After-School Home

Center gives South Side children a place for reading, computer work

The Southside Family Resource Center — a community center based in the P.E.A.C.E, Inc. building on West Castle Street — is more than a place for children to go after school. It has become a safe haven for children across the South Side to play with friends, do their homework and stay out of trouble, the staff says.

P.E.A.C.E, Inc., which stands for People’s Equal Action and Community Effort, was founded in 1968 when it became a Community Action Agency, meaning it is an organization designed to help citizens become more self-sufficient and improve living conditions in their communities. Since its inception, seven community centers have been established in the city.

Children participate in a fundraising event for the Southside Family Resource Center held by the Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse team. | Photo provided by Lori Covington

Lori Covington, the South Side program coordinator, said each center has its own niche; the main focus of the South Side location is education and keeping children off the streets.

“I think it prepares them for high school and prepares them for what a structured environment is,” Covington said. “Here they get a snack and a smile and a hug — someone who cares about them.”

At first glance, the brick building blends in with the rest of the buildings lining West Castle Street. The white P.E.A.C.E, Inc., sign in front is weathered and faded, but inside is where the place comes to life. Most days, visitors can hear the children before they see them. Students have just gotten their after-school burst of energy, and the place is wild. Covington said it usually takes her and her staff about 15 minutes to calm everybody down before snack time.

Covington said about 17 students, ages 5 to 14, go every day after school. Since Covington started working at the Southside Family Resource Center in June, she implemented Fun Friday. That’s the day of the week when staff members take the youth on a field trip, set up a game for them to play or give out candy.

“All my kids are here every day,” Covington said. “And they hunt me down if I’m not. Last week, we had a fundraiser so we had no after-school session, and boy did I hear about it. Now they are owed two Fun Fridays.”

She and her staff members pick up the students from school because it is too dangerous for them to walk alone. At the center, they can play on one of the six computers or read a book before snack time and homework.

As far as keeping the children off the streets, Covington said it is one of her highest priorities. “One of my six-year-olds wasn’t getting into trouble, but he was playing where they sold drugs,” she said. “If that’s all they see, then that’s all they will know. Now he is the first one here every day.”

Shadasia Stanley, 12, and her sisters Shamiya, 8, and Aniyah, 5, are some of Covington’s regulars. Shadasia said they have been attending for about a year now, with the exception of her youngest sister, who just started a few weeks ago.

“I love it here,” Shadasia said, while fiddling with an unfinished string bracelet. “There’s a lot of activities to do, my friends come here, and I really have a good time while getting my homework done.”