The motto of the Optimist International organization and that of St. Andrews Optimists locally is “Friend of Youth.” Much—if not all— of the local Club’s focus is on interacting with people who work with youth and on raising funds to support those organizations. In that vein, the Club welcomed Dr. Alonzo Johnson as its speaker on February 10.
While pastoring Universal Outreach Church of God in Christ in Irmo, Johnson is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of Universal Life STEAM Academy (ULSA). A key driver justifying the Academy is to give students a positive alternative to gang recruitment, some of which also occurs during after-school hours. Part of the Church’s physical facility has been designed and outfitted to accommodate the Academy’s after-school program. That customizing of the facility required technological upgrades As such, it is now possible for every student to be doing online work using their laptops at the same time.
The Academy began in 2020 with a student body of seven children. That enrollment has expanded to more than 60 students, ages 5-13, who spend every school day afternoon at the Academy. The instruction follows the STEAM format (an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Students are taught at grade level by instructors who have access to report cards and curricula. Those resources greatly assist in pinpointing custom instructional plans and are a measure of progress. Beyond the STEAM framework, students are also taught fine arts, social skills, and values in a Christian environment. Johnson noted that the enrollment numbers remain constant throughout the school year; i.e., there is very little if any attrition.
The faculty consists of a combination of teachers, teaching assistants, college interns, counselors, tutors, and volunteers. The two characteristics of all the faculty members are proficiency in their subject matter and an interest in shaping the lives of young people.
Just as Optimists have their motto, the ULSA’s is “Loving, nurturing, and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders.” Readers can find the Academy’s website at ulsteamaca.org.
Pictured are Club President Larry Blosser, Dr. Alonzo Johnson, and speaker sponsor Gary Boyd.