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Orlando Alphas Give Head Start To Community Youth

 

BY JALESSA NEAL, TIMES STAFF WRITER
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Photo Cutline: Images from the books and supplies donation event. Photos provided by the Delta Xi Lambda chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

ORLANDO - Members of the Orlando alumni chapter (Delta Xi Lambda) of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. presented books and school supplies to children at the Dr. J.B Callahan Neighborhood Center, last week. The donations are part of the fraternity’s Head Start to Literacy initiative.

The initiative is a joint effort between the fraternity’s non-profit arm, the Hankins Johnson Educational Foundation, and the Orlando Alphas. After discussions between leadership members they decided that they wanted to focus on assisting younger children in the community- three to five year olds.

“We, like many other organizations, have programs to help our youth but we noticed that we concentrated on the end of childhood so we wanted to change focus toward the beginning of childhood,” said Tye Gee, chairperson for the Head Start to Literacy initiative with the Delta Xi Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. “[It’s important to make] sure that our little ones start out their academic journey on good footing.”

The Hankins Johnson Educational Foundation paid for over 90 books and 48 flash cards sets. Meanwhile, members of the fraternity and their families participated in the donation process. Because this was a pilot version of the program, they did not seek out assistance from the public.

Once the goods were collected, they were presented to the Callahan center. This generosity helped supply materials for nearly 50 kids in program.

“We ended up getting an additional 66 new books and we got an incredible amount of other supplies,” said Gee. “The Callahan Center gave us a list of supplies that they really needed, and we ended up collecting over 7,000 sheets of printer paper, 3,000 sheets of construction paper, notebooks, dry erase markers, and more.”

The initiative has five main goals: 1. Promote daily reading 2. Enhance writing skills 3. Establish critical and creative thinking skills 4. Develop social skills 5. Kindergarten preparedness.

The Orlando Alphas are also applying for funding to establish Early Childhood Library Centers at other sites that directly impact the children in the Orlando community. For facilities that already have libraries, they want to enhance them. For other head start facilities that don’t have proper libraries they want to help create them via book and supply donations, as well as volunteer work. Because of their previous relationship with the Callahan center, they chose that location for the pilot program of the Head Start to Literacy Initiative.

Since its founding on December 4, 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has supplied voice and vision to the struggle of African Americans and people of color around the world.
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As the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans, it was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York by seven college men who recognized the need for a strong bond of Brotherhood among African descendants in this country.

During the months of August, September, and October 1953, twelve Alpha men met at the office of Brother I.S. Hankins, with the idea of chartering an Alpha chapter in Orlando, Florida. On Thursday, December 22, 1953, 9:00 P.M. at the home of Brother George P. Schanck, the officers elected at the November meeting were installed and the designated title of the Chapter was received. Christopher Polke serves as the current president of the Delta Xi Lambda chapter.

“First of all, giving back helps the young people improve and get ready for their academic journey. Also, I look at head start and preschool teachers as unsung heroes,” said Gee. “Our children are our country’s greatest asset and [these teachers] help us to build our future and that future starts early on, that's why it's important to touch them early on.”

For more information on the initiative or to donate visit http://ishankins.org/