By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Non-Profit springs into Buford community
By Alex Le 
Staff Correspondent 

Path Project, a non-profit and community development organization who helps academically at-risk children in mobile home communities, will be launching their Buford addition to aid students in the mobile home of Countryside Village of Lake Lanier.  

path190Path Project centers around assisting students who live in highly populated Latino areas, and the program assists students from all grade levels who are at a literary/academic disadvantage. 

Right: Melinda and Jim Hollandsworth (right) with MacKenzie one of our staff members (left) and Sophia Abarca. Sophia just became the first person in her family to graduate high school this past May when she graduated from South Gwinnett. “She has been in our program since 6th grade and was a catalyst in us starting the path project in 2010 when she asked us - when are you guys going to leave? Churches always leave. That was the moment we decided to dig in and stay for the long haul”, said Jim Hollandsworth.

According to Path Project’s website, their mission is to have these students “find the right path in their lives” spiritually, academically, and socially. Their mission aims to bring these values into the student’s lives by helping them to “know and follow God's plan for their life, graduate from high school with a plan for their future, and become productive members of society who give back to their community.” 

Per path-project.org, only 57% of Latino students graduate high school. A common trend the non-profit has seen is that the graduation rates are lower in these communities due to a number of factors including “limited English spoken in homes (majority Mexican immigrants), a lack of basic academic skills by 3rd grade, parents who did not graduate high school, a majority of residents living below the poverty line, drug and alcohol abuse, gang activity and a lack of positive role models.”  

patha190Left: 3 of our students from Gwinnett Estates mobile home park serving as ball boys at a Grayson high soccer game. We partner with FCA Soccer to offer soccer programs in these mobile home parks.

According to the website as part of Path Project Children, teenagers, and families have the opportunity to participate in programs such as Mommy and Me, preschool, after school, literacy, mentoring, soccer, summer camp, career, and life skills.  

These programs are designed using research-based best practices and as such certified teachers and youth development specialists oversee the programs. These specialists serve alongside parents and volunteers who help children and teenagers in these communities “find the right path for their lives.” 

With the help of former Buford Academy second grade teacher Katie Hove, Path Project’s placement in Countryside is gaining fruition. 

Hove was introduced to Path Project by her father, Randy Redner, who is the Executive Director of The Community Foundation of Northeast Georgia. Hove and Jim Hollandsworth, Path Project Co-Founder and Executive Director, met at Countryside one day and discussed the need for Path Project in Buford. 

Through various conversations about the “passion for the community in Buford and these students, we decided that it would be an awesome opportunity to start a Path Project in Buford,” Hove said. 

Hove has not only been welcomed to the team, but is the “catalyst behind the Buford expansion,” Hollandsworth said. 

Hove taught at Buford Academy for five years, and spoke highly of the relationship between Buford Academy and Path Project.

patha440“The partnership between Path Project and the Buford City Schools is already going strong,” Hove said. “Just the amount of support we’re getting from the school system is really encouraging.” 

Hove added that the Buford City School System is “doing a phenomenal job and they serve these students all day and do a great job. This is just an extension of that where we can take it into their communities and do even more outside of the school day.” 

According to Hove, the main focus is on literacy and to ensure that the students can read on grade level. While students are at Path Project they will hopefully participate in games because they do recognize that the students are coming from a full day of school.

“Part of the exciting part of partnering with Buford is that if there is a student that is really struggling in math with a concept, those teachers can reach out to us and we will work with that student with what they are specifically struggling with,” Hove said. 

The incorporation of activities will also include writing and vocabulary as well. 

Hove said Path Project also structures in time to help the students with their homework because “we recognize these families that we’re working with want these kids to succeed and they do everything they can to help their students succeed, but sometimes they can’t always help with homework and whether that may be a language barrier, or a work schedule [conflict], they aren’t there to help with homework, so we want to make sure that homework is getting done, because that is a valuable expansion of what they learn at school.” 

Currently, Path Project will be launching their program in Countryside sometime in August. The projected launch is the weekend after Labor Day.  

To contact Path Project email info@path-project.org.