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Going Back to Basics

After school program helps at-risk youth.

When Lanier Middle School guidance counselor Lawrence "Larry" Lindsay was working at Herndon Middle School years ago, he wanted to help students who were potential dropouts. He felt that if there were an after school program for them, it would help them stay out of trouble.

So in 1997, Lindsay started a nonprofit to help students achieve academically by building up their self-confidence. Now in its fifth year, Lindsay hopes to develop the program so more students can participate.

"We live in Fairfax County where you've got the best of the best, but you've also got that number who needs that extra support," said the 20-year Army veteran.

Lindsay's program, Lindsay's Back-to-Basics Youth Education Center, currently provides one-on-one tutoring to seven students from Lanier Middle. Housed at Mott Community Center on 12111 Braddock Road, the program also lets students participate in the community center's programs for karate and drug awareness.

We try "to provide them with a scaffolding of techniques and strategies to deal with academics day-to-day as well as [their] personal life," said Reyshaun Costley, a volunteer with the center and mathematics teacher at Lanier Middle.

Although participants represent various economic and social backgrounds, Costley said that all students are at-risk academically. By tutoring and mentoring them, students build the self-confidence they need to succeed both academically and socially.

"They really want to be successful," Costley said.

But volunteer tutors don't just talk about schoolwork. Volunteers encourage students to talk about anything on their minds, whether it's world events or problems at school.

"It gives them the opportunity to let their hair down a bit," said Tim Dodson, a volunteer and counselor at Rocky Run Middle School.

If the program receives more funding, Lindsay has several goals that he would like the center to achieve. One goal is to create other centers in Chantilly, Arlington, Reston and Herndon. Another is to open the program to grade levels beyond middle school. A third goal is to recruit more teacher mentor/volunteers.

A fourth goal is to buy a van so they can transport students to their homes.

"A lot of these kids' parents, they don't have transportation, and that's the biggest issue, not being able to pick them up," Lindsay said.

Indeed, for both Lindsay's program and the Mott Community Center, a lack of transportation options prohibits potential youth from participating in their programs.

"A lot of the kids he works with are here," said Mott Community Center staff member Leonard Marks. Marks works with the community center's violence prevention program, and intends to volunteer in Lindsay's program in the future.

Despite the program's growing pains, Lindsay believes it will help him with his ultimate goal: to decrease the number of dropouts.

"I come from an environment where people helped me growing up. I believe in role models," Lindsay said. "It's kinda ugly after school for these kids. They come home, and there's nothing there for them."