State gives area nonprofit $2K

A county program benefitting youth received extra help through a state grant worth thousands of dollars.

Clinton's Corner of Catawba Inc. is a nonprofit organization designed to combat area problems facing youth and their families.

The program was one of 14 non-profit organizations throughout North Carolina to receive a grant from the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of the state's Human Relations Council. The $2,500 grant for each of the chosen programs will fund initiatives that support King's legacy.

Representatives from Clinton's Corner and other grant recipients will be recognized Jan. 14 at First Baptist Church in Raleigh.

"(The grant) was really something that just jumped up at me," said the Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, who is the executive director of Clinton's Corner and the pastor and executive director of Clinton Tabernacle A.M.E Zion Church in Hickory.

Spearman was cutting his hair one morning, and one of the papers he used to catch his hair clippings contained information about the Martin Luther King Jr. grant.

Spearman applied for the grant, and the state Human Relations Council announced the winners Dec. 20 in a press release.

Clinton's Corner has three programming aspects, which include teen mentoring, parenting assistance and health initiatives. These aspects are designed to target problem areas for young people in the program.

Clinton's Corner became a nonprofit in 2006, and since its creation, many youth benefitted from the program. Spearman said one male student went from being private and shy to an open, accessible young man with the help of programs and activities from Clinton's Corner.

"We kept working with him, and he now is one of our high achievers," Spearman said.

Spearman said his congregation at Clinton Tabernacle is instrumental in the continuance of Clinton's Corner. Church members donated about $10,000 to fund the nonprofit's start-up costs. Clinton's Corner also has a memorandum of understanding with the Hickory Housing Authority for additional funding and support.

Clinton's Corner's first project is Students Moving A Step Ahead or SMASA. The project is an immersion experience that exposes teens to colleges, universities and museums they typically wouldn't be able to visit.

"The moment I got to the church to put my stuff in the van, I knew this trip was going to be fun," said Antonio Anthony, who traveled to Detroit with SMASA. "Going on this trip made me think about my future and what I wanted to do with my life."

Spearman took five high-school boys to Detroit, where they explored schools and other cultural experiences in the city.

"Dr. Spearman took us to a bookstore that had all black authors," said Anthony Sudderth, who also went on the Detroit trip. "... Let Dr.

Spearman know how much we thank him for giving us the chance to have a great experience in Detroit."

Another component of Clinton's Corner is the Mario A. Mitchell Summer and Saturday Academy. The program is named in honor of Mitchell, who is the son of a Clinton Tabernacle member. Mitchell was killed by three teenage men, and the academy was designed to prevent future violence among youth.

"When our young people gain more knowledge about who they are and where they come from, then these senseless killings will stop," Spearman said.

The Summer and Saturday Academy provides healthy meals and educational activities for youth in the program. Money from the Martin Luther King Jr. grant will help provide meals and transportation to activities for students in the program.

As the program grows, Spearman hopes Clinton's Corner will develop a partnership with area school systems to recognize troubled youth and prevent them from slipping through the cracks.

"It will serve to strengthen the African prong of the community, if you will," Spearman said.

The academy received about 140 applications for acceptance into the program, and the program serves about 80 youth.

The Summer and Saturday Academy started in July and continued into the school year. Participants are paired with mentors to help guide their decisions and actions every day.

It's Spearman's hope that eventually the youth being mentored through Clinton's Corner will become the mentors, so they can help others through the same difficulties they experienced.

"Some of the things that are developed (through Clinton's Corner) are really going to benefit the community," Spearman said.