Holton Center hosts Teen Night: more than just hoops

By Aaron Saunders
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

Growing up in a city can be very difficult for young African-Americans.  Many distractions come with the territory of being an inner city youth. Peer pressure to hang out with friends and smoke, drink, and get into trouble lingers in many cities across the U.S.

Kids mix it up at Holton Center's weekly Teen Night. (Staff photo by Aaron Saunders)

In Northeast Central Durham one place that strives to get inner city youth off the streets is the Holton Career and Resource Center which hosts “Teen Night” every second and fourth Friday of the month through Durham Parks and Recreation.

The center is open to all kids to the age of 17, the doors open at 7 p.m. and teens are allowed to play basketball (as long as they have on tennis shoes), socialize and use the computers in the recreation center. Before this, the teens must sign in and go through a quick educational session.

“The messages are good,” said Benny McCray, a Northern High School student. “They keep us educated and keep us motivated not to do bad things.”

Lester Thomas, mentor and president of The Ujima Group, Inc., meets with the students for this required component.

“I try to tailor my message around leadership and character building… the key to keeping their attention is finding something interesting that they will take with them when they leave,” Thomas said.

Thomas is one of several volunteers at the center. Norris Jordan, parent of one of the teens that uses the center, monitors the students in the gymnasium while they play basketball.

“I started bringing my son up here as soon as it opened and once I started volunteering, I was picking up other people’s kids and bringing them,” said Jordan.

The open gym nights attract a diverse group of students from different schools including Kestrel Heights, Southern, Northern, Mount Zion and Hillside.

Teen Night isn’t just about the basketball though. Many of the teens come just to hang out.

“I come mostly because I have practice here, but I stay because I get to see all my friends from school and meet new people,” said Danielle Graham of Southern School of Engineering.

Many of the kids have no places to play in their own community which is why the center is very important. Some students even walk from as far as Campus Hills to come and play.

“Every community needs a center like this one,” said Jordan.