An Eighth Street Middle School teacher is making a difference not only in the classroom, but also outside the classroom by being involved in an organization that teaches young people to “be great.”
Earl Brown, a seventh grade social studies teacher, is from Fitzgerald but has been teaching at ESMS for 15 years. Before coming to Tifton, Brown taught social studies at Irwin County Middle School in Ocilla for four years.
He said the main reason for coming to Tifton to teach was because of his high school basketball coach from Fitzgerald, the late Jack Gibbs, who was the principal at ESMS during that time.
Brown stated that there was a teaching position open, and after Gibbs continued to ask him to come teach there, he decided to try it out and has been teaching at ESMS ever since.
While at ESMS, Brown also taught two years of health and has coached middle school football and high school football, basketball and track.
He stated that he has enjoyed teaching and has seen many co-workers come and go over the years. What he enjoys most of all about teaching, he says, is his students.
“I enjoy the children, even though I don’t have any of my own,” he said, noting that his wife, Lisa, is also an educator at Annie Belle Clark Primary School.
After teaching in Tifton, Brown travels back home to Fitzgerald each weekday to help with the Boys & Girls Club’s after school program from 4 to 7 p.m. He stated that the No. 1 program that they run during the after school program is “Power Hour,” which is the time when students work on their homework.
Brown has been the director of the Boys & Girls Club of Ben Hill County since it started in 2005.
“I just fell into the job,” he said.
He explained that a pastor from Fitzgerald, who was a board member of the Boys & Girls Club, contacted him and asked if he would be interested in working with the organization.
“I was interviewed on a Friday and started working that Monday,” Brown said.
He stated that he didn’t go through the system growing up; therefore, he had to do some research on the organization.
He said the Boys & Girls Club focuses on five areas: character and leadership, education and career, health and life skills, the arts, and sports, fitness and recreation.
He noted that they focus on obesity by getting the children outside to play games.
“The kids don’t realize that it’s helping them,” Brown said.
The ages for joining the Boys & Girls Club starts as young as four years old to the age of 18. The teen program is for ages 13 to 18.
Brown said there are currently 70 members.
He stated, “We get new members every day; we get a lot of phone calls.”
Members must pay a monthly pledge of $50. He stated that they’re given snacks, as well as have access to a computer lab, game room and more.
“You just about name it, we do it all,” Brown said.
He explained that members are taken on field trips, such as bowling in Tifton and they had a chance to go to the Georgia Dome three years ago with no cost to them. Also, they have community events, such as the “Christian Kitchen,” where every three or four months, they give away canned goods to the homeless, and participate in clean-ups.
“We’re very active,” Brown stated. “People give to the club; therefore, we give to the community.”
In addition, they raised over $10,000 for the club after hosting a golf tournament event during the summer. Other fundraisers include chicken plate sales and the Zaxby’s in Fitzgerald helps out by giving the club 10 percent of what they make from 5 to 8 p.m., one Wednesday out of the month.
“We have a lot of support from the community. Local churches are supportive and the [Boys & Girls Club] board is always doing things for the kids,” Brown said. “We greatly appreciate that. That’s why we make sure to give back.”
He noted that when the organization encountered some financial problems with funding in the past, the community stood by them. Some locals donated $10,000 to the club and the school system supported them also.
“It was amazing to know that so many people cared about the children,” he said. “That’s our future. I was happy that they got on board with us.”
Brown described the Boys & Girls Club as a Christian-based organization. He said they have rules, guidelines and procedures that they must follow.
“It’s a large organization,” he stated, noting that there’s about 4,400 Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide. “It’s growing.”
He added, “The Boys & Girls Club has saved a lot of people in the world. A lot of famous people have come through the club.”
Brown said actor Denzel Washington is the national spokesperson for the organization.
He noted that he’s made some memorable contacts with several well-known people by being involved in the organization. He stated that he met former President Jimmy Carter at a banquet in Americus.
“I’ve been very fortunate in life to meet a lot of good people,” Brown said. “It’s been great.”
However, he stresses that the club is “not about me; it’s about the kids.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Ben Hill County is a part of the Middle Georgia Region, which also includes Appling County, Crisp County, Dodge County, Johnson County and Laurens County.
The administrative office is located in Eastman; Cindy Arnold is the chief professional officer. The club’s national headquarters is located in Atlanta.
Brown stated, “Once you’re a member, you have your own number so we’re able to keep in contact.”
He said he tries to keep up with his members’ educational career as they grow throughout the organization. He stated that many of them are hired as teens to help run the program and are appreciative of the experience that they had when going through the system.
“I’m happy to have the opportunity to work with the organization and to see kids grow,” he said. “It’s a great organization. It’s a positive and safe place for kids. I try to keep the kids involved and active. I want them to learn a lot from inside the Boys & Girls Club, as well as expose them to things outside the club. We try to make sure they’re well-rounded.”
Not only does Brown make sure that the children are well-rounded, but the same goes for his staff. He stated that when interviewing a potential member to add to his staff, he asks them what they can add to the organization and what makes them different from the next person who wants to be hired.
Currently, he has six people on his staff with one on stand-by. He noted that as far as being a director of the Boys & Girls Club, you’re required to have a four-year degree and a background in dealing with children, as well as have a criminal background check done. He stated that most directors are educators.
Brown said he has a wonderful parent support group that’s very helpful with all of the activities and field trips and organizing different events.
“It takes everyone working together,” he stated. “I’m thankful to have people who have the same ideas that I have. It’s been good and it’s getting better each year for us.”
He commented that it would be great to have a Boys & Girls Club in Tifton.
“There’s been a few people inquiring about it,” Brown said. “Hopefully, it will happen in the near future.”
In addition to being the director of the Boys & Girls Club, he’s also an assistant coach for the Amateur Athletic Union, which is a basketball group. He coaches girls from middle school and high school. This is his first year coaching for the AAU. He stated that he enjoys it.
Brown said the AAU did a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club by selling ribs and fish plates.
“We work closely together,” he stated, noting that the team uses the club’s gym for practice.
Whether he’s teaching in the classroom, helping at the Boys & Girls Club or coaching the AAU, Brown always stresses the importance of hard work and getting an education.
“Whatever you put into something, that’s what you get out of it,” he said, mentioning his good friend and old college roommate at Fort Valley State University, retired professional football player Tyrone Poole, who played for several different teams before he retired. “Nothing just happens. You have to work for what you want.”
For more information on the Boys & Girls Club, visit www.bgca.org.
To contact reporter Latasha Everson, call 382-4321.