"If we can save one child from the streets, then it's worth it." - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

"If we can save one child from the streets, then it's worth it," says kids program director

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On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church in Columbia, kids from Kindergarten to 5th grade worship and get help with homework.

"I like coming here for tutoring and singing," said 7-year-old Tyrahn.

"I like to learn, I like praying and I like dances and songs," said 8-year-old Karmen.

Many of the kids come from the surrounding Gonzales Gardens complex, an area in need.

"I knew that first and foremost I wanted to give them hope because there's not a whole lot of hope in that community because they see their environment," said Prosperity Project Director Michelle James.

James says she had a calling to make a change.

"The Lord said this is where you are supposed to be," said James.

She says she's seen the worst behind some of the walls, but also the good.

"My students that are in my program come from really good homes, good families. Their parents want the best for them, but often times the community surrounding them and the environment surrounding them is challenging," said James.

Prosperity Project used to be run full-time out of an apartment in Gonzales Gardens. Last year they moved into a nearby church. The children are taken out of their environment for a just a few hours to be mentored and tutored.

"Programs have kind of come and gone and given up on some of these kids and I really feel like because we're constant and they know we love them because we're always there. That even when we have bad days and they have bad days, they come back," said James.

James partnered with pastor Rev. Anthony Dicks to move into his church.

"Sometimes it's the approach one takes that makes the difference and Michelle's approach has made a big difference," said Dicks.

A big difference indeed. Just ask the children.

"I think of her as my mother because this program would never be created if she hadn't done this for us," said 10-year-old Alexis.

James says she realizes she'll never have a 100 percent success rate, but it's a risk she's willing to take.

"But if we can save one child from living a life of minimum wage jobs, of always trying to make ends meet, if we can save one child from the streets, then it's worth it," said James.

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