A landscaping service is part of Boys With a Future. Photo courtesy Russell Joel Brown
A landscaping service is part of Boys With a Future. Photo courtesy Russell Joel Brown

Boys With A Future expands its horizons through new partnerships

Some afterschool programs offer homework help, but students who’ve participated in Boys With A Future have required more. They’ve needed help with the basics of reading.

“Education is the number one goal,” said Russell Joel Brown, the program’s director, who has recently begun partnering with organizations at the HUB for Community Innovation Augusta.

Boys With A Future started with a summer camp in 2019 through Good Neighbor Ministries at St. Luke United Methodist Church. Its mission is to help inner city boys break out of the cycle of poverty.

For the greater part of three years, Brown has made regular trips to a commercial learning center with the students for their in-depth tutoring sessions. And that has come with an expensive price tag. Brown has also made sure they had an evening meal.

Now with his partnership with the Augusta University Literacy Center and Augusta Locally Grown, Brown and the students with Boys With A Future will be able to meet in one location, reduce expenses and expand the quality of its programming.

Francheska Knight (at left) works on her reading skills at the Augusta University Literacy Center with Katelinn Jones. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

Brown’s goal has never been to have large numbers in his program. He’d rather have a large impact.

“I always thought I could help 12,” he said.

But the longer he’s been involved the more he sees eight or nine as the ideal number. Six students including one girl are part of the current program. Students are typically in middle and high school.

Francheska Knight is the lone female in the group. Her twin brother, Fredell Knight, has been part of the program from the beginning, and she saw what a difference it was making in his life.

“She came to me at the van one day and said ‘Mr. RJB, can I please come to tutoring? How do you say ‘no’?” Brown said.

And she’s grateful Brown let her in.

“It’s helped me with my grades,” said Francheska, a sophomore at T.W. Josey High School, who’d like to become a nursing assistant or go into cosmetology after she graduates.

Through the new partnership, students will be at the HUB three days a week. Not only will they receive the one-on-one tutoring at the Augusta University Literacy Center, but they will learn about nutrition through Augusta Locally Grown.

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The organization, which supports local farmers through farmer’s markets and an online ordering system, now has a commercial kitchen and has been offering a variety of classes since moving in, according to Rebecca van Loenen, Augusta Locally Grown’s director.

The Boys with a Future participants will learn food preparation and have their own space in the kitchen.

Brown said preparing meals on site will cut down on food costs. Trips to fast food restaurants when taking the students to tutoring have added up, not to mention they aren’t as nutritious as what they will be preparing.

Education assistance isn’t the only part of Boys With A Future. Brown has also developed a landscaping service, teaching them lawn care skills and about hard work.

Fredell, also a sophomore at T.W. Josey High School, has his sights on playing professional football, but he said he sees landscaping as a possible career choice.

Russell Joel Brown (at left) presented a $20,000 to Gloria Norwood after the February From Mozart to Motown concert. Photo courtesy Red Wolf Advertising

As Brown looks to 2023, he plans to expand even more by adding a financial literacy program through an area bank and an etiquette class.   

Brown also provides a cultural aspect.

Prior to returning to his hometown of Augusta, Brown spent several years touring with Disney’s The Lion King, and he believes in the importance of the arts.

Over the summer, he took the students to New York City, where they saw The Lion King and visited Times Square.

He’s taken them to area performances, and they were highlighted in February at his show From Mozart to Motown, a fundraiser for the program through Good Neighbor Ministries. He presented the ministry with a $20,000 check at the performance.

 “Fredell was so proud that night. You would’ve thought he’d produced the show,” Brown said.   

Brown is already planning for From Mozart to Motown Sept. 7, 2023, and a From Mozart to Motown Christmas Nov. 30, 2023.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Subscribe to the Augusta Good News newsletter here.

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2 responses to “Boys With A Future expands its horizons through new partnerships”

  1. Melanie Wallace says:

    As a member of the board of Good Neighbor Ministries I thank you for doing this wonderful story on Boys With a Future. We are so blessed to have Russell Joel Brown lead this amazing program. The boys are improving their reading ability through the tutoring program. They are being taught life skills by working with their lawn care business. Now that the Hub is open they will also be learning good nutrition and healthy habits. All of these experiences will help them as they become successful adults.

  2. Gloria Norwood says:

    Thank you for sharing the story of Good Neighbor Ministries program “Boys With A Future”. We are excited to help a few young people improve their academic and learn life skills in a loving environment.
    Community support is vital our effort.
    Again thank you.