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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Ivy AKAdemy Continues at the Fruitland Community Center

SALISBURY, MD---Alexis Dashield's involvement with the Fruitland Community Center began in the mid-1980s when she was informed that her son, Julian, would fail first grade or be placed in a transitional class due to low grades in the Wicomico County Public School System. She was aware of the "tracking" of children in this area and concerned that tracking could cause her son not to reach his full potential.

In five months, volunteers Mary Gladys Jones and Mary B. Pinkett at the center's Saturday free tutoring program helped Julian catch up with his classmates. Today, he is a fourth-year engineering student at Morgan State University and his mother is president of the Fruitland Community Center Inc.

The center’s tutorial program was founded in 1985 when Jones, a retired Wicomico County school teacher, asked the Community Center Board if she could turn a vacant room at the former 1912 school building into a classroom and volunteer to help area children with homework. Pinkett, a retired educator and Fruitland native who attended school at the center, asked if she could help. The two volunteered there on Saturday mornings during the school year, tutoring area children. Pinkett remained for 16 years and Jones continues today. Pinkett also served as a member of the Salisbury City Council during her time.

When not working at Salisbury University's Copy Center or spending time with her family, Dashield is usually at the center, planning activities or working to gain more program funding with John Fields, chair of the center's board of directors and assistant vice president of student affairs at SU.

"I see my son in the children who come to the center," Dashield said, explaining why she remains passionate about the program 16 years after her introduction. Since 1985, the Fruitland Community Center Ivy AKAdemy has included children from ages 4-17. Currently funded by a grant from the Wicomico Partnership for Families and Children, the Local Management Board for Wicomico County, with funding from the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families, the center focuses on students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

The center is open 4-6:30 p.m. on school days. Hours vary in the summer. The programs are free. Volunteers must have background checks, which the center does not fund. Teachers and law enforcement officials are preferred. To volunteer or for more information call Tanisha Armstrong or Angela Cadejuste at 410-341-6225 or Dashield at 410-749-5526.


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