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Omega Boys and Girls Club celebrates 25 years!

June 4, 2012 7:46:40 PM PDT
The Omega Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. This is a remarkable place. It's helped get nearly 200 economically disadvantaged young people into college and post graduate education. We've covered this program for years and I had the chance to join them for their official celebration and got a chance to see why this program is so effective.

Some young people are in a tough afterschool tutoring program run by the Omega Boys Club in San Francisco. They are determined to make a better future for themselves. Omega is marking 25 years of helping boys and girls get out of the roughest neighborhoods and in to college.

"We see violence like a disease, so we treat it like a disease," said Joe Marshall Ph.D., the Omega Boys Club co-founder.

"Omega has taught me a lot of about the germs of violence," said Ron Anthony Hurley, a member of the Omega Boys and Girls Club.

"I'm at the point in my life where I'm finding out who I am, so I need to be on the right track," said Gianni Isom, a member of the Omega Boys and Girls Club.

Marshall co-founded the Omega Boys Club back in 1987 with Jack Jaqua. He was a middle school counselor. Marshall was a teacher and administrator. They saw a lot of young people in trouble with the law or heading for a violent death. They came up with a plan.

"We call it the 'alive and free prescription' for ending violence and changing lives," said Marshall. And he made a promise. "If you stick with this, you pick the college and I'll find the money. Now, I promise you I didn't have any money, so I stepped out on, what my grandmother would say, 'our faith.'"

That faith in the Omega Boys Club caught the attention of ABC7News.

"ABC7 jumpstarted this whole thing. I can remember vividly in 1988 Steve Davis, a reporter at Channel 7, coming here and filming our tutoring session," said Marshall.

The late Davis put it on TV.

"'If you like what you see, just send in money.' I have old footage of me sitting there with envelopes and the kids saying, 'They like us, see they like us,'" said Marshall.

This celebration for the Omega Boys Club's silver anniversary showcased pictures of more than 175 former students who've graduated from college. Some went onto higher education and came back to serve their community, like Andre Aikens, who is now operations manager for Omega. Aikens used to hang out in East Oakland and tells his story during visits to schools.

Aikens: Definitely, there were drugs and guns, drugs and violence involved
Jennings: So, you were bound for trouble and headed for death?
Aikens: Everyday could have been my last day.

Omega changed his thinking. Aikens is expected to be Marshall's successor one day.

Omega is also having an impact on 16-year-old Isom and 17-year-old Hurley. They and the other students learn to define themselves by their history and the leaders who made sacrifices fighting for equality.

"The 'N' word is very common like in my neighborhood. It now is just disrespectful so I had to step back and say, 'No, I don't use that word and you can't use it around me,'" said Isom.

And the learning will spread to others, thanks to an Omega club belief.

"The more you know, the more you owe. When you learn more, you give more," said Hurley.

And so we congratulate the omega boys club for 25 years of saving lives and creating futures.

The state department sends Marshall all over the world to talk about the principles of the Omega Boys Club. Marshall also hosts a radio program called "Street Soldiers." If you would like to help send more Omega students to college, you can click here


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