06/21/13 — Summer program for kids starts

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Summer program for kids starts

By John Joyce
Published in News on June 21, 2013 1:46 PM

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Cierra Council, left, uses a math problem to pick group leaders for a game during a rally for the new youth program "Generation Now" at Courtyard Community Center. Ms. Council started the program to offer children a place to strengthen their academics and life skills.

With more children in attendance than expected, a slightly overwhelmed Cierra Council launched her community youth program, "Generation Now," at the Courtyard Housing Community on Thursday.

Neighborhood youth from as young as 3 to as old as 15 engaged in team building games, dance, and community based fun.

There was even a Zumba class led by longtime Mount Olive Zumba instructor Deborah Marshall.

Ms. Marshall, who teaches several Zumba classes a day and works 12-hour shifts as a corrections officer, took the kids through the Wobble and other dances to warm them up before really turning up the fitness -- all under the supervision of Ms. Council and parents who came to watch.

Council began the youth outreach program back in October 2012.

Largely a faith-based agency, Generation Now aims to take kids from lower-income communities and give them a safe place to go after school and during the summer.

While participating in the program, with signed permission slips from parents, children of all ages will engage in Bible Bowl competitions, math and literacy programs, debate forums and mentoring sessions.

They will also be having fun.

"It's about positive reinforcement, building confidence in their abilities," Ms. Council said.

There are too many negative influences in the communities these kids grow up in -- gangs, guns, drugs and alcohol, sex and violence.

"If that's what they see the older kids are doing, or (in some cases) their parents are encouraging them to do it, that's what these kids are going to end up doing," she said.

Ms. Council has plans to align with the NAACP Youth Council and Wayne County Public Schools when the school year starts back in August.

For now she is content to work with the parents and children in the community to get Generation Now up and running, with a little help from Goldsboro Parks and Recreation.

"I am excited for the community to take full advantage of us as a resource," Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said.

The city agency donated some sprinklers and sports equipment for the kids to play with Thursday.

Ms. Council's mother, Carlotta Council, helped out with the event and said she was proud to see her daughter's efforts bearing fruit.

"The kids, they need to be doing something. When they don't have anything to do that's when you know they're going to find trouble," she said.

But there were too many activities going on for anyone to get in trouble Thursday.

Things kicked off with a water balloon relay game in which two teams had several balloons each, one filled with ketchup. The teams were to run one player each to a destination point and stomp a balloon. The first team to see red would lose.

When both teams came down to their last balloon and neither player wanted to stomp theirs, Ms. King was shocked to find the kids outsmarted her.

"They could smell the ketchup in the balloons, and so they knew which one it was the whole time," she said.

Since neither team won or lost the game was decided by a math problem, an indication of things to come for Generation Now -- making education and competition both fun and safe for a group of kids who need a good dose of each, and to know their community cares about their future.