Lamont Liles runs around the gym with the type of excitement a teenager should have. He is comfortable, happy, and without a care in the world as he plays basketball to pass the time until his mother comes home from work.
Northeast Central Durham’s Holton Career & Resource Center, located at 400 N. Driver St., holds Teen Open Gym four times a week – an event for teenagers to come and spend their free time by playing ball games and hanging out with other teens.
“When I have nothing to do, or my people are at work, we just come here and hoop with our friends,” Liles, 15, said.
Open gym is held Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday in the afternoons.
Employees have an important role in keeping the teens coming back and being involved.
The open gym us for children 13-17, but they allow 18-year-olds to participate as long as they are still high-school students and have a student identification.
The Holton Career & Resource Center, commonly referred to as the Holton Center, holds one of Durham’s resource schools downstairs, a health clinic downstairs, and Durham Parks & Rec offices and spaces upstairs.
The Holton center is the only facility in East Durham that hosts a free Teen Open Gym that does not require pre-registration. Any teen can walk in when it’s scheduled and play.
The gym is located the second floor of the Holton Center, where the office for Durham’s Parks and Recreation is also located.
The Holton Center opened in 2008. The space is shared by Durham Public Schools, Durham Parks & Recreation, and Duke University Medical Services.
“I feel honored to get a chance to be a part of these kids’ lives and to really truly be an influence and make a change,” said Samual Sidberry, Facility Supervisor for the Holton Center and facilitator of the Teen Open Gym.
Liles, a student at Josephine Dobbs Clement Early College, speaks about being bored on the weekend, or during the week after school, when his mom isn’t home from work.
“I have to find something to do. I come here to play ball with my boys and chill until my mama gets home,” he said.
Sidberry explains that the Teen Open Gym is a safe place for children in the area as he anxiously takes a break from his one-on-one game against one of the students.
“The Holton Center is a place where you’ll find programs that benefit the youth and mature adults of our community for no cost at all. This is always helpful to single parents and lower income households,” he said.
Sidberry is also the advisor and supervisor of the Holton Center’s gym, fitness center, and computer lab.
“My responsibilities include supervising the students while they’re being a part of any events in any of my designated areas. I make sure everything goes accordingly and the children act accordingly,” Sidberry said.
Sidberry, 26, started working for the Holton Center eight years ago, when he was 18-years-old.
This program is a great year-round opportunity for kids to get outside of the four walls of their houses, and into a safe environment instead of being on the streets, according to Sidberry.
“This is my first time here. I liked being here. I can tell they care about me,” Marco Mitchell, 13, said about his experience.
“Being older than them and working here with them gives me the opportunity to teach and educate them. I grew up in this same neighborhood, born and raised. This is my way of giving back,” Sidberry said. “I just want them to know someone cares.”
Sidberry reflects on his time at the Holton Center by saying that he’s “seen some of them grow up,” referring to the students he works with.
“Most of them are great kids who just need some attention and love. I’m here to guide them in the right direction,” Sidberry said while he admired some of the boys playing basketball.
Programs like Open Gym contribute to the success of the Holton Center’s vision for children of the NECD community.
The energy in the gym was high. The kids seemed to feel safe and looked like they were having fun. Sidberry says that the ratio of boys to girls is about 5:1. There are always more boys there, but girls are always welcomed.
“This is my first time too, but I know I’ll be back. They’re cool,” 17-year-old Tykel McGrit said, smiling.
“We have many events throughout the year,” Sidberry said. “The events are usually based on predetermined scheduling done by our faculty. I would just advise parents and students to keep a close eye out for new things posted around the city.”
Sidberry stated that he thinks parents have nothing to worry about when it comes to the protection of their kids. According to him, a Durham police officer on sight at every event.
The main objective for the Teen Open Gym event is to create a safe place for teenagers to enjoy themselves – no trouble, no harm.