Carrollton nonprofit provides support for students faced with childhood trauma

Demarcus Copeland

The founder of a Carrollton nonprofit that supports students facing childhood trauma is seeking funding for “The Tunnel Project,” which he plans to launch later this year.

The Molding Passionate Active Creative Kids (M-PACK) nonprofit needs supplies for this project, and the founder is asking local government leaders for $180,760 to help get the program started.

M-PACK was created to “combat the lasting effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs),” founder Demarcus Copeland wrote in an executive summary of his organization. Adverse Childhood Experiences can be categorized into three primary groups: abuse, neglect and household challenges.

Copeland launched M-PACK in March 2020, and he is renting a building he calls “The Tunnel” at 302 N. Park St. In an interview with the Times-Georgian on Monday, he said he would like to launch the Tunnel Project in August.

“The Tunnel is a building that we decided to rent because of its placement in the community,” Copeland wrote in his proposal. “We call it the Tunnel because from the back entry, you can see the most impoverished area in Carrollton. We will host an after-care program that bonds with youth from Ward 1 directly behind the building.”

He told the newspaper he started his nonprofit because the Carroll County branch of the Boys and Girls Club closed in March 2020. He wanted to give students an alternative to that program. He has also worked in education for 10 years, including a stint at the KidsPeace educational center in Bowdon.

“The school system is great and all, but there are restrictions and it’s just not enough time to build relationships that could involve the parents,” he said. “We’re going to advocate for any kid that needs help, and we’re going to build them up anyway we can.”

In his proposal, Copeland said scientific studies by the health care company Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that early exposure to childhood trauma can be linked to several diseases, such as cancer, asthma or obesity.

“Early exposure has been linked to smoking, alcoholism, drug use, low graduation rates, little to no academic achievement, lost time from work, and a 20-year difference in life expectancy when compared to those who have not experienced childhood trauma,” he wrote.

Under the Tunnel Project, Copeland is proposing a program called “It Pays to Pass,” which will give parents $150 per month to ensure their student makes certain grades. The program will also offer tutoring services and mentorship.

“Our goal is for the parents to become so dependent on receiving this monthly income, they will do all they can in their power to make sure the child maintains the desired grade point average,” Copeland’s proposal said. “The program is meant to increase parent involvement in a child’s life while lowering unemployment payment recipients.”

There are requirements for the parents and children, including being employed part-time, having one child per family, being between the ages of 13 and 16, maintaining a 3.0 grade-point average and not having a GPA above 2.5 when entering.

Copeland’s goals are to begin life-coaching 25 children this year and raise enough funds to hire three certified, professional life coaches. He would also like to raise $250,000 through grants and fundraisers and partner with at least 10 youth-related businesses.

The nonprofit also plans to start three programs for these students, including the Organized Play, the Plan and the Power Program and the Outside the Classroom and Beyond programs. These projects will help children faced with adverse experiences play and learn with other children and professionals.

“Our main goal is to build relationships and provide resources that cater to each individual participant’s needs through life coaching inventions,” Copeland said.