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  • Writer's pictureLorna Reddicks

Changing Lives, One Student at a Time

After-School Opportunity Lab (A-SOL) programming is all about helping students understand that they can be business owners even at the ripe young age of 14. For our students, living around drug trafficking, the sounds of gunshots, and dealing with the violence in their neighborhood has kept their focus on surviving. A-SOL’s 4-week summer camp gave them the opportunity to be in a safe environment and take some time to dream bigger dreams.

When Summer Camp Started

Now, they didn’t start out all enthusiastic about being in a classroom environment in July while their peers were home playing video games and having parties. Telling 9th and 10th graders they are going to learn about social media, which they, of course, thought they already knew, was not appealing to them. But to Michael Sau’s credit, a volunteer who created our curriculum, he made learning fun by using videos, games, and quizzes that made learning not so dreary. Sure, we lost some students, but with those who stayed, the transformation had begun.

Lessons Learned

After our field trip to Dave and Buster’s at the end of the first week, the harder work began for our 9th and 10th graders. Besides learning the basics of marketing and developing social media content, other key lessons learned were:

  • Public speaking - each made a presentation about their proposed business

  • Professional appearance - from the handshake to the outfit

  • Teamwork - learning to accept the differences of others without ridicule or bullying

By the end of summer camp, some of the businesses the students had determined they could start were cake decorating, fitness training, a barber shop, and a make-up artist. On the closing day of our successful summer camp, the students received individually designed graduation gift bags that contained items to help them start those businesses.

More To Come

On the final day of summer camp, JJ, a 10th-grade student, said “When we were signing up, they said this was going to change my life.” It was a bold declaration, but one I was sure we could pull off. I am both happy and proud to say we did.

Next comes our after-school program in January, where our project topics include the abc’s of starting a business and risk management. I am looking forward to opening the eyes of even more students to the opportunities that are within their grasp. After all, that’s what After-School Opportunity Lab programming is all about.

Special thanks to our 9th and 10th-grade students, everyone at Watermark South Dallas, our Program Facilitators-Ezinne Duruaku, Corey Grant, and Kathy Nguyen; Village Hands and Hearts, Dave & Buster’s, Southside Chicken Wings and Grits, A-SOL’s Board of Directors and Austin Bowyer, my co-founder, and especially all of our donors that made our pilot summer camp possible.


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