For five years the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center has helped more than 400 inner-city youth. Named after the NBA star and the New York Knicks’ power forward, the center opened its doors in 2005 and continues to serve children throughout its community.
“The center is so much fun,” said 10-year-old Autumn Smith, a 5 year veteran of the program. “We always go on trips and we get to do experiments and we get to have fun Friday’s where we can do any activity we want.”
Located on 1100 E. Fayette St. in Baltimore, the youth center is just one of many nonprofit organizations in Baltimore City that assist Baltimore residents for free or reduced cost, in order to provide them with basic needs that they would otherwise not be able to afford.
The center is an afterschool and summer camp program that allows public housing and low-income parents the ability to enroll their children in an after-school activity free of cost.
The program is open Monday through Friday and runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for children age’s six to 12.
Lejoy White is the program manager for the center and she says that what she loves most about her job is being able to bring the classroom to life at an afterschool program.
“Our primary focus of our program is improving math and literacy scores on the MSA, as well as report card grades,” White said. Our goal is to get students proficient or higher on their MSA scores and to get satisfactory or higher on their report card grades.”
In order to increase their student’s academic level, Daniel Gibson the math coordinator for the center, creates weekly lesson plans for the middle school students that is synonymous to what they are taught in school.
“The curriculum I create for the kids is supplemental to the Baltimore City Public School curriculum,” Gibson said. “I just take that curriculum and reinforce their skills from what they were taught that school day.”
Maintaining healthy children is also a main goal for the employees at the center. Thanks to a grant provided by the Family League, the center is able to provide hot, nutritious meals to every child daily. On one particular day, students were given turkey and gravy with mixed vegetables, an apple and a 4-ounce cup of milk.
Since its opening, the center has not only helped its students, it also helped the parents.
Coach Kurk Lee is the athletic director of the center, and is the longest working employee at the program. Of the seven years Lee’s been employed at the center, he has seen parent participation increase dramatically.
“When I came here several years ago we didn’t get a lot of parent involvement,” Lee said. “But then we started doing things like parent night out and passing out fliers. That brought out a lot of parents and now they believe in what we do, because they can see the result in their kids. Their child’s homework is done, their maturity level has grown, and their life skills have improved.”
Chanel Cooley enrolled her daughter in the youth program when she was in middle school, and she says that the program has helped them both.
“The center was right around the corner from where I worked, so it was easy access for me to pick up my daughter,” Cooley said. “Also being a single parent and being in college, I am glad the center was free. The workers at the center have also helped my daughter a lot because her social skills have improved; she’s a lot more friendly and outgoing to other kids now.”
The center does a lot more than helping parents and children within the program. According to Coach Lee, he believes that the center has helped the neighborhood, making it a better environment for the students, as well as children outside of the program.
“This year we put together an evening program, which is now on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m.,” Lee said. “We let the teenagers from 14 through 21, who can’t come in during the 3 to 6 hour, have the chance to come in and have open gym. We do this to try to keep them off the streets and give them something to do.”
Since 2002 the federal government has done a lot to provide after-care programs in low-income neighborhoods. With the help of government grants 7,500 after-school programs are available in rural and inner-city public schools in more than 1,400 communities.
The more students a program has, the more funds it receives from the government, and according to Coach Lee, without grants the youth center would not have progressed as much as it did.
“We use to average 60 or 70 kids, now we have 135,” Lee said. “We live off grants and donations, without those and the kids we don’t have a program, just a building sitting here. All in all, I am just really impressed with how much we’ve been able to helped our kids and the community.”
Lejoy White is the program manager for the center, and she explains how the center is ran.
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