Columbia Housing Authority Moving Ahead program marks 20th year

Columbia Housing Authority’s Moving Ahead after-school and summer education program continues to grow and this expansion has meant converting former offices in the J.W. “Blind” Boone Community Center into a space dedicated to teen program participants.

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Moving Ahead got its start 20 years ago and to recognize that achievement Mayor Barbara Buffaloe issued a proclamation in recognition of the anniversary.

“I urge all citizens in Columbia to be committed to quality, innovative programs like the Moving Ahead program, and to support and offer support for the CHA school-aged youth, who will have a place to learn, enjoy and thrive after school and during the summer,” she said reading from the proclamation.

Columbia Housing Authority Moving Ahead Program staff and the students they serve pose for a group photo Wednesday in celebration of the after school and summer education program's 20-year anniversary. They are joined by CHA CEO Randy Cole, far left, CHA board chair Bob Hutton, second from left,  and Mayor Barbara Buffaloe, far right.

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Excitement was high for Michaela Flores, program assistant coordinator. She works with Janice Brooks, program coordinator; Alexis Seals, teen coordinator; and Miguel Flores, youth coordinator, among other teaching staff at the community center for children in kindergarten through 12th grade. The program has gone from serving 60 to 100 children.

“We have worked to remodel this (teen space) since January. Our teens haven’t really had a home. They have been in other classrooms and volunteering to help around the center, so now we are excited for them to have their own space,” Flores said, adding the teen space has a camping decorative theme.

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Features of the teen-focused space include an art room, media center, reading nook and plenty of seating and tables. Equipment in the media center could help teens explore audio and video production, such as for podcasts.

“It’s really going to feel like something that is theirs and that they can learn and socialize with their peers,” Flores said.

Sixth-grader Melat Teken enjoys that the Moving Ahead program is invested in her and her peers.

“They ask you about you, how school was, and you can go to your class, have a snack, do educational stuff, homework, get dinner and play outside,” she said. “I like the (new) space.”

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Columbia Housing Authority marked the 20-year anniversary of its Moving Ahead after-school and summer education program Wednesday, including an expansion of its teen center. Guests toured, took photos and enjoyed the camping-themed decor.

Moving Ahead provides tutoring as well as enrichment opportunities in a variety of subjects, all built around Missouri education standards, along with a scouting program, and a partnership with Columbia Art League and with VidWest, which provided computers and equipment for the media center.

“Moving Ahead is about breaking down barriers and letting kids experience things they might not get to outside of here,” Flores said. “During the summer we go on field trips on an almost daily basis. On Fridays, we take them to Kansas City and St. Louis for educational field trips. They have a lot of fun.”

The teen center officially opens June 1 with expected operational hours of 2:30-6:30 p.m. These will expand to 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. in July.

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Buffaloe expressed her appreciation for what the Moving Ahead program provides for youth and teens.

“It basically lets them be kids. This is really helpful for parents who are at work. Child care is a huge struggle to good employment in Columbia, so I’m thankful we have the Moving Ahead program,” she said. “This expansion of their teen center, when we are talking about having activities for teens especially, … it provides an alternative to the potential of (getting in trouble). It’s great for them to have and it’s a really cool space.”

Charles Dunlap covers local government, community stories and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Subscribe to support vital local journalism.

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