Charlotte after-school program for at-risk teens temporarily closes due to lack of funds

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For years, a local after school program has provided a safe space for at-risk teens for free.

Parents said have relied on the program and teenagers who are a part of it have come to love it.

Behailu Academy is a fine arts after-school program, that runs every day after school, is free, and provides transportation. But heading into the Spring, the doors are closed.

Leaders at the Academy said fall funding is secured, but they ran into a funding gap this spring and though a GoFundMe helped out, they had to make a tough decision. The non-profit is funded by grants, public and private donors.

"There's a lack of funding and any non-profit would say that in the city," President Brett Patterson said.

That tough call is a reminder of the gap they fill in the community by providing arts education for middle and high schoolers from Title One schools.

"The first thing that comes to mind is sports or being an athlete, well that’s not always the case, people have other passions," he told Channel 9, of the Academy's focus on fine arts. "More than anything this provides a safe place for them to go. This is an age group where kids are very vulnerable."

"If you're in an underserved school and an underserved community, you may never have a class in Fine Arts for years," consultant with The Root Collaborative Heather Pressley said. "We believe strongly that art is not a luxury for some, that art is a necessity for all,"

Parent Tekisha Scott said her teenager attends the academy, and it's been a transformative experience.

"It hurts, when I got the news, I cried. I was like what are we gonna do? And, my daughter was crying as well." Scott said.  She says they can't wait for it to re-open.

"First couple months she was just real quiet, in the corner...I kid you not, it was a whole 360 within less than 6 months and I loved it. Her personality went from zero to 100, doing a lot more in school," she said. "I loved it, it’s just like I'm so proud of her."

Leaders said even though the doors are closed, they will open back up in the fall in a new location with a goal to serve even more children.

For more information on Behailu Academy, or if you'd like to get involved, email info@behailu.org.

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