Leaders of the new youth center on Columbia’s South Providence describe it as a safe place that provides a location for young people to study, do schoolwork and have incentives to play video games and ping pong.
The new P.E.A.C.E. and H.O.P.E center for youth is near South Providence and Ash. Program director Fuguana Haggard says each child is different.
“So we cannot have one program that’s going to be effective if we do not customize that program to fit the need of each child. So one child may come in and may need help with SAT’s, tutoring. So we want to be able to accommodate that child”,” Ms. Haggard says.
Ms. Haggard tells 939 the Eagle that the youth center is a safe space, with no tolerance for violence, bullying or threats. She says a chef will come in to help them learn to make meals. The center aims to teach life skills. Ms. Haggard says they’re critical.
“Some of our teens are parents. We can learn how to print a shirt, we can teach you how to do an LLC, teach you plumbing. You have means to take care of your family,” she says.
Ms. Haggard says children are the future, adding that the center will help mold that future in the right direction. The youth center opened on Thursday. Ms. Haggard grew up in North New Jersey and experienced trauma and bullying while growing up. She found success in an alternative school and has earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is working on her doctorate. Ms. Haggard tells 939 the Eagle she wants to give back to the young people and says the youth center’s primary focus is academics.
“Then if you’re struggling in the subject and you need help with that, guess what. That’s what we’re here for. If we have to go outside and get tutors, whatever we can do to help these children balloon, that’s what we’re going to do,” she says.
A 939 the Eagle reporter recently toured the facility with Ms. Haggard. Third ward councilman Roy Lovelady was there at the time, as was former mayoral candidate Tanya Heath, business leaders and community members. The facility also has a podcast room, a game room, therapy room and computers. Columbia’s city council voted in December to approve using $320,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money for the project.