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Youth Angels

Youth Angels, The Kirkwood Reading Group [logo]
Logo by Rob J. Dunne

July 17, 2004

Dr. Daniel Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.H.
Morehouse School of Medicine
Professor & Chairman for the Dept. of Community Health
Associate Dean for Community Programs
720 Westview Drive, SW
Atlanta, GA 30310

Dear Dr. Blumenthal,

I am the daughter to Bob Dunne whom you recently met and who shared his wonderful artistic talent with you. My Dad said he spoke to you about my work with the youth of my neighborhood and that I should give you a call.

Shall I tell you a little bit about our efforts? I'd love to speak to you about all this, but perhaps we can begin our communication via email.

YOUTH AT RISK --

I live in a transitional neighborhood called Kirkwood (about 2 min. from Agnes Scott College) where the children run wild and attention to their well-being is minimal at best. One of my "children of the heart" (as I've grown to call them since knowing them over these past 4 years) cannot read. His name is Antoine, he's 16 years old and has recently dropped out of school. His younger sisters and brother are sorely neglected, as are most of the children in this neighborhood.

YOUTH ANGELS --

Some of the neighbors and I have gotten together to help these kids the best way we know how -- to teach them to read, if they can't; help them to read better if they already can; and ultimately to instill the "joy of reading" in all of them.

We call ourselves "Youth Angels" and began this group the first Tuesday in June. We meet every Tuesday at 7:30p and go till about 9p. We've divided the children as best we can into different reading level groups with an adult at the helm of each. At the moment we are 6 adults and about 10 children, but that number seems to grow each time we meet. New children show up at my doorstep every Tuesday and beg to be a part of The Kirkwood Reading Club.

KIRKWOOD BOOK CLUB --

The format we've set up is collect the children at 7:30p at my home. We have healthy food snacks from 7:30p to 7:45p and then if a Guest Speaker is available to come, that portion of the program takes places from 7:45p to 8p. We then have a full hour for pure reading from 8p to 9p. The children beg to keep reading when the 9 o'clock hour strikes. It's quite amazing to behold.

GUEST SPEAKERS --

I have a Core Group of adults interested in showing up every Tuesday to read with the children. Then I have another set of adults who are interested in the cause but can't devote all that time, so they've turned into our "Guest Speakers."

My first Speaker was Connie Mayberry, TV Anchor for CNN and who also teaches a Public Speaking Class at Perimeter College. She came and spoke to the children about The Library and how much fun that world is. We'll take a field trip at some point down the road, get them their library cards and introduce them to all that that world holds.

My next Guest Speaker was Sedric Ware from that amazing full gospel baptist church, "New Beginning" where Bishop Morton presides. I've brought the children to this church on occasion and each time it's been a marvelous experience. Sedric introduced them to The Bible, complete with visual aids, fun colored packages and a warm-hearted presentation that filled the children. You could see it and they all asked that he come again. He'll probably be back once a month.

Next, I have a jazz percussionist, Paul Vogler, who would like to show the kids how to read Dr. Seuss using percussion instruments (not just rap, but Blues, Jazz, etc.). Paul has created whole programs for kids using music and is quite busy now. I hope to snag him in the Fall to demonstrate the lyric components of Dr. Seuss. Later on, use the same demonstration techniques to introduce the children to Shakespeare.

GOING FORWARD --

I'm not interested in minimalizing the children or our efforts. We can expect these children to reach the level of excellence if we just pay attention to them. I don't only want them to read at their own level. I want them to win awards and scholarships to school. I want them to have better chances than their underprivileged backgrounds might afford them.

CHRISTIAN BASED --

Not that all in my group are Christians, but I intend on keeping this a Christian based organization. We are fighting very great evils to win a better life for these children -- drug houses around the corner that would just love to swoop these kids into their 'employ,' teenage pregnancy, illiteracy, neglect, etc., etc.

I believe it is of the utmost importance that we anchor ourselves (and teach the children to anchor themselves) to something powerful and loving, as only God is. We are not teaching religion but I encourage the children to embrace it.

IN CLOSING --

I'd love to speak more to you about all this. It's a grass roots organization at the moment, but there is such a need, it seems to be taking on a life of its own and I foresee incredible growth along the way.

Sincerely,
Catherine Dunne
404-377-1378
www.voicewithcatherine.com

cc: Sunni Williams
Chris Cutshaw
Colleen Dunne
Kristen Mansfield
Clay Lenhart

Guest Speakers --
Connie Mayberry
Sedric Ware
Paul Vogler


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