During the two-hour Saturday ISH/ISHA Project Academy sessions, there are times when the Rev. John Curry will lead a group of youngsters in marches.
Participants will even repeat verses recited by Curry.
“Long, long time ago, heard it on the radio, sound so good to me, ISH project is where I be,” 16-year-old ISH alumnus Jamel Wade said groups would recite.
The drills even include dabbing made famous by NFL player Cam Newton and the shimmy from NBA player Steph Curry.
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“It’s supposed to teach us how to respond to orders, and follow directions … and to work together as a team,” said Chaianna Curry, of O’Fallon and Rev. Curry’s granddaughter. “Because when we perform the drills we have to do it together and stay in sync.”
The program works with 12 through 18-year-olds and includes discussions among the youngsters about the problems they’re dealing with, issues in school, how they’re doing with grades, and what they need to improve on.
“I think a lot of young African-American men and women are targeted in our society and so it’s important for them to know who they are so they could carry themselves correctly,” said Chaianna Curry, an ISHA alumna.
Our goal is to train young men and young women to be better citizens, so they could stay out of jail, stay out of prison.
The Rev. John Curry, founder of the ISH/ISHA Project Academy
Now the organizers of the program, which started in 1991, are looking to raise money to renovate the former reading room next to the Conqueror’s Christian Center in Belleville, with plans of making it the headquarters of the ISH/ISHA Project Academy.
“We’re doing this because we want to be able to help young men and young women move forward with a greater opportunity for living a great life,” John Curry said.
There’s no power to the vacant building, tarps cover windows, the ceiling has been gutted and pieces of insulation were on the floor.
“What we’re looking to do is refurbish it,” John Curry said. “Sometimes when you get people to try to refurbish something, they don’t always do what they’re supposed to do, so they leave stuff hanging out.”
There’s about $25,000 worth of work to be done, John Curry said, which includes adding computers, furniture, television, as well as new dry wall and a new roof.
In the program, Curry works with youngsters on anger management, respect of the law, conflict resolution, understanding race relations, gang prevention, money management, value of work and character development, among other things.
ISH and ISHA are Hebrew words. ISH means man to his highest form. ISHA means woman to her highest form.
During the program, participants meet every Saturday for two hours. During the school year, the program is eight weeks long, during the summer it lasts for 12 weeks.
Renovating the now defunct reading room and counseling office is meant to help bolster the ISH/ISHA Project Academy.
“Our goal is to train young men and young women to be better citizens, so they could stay out of jail, stay out of prison,” John Curry said.
ISH alum Jordan Wade, 14, and Jamel’s brother, said renovating the vacant building would have positive ripple effects and help work against violence and gang activity.
“We could even help people in the future,” Jordan Wade said. “If it’s helping us, then we could change the world ... (ISH/ISHA) teaches you about discipline, teaches you about God, which is nothing but love. It ... tells you to never give up when you’re on the wrong road. It’s never too late to turn back.”
I think a lot of young African American men and women are targeted in our society and so it’s important for them to know who they are so they could carry themselves correctly.
Chaianna Curry, an ISHA alumna
The program also includes lessons about African American history, in addition to the physical activities such as drill routines, and even push ups and sit ups.
“I think the program is important because it teaches young girls how to carry themselves and teaches them things like self confidence, and what makes them important. And does the same thing for young men, especially African American ones,” Chaianna Curry said.
ISH/ISHA includes good students, as well as students who have been referred by the courts or by their parents.
“If the parent has a child who’s not doing what he needs to do, they could recommend him be a part of the program,” John Curry said.
Brothers Jamel, Eric and Jordan Wade, of Belleville, all decided to voluntarily join the ISH program.
Jamel Wade, 16, said they volunteered to be a good influence for the other youngsters in the program, especially those there because of a court order.
“We just wanted to rub off on them, to show them it wasn’t that bad to at least be a good kid,” Jamel Wade said.
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The program works with 12 through 18-year-olds on anger management, respect of the law, conflict resolution, understanding race relations, gang prevention, money management, value of work and character development, among other things. During the program, participants meet every Saturday for two hours. During the school year, the program is eight weeks long, during the summer it lasts for 12 weeks.
How to help
The Rev. John Curry has started a Go Fund Me Page to raise money to help renovate the vacant building for the ISH/ISHA Project Academy.
To donate money, go to https://www.gofundme.com/2uvgfx0?ssid=856380092&pos=1