One hundred children ranging in ages from 5 to 14 spent the last two weeks of their summer vacation listening to messages about things like internet safety, positive reinforcement and the importance of perseverance in a program called Don’t Foul Out.
The brainchild of Lincoln County resident, former magistrate and Lincoln Charter School basketball coach Reverend Franklin Lowery, the program partnered with the Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse, Communities in Schools and the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council to educate at-risk youth. The two-week program ended Friday with a graduation ceremony at the Lincoln Cultural Center.
Inspired by his experiences as a substitute teacher and coach, Lowery set out to create a program that helped children in the community that were falling through the cracks in both the education and justice system. With partnerships and grant funding, his vision was to give kids in the community something engaging to do during the summer while learning about the importance of community, hard work and, most importantly, self-confidence.
“I found out here, in Lincoln County, that a lot of kids are not exposed to things beyond Lincoln County, so what we try to do with Don’t Foul Out is expose them to things to help broaden their horizons. But we had to make sure to do it in the right way,” Lowery said.
Doing things the right way led to partnerships with crucial organizations in the county that had the same goal as Lowery’s program.
Sherry Reinhardt, director of the Coalition Against Child Abuse, expressed how crucial programs like Don’t Foul Out were for community youth.
“Programs like this are important for those at-risk kids not to fall into the juvenile justice system and to be successful, so it’s very important to us,” she said.
Billy Marsh, executive director of Communities in Schools, echoed Reinhardt’s sentiments on how crucial programs like Don’t Foul Out were to Lincoln County.
“I think one of the most important things we do with the Don’t Foul Out program is we take over 100 students for two weeks and we give them something to do,” Marsh said. “And these are kids that otherwise wouldn’t have access to resources. A lot of times they would be unsupervised, and what the research has shown us is that kids that are unsupervised are the ones that are most likely to become involved in juvenile crime, either as the perpetrators or the victims. But more importantly, it helps us expose the kids to parts of the community and opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s an opportunity for us to give back and have a meaningful impact in the lives of the kids.”
“When we started this program, a lot of people said I couldn’t do it, but it happened right here in Lincoln County,” Lowery said. “Charity starts at home.”
The program once ran for three weeks, but due to a cut in funding, it only runs for two weeks out of the summer. But according to Lowery, it just keeps growing and the Don’t Foul Out program is now in its seventh year.
Guest speakers have been local community leaders, members of law enforcement and even professional athletes, including former players from the Orlando Magic and the Kansas City Royals. The special guests and the experiences are designed to expose kids to the world outside of Lincoln County but, above all, they are intended to raise their self-awareness and encourage success.
“We adopted this saying: Obey the L.A.W. L.A.W. is an acronym for love what you’re doing, have the right attitude and the right work ethic. Then you take what you have learned any apply it,” Lowery said.
“We try to build self-confidence, to conduct yourself in a way that others will begin to respect you. We encourage these young people to believe in themselves because regardless of what anybody else says, you have to believe in yourself. “