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Professional driver Geneva

COURTESY GRACE COMMUNITY UMC, CHESTER, PA.

Professional driver Geneva "Gee Wiz" Williams (center in blue) poses with Fast Track 2 Success students during their visit to a hot rod race track.

Pennsylvania church offers Fast Track 2 Success

 

Heather Peck Travis
January-February 2015

Wanting youth to consider careers in science, aviation, engineering, computer programming and

HUMAN RELATIONS DAY IS JAN. 18

Celebrated on the Sunday before the observance of the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Human Relations Day calls United Methodists to recognize the right of all God's children to realize their potential as human beings in relationship with one another. The gifts support community ministries that teach and advocate for justice, especially among people struggling in the margins of society. Learn more about Human Relations Day and find promotional resources at www.umcgiving.org/ministry-articles/human-relations-day.

education, Grace Community United Methodist Church in Chester, Pa., founded a youth enrichment motor sports program.

Led by James Harper, program director for Grace Community's Resource and Empowerment Center, Fast Track 2 Success provides hands-on enrichment and life skills in three 10-week sessions during the school year.

In his third year leading the program, Harper says Fast Track 2 Success is free to Chester youth ages 8-12 and consists of Saturday sessions, guest presenters and field trips.

"Motor sports is a tool that meets all the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) requirements," Harper says. "This program teaches youth not only to set goals, but (also to) map out the course to achieve that goal. During field trips, they hear success stories in different careers and see firsthand what that looks like."

The program has a special connection with Geneva "Gee Wiz" Williams, a professional National Hot Rod Association racecar driver. In addition, Chris Smith, a member of a sponsor church and a Fast Track 2 Success founder, has connections with the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).

Harper says Williams has visited Fast Track 2 Success sessions and participates in the annual car show. The event in the church parking lot and adjoining streets attracts participants from several states who enter their cars in categories, such as custom, antique, racing and classic cars.

Human Relations Day gifts help

Funds from the Human Relations Day offering provided a grant to Grace Community from the General Board of Global Ministries to help support Fast Track 2 Success. To be received on Jan. 18 (or another day of the church's choosing), the offering supports the Community Developer and Voluntary Services programs of Global Ministries and the Youth Offender Rehabilitation Services program of the General Board of Church and Society.

Harper says Fast Track 2 Success purchased a soapbox-derby car kit for youth participants to assemble and race in local derby races.

Field trips, he adds, have included exploring a helicopter museum, learning about music, television and movie making at a multimedia studio, driving a racecar at a track and visiting a bank.

"We ask our youth attendees what professions or occupations they are interested in and we work to find a representative from that field to discuss," Harper says.

Guest speakers have included professionals in medical science, FBI forensic science, computer use and repair, architectural engineering, accounting and banking.

Harper says Fast Track 2 Success life-skills sessions include goal setting, resisting peer pressure, bullying, etiquette, nutrition and food handling, the fruits of the Spirit and positive character traits.

"We also have an association with local universities (Widener University and Swarthmore University) that provides tutors to help our youth in their areas of need," he adds.

Harper remembers two recent participants, Isaiah, 9, and Ashanti, 12. "They were fully committed to the program and attended every Saturday," he says. "They sought information and worked well with the tutors. By year's end, they increased their grades in school and were enthusiastic about reaching their goals."

Heather Peck Travis is a freelance journalist living in Glasgow, Ky.

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