SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A Bay Area after school program is celebrating 25 years of keeping at-risk kids alive and educated.

Omega Boys Club’s mission of keeping teens away from drugs and violence and providing education, counseling and the positive influence they need to succeed has proven successful as they have impacted more than 15,000 students, boys AND girls, to date.

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Dr. Joe Marshall, Executive Director and Co-founder of Omega, began the nonprofit in 1987 when he was a middle school math teacher.

“When one of my young students got killed in some sort of …gang-related violence,” Marshall shared, “I figured being a good teacher wasn’t enough.”

KCBS’ Connie C. Kim talks to Dr. Joe Marshall:

He says instead of sports and recreation, which the kids could get somewhere else, he wanted a program to focus on helping them deal with serious topics they face in their daily lives like violence and peer pressure.

“I was surprised that they wanted adults like us engaging them in these serious topics.”

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Marshall said a lot of young people want help, but adults don’t want to go in there either because they’re afraid of the kids or they think they can’t be helped.

Omega offers academic development and life skills education, violence prevention and conflict reduction skills and college preparation. Perhaps the group’s greatest claim to fame is its 176 college graduates and 40 graduate school graduates to date.

Marshall’s current second in command is a former student who was the roughest, toughest kid from the streets of Oakland.

“We have a saying, ‘the more you know, the more you owe,'” Marshall says many alums have become educators themselves. “They have embraced that and are always trying to help young people as they were helped.”

Omega’s 25th anniversary celebration is coming up Thursday, October 25, 2012, 6:30 to 9 pm, at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. The evening includes dinner and presentations by Omega alumni and students, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Clarence Jones — Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal counsel and draft speechwriter of the “I Have a Dream” speech — and, finally, Dr. Joseph Marshall, Executive Director and Co-founder of Omega. Tickets are still available.

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