Underprivileged Kids To Be Forced From Bluffton House - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Underprivileged Kids To Be Forced From Their Bluffton House Classrooms

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BLUFFTON, S.C. -

The program that helps low income families supplement their children's education with after school help will soon be forced to meet under a tree, according to Dr. Narendra Sharma.

The Neighborhood Outreach Connection (NOC) serves the Bluffton area by tutoring and offering computers to children in neighborhoods who otherwise wouldn't have the means to do so.

They welcome kids in the Bluffton House apartment complex to come to their two units after school each day for an hour and a half. Dr. Sharma, the program's director, says the math and language tutoring has tremendously improved test scores.

But unfortunately, NOC's lease will soon be up. With Bluffton House changing ownership to Aspen Square Management out of Massachusetts, Dr. Sharma says this new management will not allow them to renew.

"They are in the process of converting this whole apartment complex into a conventional complex, catered to higher income folks," he says. "They are systematically replacing these folks who are mostly in the low income category."

That will leave the kids and teachers to meet on the lawn, under a tree, to finish out the last couple of weeks of the school semester.

Dr. Sharma says "I think the reality is that a lot of these kids will fall through the cracks. I don't see much hope."

Parent Mica Weathers says it's going to be a big disappointment for the whole neighborhood.

"It may or may not affect the kids in school," Weathers says. "I had issues with my son last year, this past year, with grades and everything. The program actually helped him out a lot."

Parents like Weathers, and their kids fought the decision not to allow a renewed lease. They gathered in a crowd to protest, holding signs, and delivering letters and a petition.

"We formally gave the management the petition that was signed by more than 220 tenants that are here," Dr. Sharma says.

However, he says the new management was not present for the demonstration. He says the line of communication has been mostly one-way.

"I still haven't heard from Aspen Square Management," he says.

News Three tried unsuccessfully to reach the company.

With no change in sight, Dr. Sharma is trying to regroup and find alternative meeting sites. He says there's got to be another way to reach underprivileged kids in Bluffton.

"These kids are our future and if we're not going to invest in them and admit the challenges of the 21st century then we're failing," he says. "We're failing miserably."

Meanwhile, Weathers hates to think NOC could leave her neighborhood.

"I think it's a big disappointment, and I don't think they should get rid of the program," Weathers says. "My kids have been going to this program since it started, and in the nine years I've lived here, this program has changed this community and this complex tremendously."

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