As the Director of Bridging the Gap Advocacy Afterschool Program and the leader for the Laurens County HYPE Team, Calvin Whitmire is a strong influence for change in his community. Calvin has always worked with kids on some capacity and after moving back to Laurens, SC, he had a vision to work with youth to help bridge the gap between children’s talents and their parents through education, health and wellness, and exposure.
Initially, the program offered tutoring for kids and later evolved to include retired teachers, community citizens, and parents who wanted to help these children succeed. Calvin was presented with the HYPE grant extension after being contacted by the YMCA and took the opportunity to make a community garden a point of interest, as well as the ability to travel for exposure for the 28 kids the program. Soon, the HYPE team began advocating for community safety signs and completed Safe Routes to School and park assessments. Before this HYPE project, Laurens County lacked lights and signs. Now, safety has become a major focus for the group.
“The kids have become a priority for us,” says Calvin. “Our motto is work hard, play hard, because we’re all here for a reason. When 70% of your kids are on the honor roll and their parents are involved too, that’s the impact we want to make for our community.”
Calvin brings cultural, educational, and nutritional enrichment to students through the Bridging the Gap Advocacy Afterschool Program, where kids can learn about different countries and languages, learn to play basic instruments, how to grow vegetables and live healthy lifestyles, and work on public speaking skills. He hopes to build more partnerships, extend services, and get more transportation to outlying areas to create a campus of a holistic approach for enrichment for students and parents.
“We’re no longer waiting around to get involved. Our emphasis is changing peoples’ mindsets from ‘let someone else do it’ to ‘what’s going to happen if we don’t do it?’”