DPR provides teen escape

By Sharif Ruebin
YO:Durham Teen Intern
the Durham VOICE

Are you a teen looking for a place to escape from reality and just relax?

Shaheem Ford (middle), 17, surfs the web with friends on Teen Night at the Holton Center. Holton's computer room holds about 10 PCs.

Friday Teen Night at your neighborhood recreational center starting at 7 p.m. may be just for you.

Teen Night is a program allowing area youth and teens up to age 17 to visit and spend time in a safe environment rather than out in the streets. 

At the Holton Career and Resource Center on North Driver Street, youth in the program can attend an informational session and participate in fun activity.  Teens in the program have the opportunity to use the computer lab, hoop in the open gym, play in the game room, dance and much more.

“The idea of teen night comes from midnight basketball which was an alternative to keep teens off the street and out of crime,” said Jeffery Ford, recreation supervisor at the Holton Center.

According to Ford the concept of midnight basketball is not new and is found in parks and recreation programs in major cities around the country.  The purpose of the program is to help reduce violence from Friday to Sunday when the crime rate for teens is particularly high.

“Many large cities do it to deal with the teen population mainly to reduce crime and to promote a positive image for teens,” said Ford.

Teen Night is free and ID, such as school issued, is required to enter. Centers also include game rooms that may differ from center to center.

For instance, the game room at the Holton has pool tables, Ping-Pong and foosball while at the Community Family Life and Recreation Center at Lyon Park it includes PS2.

Shaheem Ford, no relation to Jeffery Ford, attended Teen Night at the Holton Center recently for the first time.

“A friend invited me out to teen night,” said Shaheem Ford.  “I had a good time playing basketball then surfing the web.”

“I would definitely recommend this to others,” he said.

Also new at city community centers is Teen Night’s teen basketball league. Tournament games are held every 3rd Friday of each month with teens from the surrounding centers like W. D. Hill Recreation Center, Walltown Recreation Center and Lyon Park.

Tournament locations rotate from center to center.

The next tournament will be Friday, October 21st at 6:30 p.m. in the Holton Center gymnasium.

Kids having fun playing table tennis at the Holton Center's game room. The room also hosts pool and foosball.

In addition to Teen Night, other activities for teens include D.R.E.A.M., a dramatic arts program that includes step, modeling and dance.  Still another program is called the Ujamaa Project at the Holton from Monday to Wednesday evenings.

Ujamaa is an after school program that partners Duke University, the Teen Center at Holton, the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club and the District 1 police department with Northeast Central Durham teens to provide them with leadership and community building skills.

Ujamaa is a Swahili principle from Arusha, Tanzania, one of Durham’s Sister Cities, that translates into extended family and that an individual becomes a person through community.

Feeling like part of the community excites some teens in Durham as they participate in the opportunities available to them through DPR.

Moliek Anderson and Jamil Shackleford, both 14, have attended Teen Night for a while.

“I come to play basketball and to have fun,” said Shackleford who added that he also plays on the computer.

“I recommend others to come regularly too,” he said.

Anderson, who likes to play basketball, also recommends the program to other Durham teens. But he sees something deeper in Teen Night – something DPR hopes others see also.

“It keeps my brother off the street and from the negative atmosphere,” Anderson said.

Jeff Ford has been with DPR since 2004 and said that it makes him feel good to see teens doing something productive with their weekends.

“I hope to plant the seed and watch it grow,” he said.

If you want to learn more about Teen Night, visit the Durham Parks and Recreation website or the community center nearest you.