Season of Wishes: D&J Youth Group seeks to continue learning programs

Published 12:10 am Monday, December 8, 2014

NATCHEZ — If there’s one thing Dianne Good wants to impress on the children who make their way through the D&J Youth Group center on Claiborne Street, it’s that education is key.

“The most important thing is to teach the children that education is important,” Good said. “This center is about educating our children, because a child that is educated only at school is an uneducated child. It takes the whole community.”

For Good and her husband, Joe, the youth group is their part, she said.

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“This is something God has placed on us,” Dianne Good said.

The youth group originally started as a way to expose Natchez children to travel and culture they might otherwise not have the opportunity to see.

While in the past they have taken regional day trips to the Baton Rouge, Jackson and Monroe areas  for cultural events, the group also books travel to areas much further away.

They’ve gone to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and San Antonio — among other places — and in the coming year, they’ll go to Branson, Mo., and Eureka, Ark. But even as the group continues with its original mission, it’s working to make sure the children are learning between those trips.

In 2012, D&J added a tutoring and computer center on Claiborne Street as an outreach to the children in the Woodlawn neighborhood.

Members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority help with the tutoring, while Tremaine Ford leads a music program.

Within the center, the tutors emphasize math and reading, Diane said.

The tutoring center was an old shotgun house that D&J renovated with volunteer labor, and Diane said the group wants to renovate the building next to the center — which it also owns — to serve as a second tutoring hub for older boys.

“Sometimes when they’re in there together they can lose their focus,” Diane said.

The second center will also serve as a soup and sandwich-making kitchen for the students to use once they finish their studies at the tutorial center, she said.

Joe Good said he and the Rev. Roosevelt Sewell have been slowly working to bring the second center up to their desired standard.

“It’s moving a little slow because we’re just doing it ourselves,” he said.

After the building project is completed, Joe said he would like to develop some kind of playground behind the center.

“We have a lot of space in the back I would like to develop,” he said. “In this neighborhood, we don’t have a playground or any kind of recreation, and so we would like to have something there that we could fence it in, where they could have somewhere to go, sit down and talk amongst themselves and maybe play some basketball.”

Diane said out-of-pocket cash from its adult stakeholders and fundraisers by its youth members supports D&J Youth Group, but they’re open to community backing if someone wants to help.

“I never want to give the community the impression that D&J is all about begging for things or asking folks for help,” Diane said. “We are thankful for what the community has done and what they are doing.”

That’s part of the lesson D&J is trying to instill in the children at the youth group, Joe said.

“We are trying to teach the kids that you don’t wait on somebody else to do something for you, you do it yourself,” he said. “It is OK to ask for help if you need it, but you can’t just sit and wait — you’ve got to do the work.”

But if anyone does want to help, they can do so by buying materials for the second building project or by just coming in on Saturdays and pitching in on the work, Diane said.

Those who want to donate money can make checks payable to D&J Youth Group and mail them to 26 E. Woodlawn Ave., Natchez, MS 39120.

D&J Youth Group is a 501(c)3 certified non-profit organization.

For more information, contact Diane or Joe Good at 601-442-4169 or 601-597-2815.