Troubled area boys and teens have a local alternative to the streets as AMIkids in Georgetown welcomes them with open arms.
Now, the facility’s board of directors is looking for a way to open its arms to girls, too.
It has the land available to build a rehabilitation center for girls and so far has raised $70,000 toward those efforts.
Board member Jim Christian says South Carolina has few options for troubled girls.
“Right now, if a judge decides a girl can’t go home, she goes to the penitentiary,” Christian said. “The state doesn’t have a juvenile home for girls right now.”
The $70,000 AMIkids has for the new facility was raised last month at the group’s sixth annual golf tournament fundraiser at Caledonia Golf Club in Pawley’s Island. Celebrities such as astronaut and Apollo 16 lunar module pilot Charlie Duke, George Rogers, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner, and Coastal Carolina University head basketball coach Cliff Ellis participated in the tourney.
AMIkids, a nationally-recognized non-profit organization, provides kids throughout the state an alternative to juvenile prison. It is designed to put troubled youth back on track to becoming “productive and contributing members of society,” according to the group’s website.
The average stay for boys is about six months, but many can go home earlier if they achieve a leadership position within the center.
Each boy starts out as a “recruit” and can move up the ranks to a “chief” position. There are six ranks in all.
Anthony, who serves in a leadership position and leads tours of the complex, said he’s thankful for his stay at the facility and hopes to someday become a chief. The Sun News is identifying the boys in the program by their first names because they are juveniles.
His favorite activity? Getting off campus for community service projects or educational field trips.
“It definitely helps us-getting to go off campus,” Anthony said. “And it helps the recruits want to strive to do better” since recruits aren’t allowed off the premises.
For free time, boys can frolic outside or, if it’s a rainy day, play checkers, board games or watch television, with a teacher’s approval.
“Usually we’ll play softball or football,” said Demond, a chief who is nearing graduation.
Schooling takes place at the center as well. Many boys usually test two grade levels higher when they leave the camp than before the entered, Christian said.
The program incorporates a strict, structured schedule each boy must follow.
Chores are assigned daily to earn free time and points toward prizes, such as a new pair of shorts or a radio.
AMIkids began in Florida, developed by a judge who grew tired of seeing the same young men enter his court time and again, according to the website.
As of now, the facility has an 82 percent success rate, meaning the child does not get into legal or educational trouble for the one year period after he leaves AMIkids.
“You know, these kids have potential – they can be saved,” said Christian. “We are just an alternative to the streets.”