Boys and Girls Clubs celebrate their reason for being
By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 9, 2006 2:02 AM
Cassandra Smith of Goldsboro has seen a big change in her 9-year-old son, Nicholas.
Nicholas is her youngest. She has three grown children, and Nicholas was accustomed to being around people much older than himself.
"Now, he associates with his peers. He has time to be around kids his age," said Ms. Smith, who is one the parents who have children who come to the Boys & Girls Club on Royall Avenue.
The members of all three clubs in Wayne County celebrated Boys & Girls Club Week last week and ended the observance with a celebration and field day cookout Friday afternoon at the Paley Unit on Royall Avenue.
During a ceremony in the gym, Unit Director Marvin Ford received an award of appreciation for his 16 years working at the club.
"Marvin! Marvin!" the members chanted as he walked to the podium.
"If y'all didn't come to the club every day, I wouldn't have a job," he told the cheering members. "Y'all are the people who give us jobs. Thank y'all for coming to the club."
He fielded questions from the members, and one of them was why they were having the field day, the games and the food.
"Because we love you," he said.
The club is a nonprofit organization and doesn't get any money from the state like the schools do, he said.
"You know we love y'all, 'cause we don't make a lot of money."
Eleven-year-old member Ontisha Bryant received a free bicycle donated by Rick Sumner and Taco Bell for winning an essay contest. Phyllis Moore from the News-Argus read every essay, titled "What the Club Means to Me," and she said they were all "awesome. I wish we could present an award to all of you, because you deserve it."
Miss Bryant is one of a few select members called junior staff. The junior staff gave tours earlier in the week.
Yamiaya Dunn took the first tour, stopping first at executive director Mary Ann Dudley's office for cookies and a movie shown on a laptop explaining the club's programs.
Next came the game room, where if you're good, you get to play the games. But if you're not good, you get to sit on the bench and watch the others having fun.
"It's really a fun place to be, and if you're good, you get to be junior staff," Miss Dunn said about the club. "It's a place you can hang out, do your homework and play games."
Board member Richard Slozak and two tour guides were behind Miss Dunn's tour, which proceeded to the arts and crafts room, then the learning center.
"We have Power Hour every day, when we do our homework," said Miss Dunn. "We also have assignments on the board when we come in."
The tour circled through the gymnasium, where members were shooting hoops, and the teen center, where the boys and girls meet separately. At one point in the day, the boys are taken to the gym so the girls can talk about "things girls go through."
The boys return to the teen center after the girls finish their discussions.
Next stop was the computer lab, where each age group takes its turn doing computer work, which consists of assignments from the staff, self-study or going on the music.com or the Barbie Web site.
The members eat in the multipurpose room, where some members do their homework during Power Hour. Miss Dunn said the favorite item from the snack and drink machines is Strawberry Sunkist.
"Because it tastes so good," said Miss Dunn. It's her favorite, too.
The circle was complete at the front desk, where the members' schedules are posted according to age group.
Development Director Sara Wheeler took photographs of Slozak and other volunteers or board members. He said he does a lot of work with the staff, but he really enjoys sitting around and talking to the members.
"I come here quite often," said Slozak, who is retired but stays busy with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Waynesborough, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army and the Community Soup Kitchen. "We're in the midst of a fundraiser right now, and that's where I'm helping out right now."
He said the club is one of the best opportunities in the community to help young people.
"What would these kids do without the club?" Slozak asked. "It's an investment in the youth."
The teen pregnancy program, for example, has been in place about seven years, and not a single active club member has become a teen mom, said Mrs. Wheeler. The program is one of many at the club and is called Smart Girls. The members talk about other issues, too, like drugs, alcohol and careers.
The girls know what they want to be when they grow up.
Yimaiya Dunn wants to be a supreme court judge.
Lavecia Hines wants to be a cosmetologist long enough to work her way through medical school and become a dentist.
Jacchia Cobb wants to be an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Zshatorria Chambers wants to be a WNBA player. If she can't do that, she will settle for a career as an ob-gyn doctor.
Khadijah McDuffie wants to be a pediatrician.
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