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Dear friends, Latchkey children - that’s what you would call Trina and Lucius. This six and seven year old sister and brother are company to each other while their grandmother spends long hours at work. They don’t see their mother very often; she has a crack cocaine habit that makes her appearances unpredictable. Their grandmother, a caring and hard working woman, is just too worn out to give them much beyond the basics of food and shelter. Two older siblings, who also live in their grandmother’s crowded house, have their own needs. And so little Trina and Lucius wander our neighborhood like untamed stray kittens.

Owing to the generosity of caring sponsors, Trina and Lucius were able to enroll in our summer-long camp. After the first couple days our staff weren’t at all sure that the two would be able to stay in the program. Lying, stealing and belligerent behavior cost them both a suspension. But after the disappointment of missing out on a very fun-filled outing at the lake, Trina and Lucius had a change of attitude. In a few days they became secure within the camp’s structure and rules, and responded remarkably well to the firm but gentle discipline of counselors. Like dry little sponges, they soaked up every available drop of personal attention and affection - staples that are in abundance at camp.

Yesterday I dropped by to see how camp was going, and as I stood visiting with our camp director, I felt a small hand slip into mine. It was Lucius wearing a large toothless grin. And from across the room I heard a small voice call my name. “Hello, Mr. Bob,” Trina called, looking up from a craft project that had her engrossed. “They’re both doing remarkably well,” the camp director told me. “It was a little bit rough at first but they are responding beautifully to the personal attention. Lucius was first in his class this week to have his Bible verse memorized.”

Latchkey kids are often throw-away kids. Too starved for personal care to fit into the impersonal classrooms of public school, they soon find themselves bearing the label “problem child.” With no one at home to check on homework, they sink slowly into the pool of underachievers to join a fraternity with other undesirables. By third grade they can be accurately diagnosed as future dropouts.

Trina and Lucius may be latchkey kids but they do not have to be throwaway kids. Peggy and I, along with some of our neighbors, want to make sure of that. The good news is that FCS has started a fine Christian elementary school just for latchkey kids like Trina and Lucius. Staffed with capable and caring teachers (and a host of attention-lavishing volunteers), the Atlanta Youth Academy was born of a vision to nurture the spiritual, emotional and mental growth of these little ones during their most formative years. Trina and Lucius’ grandma has eagerly consented to our offer of enrolling them for the coming school year. She will pay minimal sliding-scale tuition; Peggy and I have anonymously committed to ensure that the balance of the $3440 per child cost is covered.

I am so grateful to our many compassionate friends who have enabled some 300 children to participate in our camping program this summer. I wish every supporting partner could experience the joy that Peggy and I have in witnessing first hand the positive impact of the camp on the lives of neighborhood children - especially Trina and Lucius. If you would like, we will update you periodically on their progress at the Atlanta Youth Academy this school year.

Grateful for your care,

Bob Lupton

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