There is strength through collaboration and power in teamwork. Therefore, in July of 2005, I led the Seventh District (South Carolina) of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church to partner with Governor Mark Sanford and the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ). Together, we signed an historic memorandum of agreement bringing two organizations together in a collective effort to provide South Carolina's at-risk youth with support and services designed to maximize their potential as positive and productive members of the larger South Carolinian society.
As a part of this partnership A.M.E. Church is assisting the SCDJJ in creating additional Teen After School Centers (TASC) for at-risk youth throughout the state of South Carolina. I am proud to report that between 2005 –2008, four A.M.E. TASC Centers were established in Greenville, Lexington, Georgetown and Richland Counties and they have tremendously benefited the youth who attend them and the communities in which those youth live.
TASC Centers offer young people creative opportunities to engage in healthy and constructive activities in a safe environment. These recreational options are designed to help reduce the rate of juvenile delinquency. To me there is no greater gift we can give than our time, energy, resources, and love to those who may have lost their way. It is our responsibility as Christians and citizens of a global community to assist those who are in need. In helping at-risk youth, we help ourselves.
As a result of the success of the AME–DJJ partnership, in 2007, I received the SCDJJ’s the Outstanding Community Leader Award and was named an Afterschool Champion by the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance. I am honored and grateful for such recognition, coming as it does because I have had the wonderful opportunity to improve the quality of lives for the youth and families of South Carolina and the world.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The author, Bishop Preston W. Williams II, serves as Presiding Prelate, Seventh Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church.