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CAMPUS VISIT — Students in the Massey-James Reading Academy visit the campus of Bethune-Cookman University in July. Pernell Thomas Jr. is in front, and behind him are Pernavius Thomas, Samaria Parker, Maya Williams, Kayonni Keith, Kaniya Smiley and Waltavia Hayward. In back are Perniah Thomas, Pernasia Thomas, Milesha Hall and Pernerria Thomas.

Just in time to celebrate what would have been Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s 144th birthday on July 10, students in the Massey-James Reading Academy visited her historical home in Daytona Beach on the campus of Bethune-Cookman University.

The Massey-James Center in Lake Helen has extended its services throughout the summer months with a program to accommodate youth. The center’s director is Johnnie Chavis, and she is assisted by a cadre of volunteers.

The Massey-James Center is the result of a dream born decades ago.

Since its inception in 1958, the Mount Zion Northeast Coast District Missionary Baptist Association had envisioned a place that would provide for worship as well as meeting the needs of young people.

“This was the dream of our forebears as they searched for a suitable place to buy property to build an adequate center for the youth,” said Brenda Cusack, president of the Missionary Baptist Association’s Women’s Auxiliary.

The bright-eyed and eager-to-learn students enrolled in the summer program met one of Bethune’s descendants, Dr. Evelyn Bethune, and university President Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite, who had lunch with students.

“They also witnessed the presentation of a $25,000 contribution from Brown & Brown Insurance toward the construction of the statue that will be placed in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol to represent Florida,” Cusack said.

The day culminated with an announcement that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had formally requested that Bethune’s statue replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, which will be relocated.

Students in the Massey-James summer program meet daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and are scheduled for more field trips, with an emphasis on reading. There is no cost to the students and their families for the program.

As with any successful community-based program, volunteers and additional support are always welcome. To donate or learn more, call Chavis at 386-747-2814 or email her at chavisjohnnie@yahoo.com.

— Cameron, a longtime educator, lives in Orange City. Send email to cameronchronicleslive@gmail.com.