadrupled in the number of children that we are supporting in addition to having the manpower to successfully implement our services fully and effectively but here we are; we are doing just that,” said executive director Fateca Grant.

Grant said she took a step back from teaching in the school district and felt moved to launch this program after focusing on her own spiritual growth. Grant has dedicated her life to uplifting children, and when she met her counterpart, Ernest Galloway, all the pieces began to fall into place.

Galloway is a humble man who has worked with underprivileged youth in Vicksburg for decades, mainly through sports. Galloway and Grant both say they feel that God brought them together to create a powerhouse of opportunity for kids who struggle academically or have a challenging home life.

“We want to help these kids succeed, and that obviously includes academics, but it is so much more than that,” Grant said. “I make a point to ensure that every one of my kids knows that they are loved, that they have support for whatever it is they may be going through or having a hard time with and that at the end of the day, no matter what, we care. We care.”

Drive-To-Thrive
VPD officers visited Drive-To-Thrive and spoke to students about civic duty (photo courtesy of Fateca Grant).

With Grant’s educational background and Galloway’s experience in working with legislators and business leaders, along with their shared belief that early intervention and support can change lives for future generations, the pair have created a program that meets needs of all types: academic, spiritual, social, physical and mental.

Grant says the growth and success of the program is largely due to collaborations, partnerships and support from community leaders and businesses who believe in the Drive-To-Thrive mission to cultivate a brighter future for our youth. The Warren County Board of Supervisors awarded a $4,000 grant and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen awarded another $2,500. The Salvation Army has been a huge proponent of the program, lending the use of their facility two days each week as well as access to their van to help with transportation. United Way of West Central Mississippi donated materials for reading proficiency and Americorps NCCC has provided a team of young, enthusiastic mentors and tutors.

Together, all rallied around a common cause, they’ve made a real impact on the students in the program. Galloway and Grant say that some students progressed an entire grade level in their reading proficiency since joining Drive-To-Thrive.

The digital divide

The latest support for Drive-To-Thrive comes from AT&T and Human I-T, who graciously donated 30 laptops to the program.

“Now, we can tap into the virtual learning programs that students are using in the schools and integrate that into our after-school program,” Galloway said.

“This is huge,” Grant said. “Not every student has a computer with internet at home. When your homework is online, it is critical to have access. To be able to help our kids and give them the support that they need academically, this is just absolutely monumental.”

Drive-To-Thrive
Michael Walker, AT&T Mississippi Director, shows the new Dell laptops donated to Drive-To-Thrive (photo by Kelley Branch).

“We are continually working to help close the digital divide by expanding our fiber footprint and delivering ultra-fast internet that keeps residents and businesses connected,” said Mike Walker, director of AT&T Mississippi. “We are committed to investing in the modern, high-speed network infrastructure necessary in today’s economy, and we are also committed to supporting community organizations like Drive-To-Thrive that are helping strengthen our communities and working to close the digital divide.”

“While access to high-speed services has expanded greatly in recent years, there are many barriers to subscription to these services and it is very encouraging to see AT&T and the private sector continue their work to remove those barriers and to support our young people and the efforts of Drive-To-Thrive,” said Mayor George Flaggs, Jr.

Mayor Flaggs told Earnest Galloway and everyone present about his commitment to education (photo by Kelley Branch).

Mayor Flaggs was so inspired by the program’s success and the community support that he pledged an additional $2,500 grant from the City of Vicksburg at the ceremony.

“That’s what this is all about, us calling on each other so that we can invest in our children,” Mayor Flaggs said. “We are going to be better than any other city and you know why? Because we are going to invest in our children, invest in our future. He has invested by donating these computers, and I want to give you $2,500 more dollars so that you can connect these computers to the internet and be able to do what you need to do. Let me tell you, having a father that couldn’t read or write…I will always be committed to education.”

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