Community Builder: Program provides safe haven for Midlands teens

Updated: Jan. 27, 2016 at 7:00 PM EST
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RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - After school in the cafeteria of Lower Richland High School, there is a group that meets that has served as a safe haven for students for the last 4 years.

"We meet every day and we talk about a bunch of different things like college preparation and life skills," said Jalen Conyers, a Lower Richland sophomore.

The group is called "Elevations"

"Elevations is a non-profit organization," D"Andrea Muldrow, who's participated in Elevations for the last 3 years, said. "It's a safe haven for teenagers after school, and we do a lot of community service."

It's the brain child of Charla Simons, who started the program in 2001 inside her home. Simons is a Lower Richland graduate and her students attended the school as well.

"There were a lot of neighborhood kids who didn't have anything to do in the afternoons, so they would be at my house with my children," Simons said. "So I decided to bring the girls inside and teach them how to cook while the boys were outside shooting basketball and playing sports."

Simons says Lower Richland's principal let her move the program on campus 4 years ago.

"It gave us a safe haven; a safe place where the students could come after school to get their homework done," Simons said. "We have mentors that come in to mentor them, we teach life skills, college prep, and career development."

Students say what Simons has done for them has had a lasting impact.

"She instills leadership in everybody because that's what she's teaching us to be, is to be leaders," Muldrow said.

It's why the students nominated Simons as a WIS and Mungo Homes Community Builder. Elevations and Simons will receive a $1,000 check from the Michael J. Mungo Foundation.

Elevations will be hosting a leadership empowerment conference for all teens on March 2.

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