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SPAN celebrates 20 years of serving Franklin County

The Special Program for Achieving Network of Franklin County celebrated 20 years of

service Tuesday with a luncheon at the A.W. Todd Center to reminisce on all of the years dedicated and students helped.

The Franklin County SPAN program began Oct. 4, 1999, when several community leaders saw the need to have this program in the area. Since then, SPAN has an 80 percent success rate and has helped about 1,300 students and their families.

“A lot of the times, when we get them, they just need a pat on the back and a little encouragement to be successful,” said program coordinator Remona Roberson.

Roberson said SPAN usually serves about 15 students at any given time, who stay in the program for an average of six months. These are students who are referred by the school systems or through the court system.

The goal of the program is to help at-risk youth who might need additional help to be successful through education and counseling.

Students who are behind in coursework will go through remediation, and students who are at the proper grade level will continue to earn credits so they can continue to advance in school.

SPAN also, through a partnership with Northwest-Shoals Community College, serves as a satellite location where students who are behind in school can take classes to prepare for their GED.

SPAN students undergo one-on-one counseling to discuss themselves individually, as well as group counseling, where the focus is on life skills.

This program serves all students of Franklin County. The county school system provides the bus and driver to pick up students, and the city school system provides free breakfast and lunch.

Tuesday’s celebratory luncheon included testimonials from several former students and speeches from some of the people who were involved when the program first began.

Former juvenile judge Sharon Hester said she remembers thinking how, at the time, there was not a program aimed at helping children avoid going down the wrong path. That is what the SPAN program has become.

“We might not be able to help them all – even jail can’t help everyone – but we can make a difference for some,” Hester said. “That is what the program is about, helping that one.”