Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Carver Center Serves as Outlet for Youth

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Carver Center Serves as Outlet for Youth

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister

Isaac Scruggs loves to play basketball at the Carver Community Center but he can't do it without his friends, three of whom willingly lie down on the court while he backs up, gets a running start, jumps over their bodies and slams the ball into the basket.

Sometimes Isaac dunks the ball, sometimes he doesn't. But he has yet to fall on his friends' backs.

"I hang out a lot and play basketball," the shy 12-year-old said after dunking the ball in the basket Wednesday.

"Did it go in?" Isaac asked from the other side of the basket.

"Yes." his friends answered.

"Thank you!" he shouted as he pumped his fists in celebration.

Isaac is one of about 50 children who go to the city-run youth center at 738 Fourth Ave. S. each day. The center offers sports activities, computer training, arts and drama, field trips and after-school and summer camp programs. The park includes a picnic shelter, playground, ball field and two basketball courts.

The center's new supervisor, Latoya Thomas, stepped into the position in January after the former supervisor, Brandon Terrell, left to build churches and schools in Africa.

Thomas, who grew up in the South Pablo Beach community in Jacksonville Beach and graduated from Fletcher High School, is revamping the center's sports and arts programs. She is assisted by Adrienne Veatch, a part-time tutor who appears to have as much passion for the job as Thomas.

The center offers numerous activities each week, such as art sessions on Wednesday afternoon, Girl Scouts on Thursday, Movie Night every other Friday night and field trips about once a month.

She's looking for dedicated parents who would like to organize a Boy Scout troop.

In January, the center held its first dance contest for children ages 5 to 18. The participants choreographed their own dance program and were judged by friends and neighbors.

"It was so much fun," Thomas said. "Everyone laughed."

As a result, the center is putting together a dance troupe, Thomas said.

The center also held its first Spring Dance for teens, ages 14 to 18. The teens raised money to hire Jacksonville's DJ Dr. Doom; brought their own food, helped organize the event and cleaned up afterward.

Thomas is also trying to develop a speakers program. On two Saturdays in March, she brought in speakers from Girls Inc., a national nonprofit organization that tries to inspire girls, particularly girls in high-risk and underserved areas, to be strong, smart and bold. They discussed issues including sexuality and basic health education.

Miss Jacksonville, Alicia Wells, also attended the program to encourage the girls' participation.

In addition, Artlife Productions in Atlantic Beach runs a summer arts program at Carver Community Center and works with the children on art projects throughout the year. …

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