• Georgetown Times
  • Waccamaw Times
  • Inlet Outlook

AMIkids elects new board chairman

  • Wednesday, December 25, 2013

  • Updated Friday, December 27, 2013 11:27 pm

AMIkids student Lavontrez, Director Michael Wright, Board Chairman James Christian, students Sharrod and Robert in front of a door decorated by the residents. Last names of students were withheld.

Jim Christian, a retired member of the U.S. Secret Service, has been a member of the Georgetown AMIkids board of Directors for the past two years.

He was recently elected to chair the board after Gen. Wally Johnson decided to step down from that position.

AMIkids is a nonprofit organization that provides kids throughout the state an alternative to juvenile prison. With locations in nine states, the organization is aimed at giving kids ages 11-17 a second chance if they are in trouble.

The Georgetown campus only houses boys but, Christian said, fundraisers have been taking place to try to build a girl’s facility somewhere else in the county. A substantial amount of money has already been raised. More fundraisers are planned for 2014.

Christian said he has been involved with AMIkids since purchasing a home in the county in 2004 but did not join the board until retiring and moving here full time.

He said he saw the good AMIkids is doing and knew he wanted to play bigger role in the organization.

“These kids are in trouble and it gives judges an alternative to putting them in a prison-like environment,” Christian, a former member of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said, “We try to give the kids an opportunity to have a normal life.”

He said many of the center’s residents “come from difficult neighborhoods.”

One of the first things the kids are taught is there are consequences for actions.

“In their loves there had not been a lot of consequences for what they did,” Christian said.

The program lasts from three months to one year for most of the students then they are awarded with a graduation ceremony.

Christian said the program is “a one shot deal.” If the teen gets into trouble again, they are sent elsewhere. However, he said, that does not usually happen. On average, more than 70 percent of the teens who go through the program stay out of criminal trouble after leaving AMIkids, Christian said.

“That is an extraordinary rate,” he said.

He also said academics are a major part of the program and some students jump two grade levels in some subjects while at the facility.

“There is no messing around. There are academics every day and there is homework every night,” he said.

Christian said it was not his goal to become chairman.

He said at the meeting when Johnson announced he was stepping down, other board members nominated him.

“I was the chairman before I knew what happened,” he said.

Director Michael Wright said while the students who go through the program change for the better, the world outside the program remains the same. The temptations will be there when they leave AMIkids.

“I tell them to take what they have learned and make it a part of their everyday life,” he said.

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