Rec. center keeps kids off streets

By Angela Peacock

When school is out Orlando Nathan and his friends Antonio Vasquez, Alex Page and Emilio Castaneda can be found at their favorite hang-out, the local recreation center.

The 15-year-old boys meet at the recreational center after school each day around 5:30 p.m. to play basketball, lift weights but mostly they said to keep themselves involved in positive extra curricular activities.

“I started coming here cause I was getting in too much trouble, and it just wasn’t worth it,” said Orlando, who wants to play basketball at the college level. “I come here to keep myself busy, practice on my game, sometimes to lose some stress and to just hang out with my friends.”

While Orlando, Alex and Emilio often practice at the recreational center to improve their skills for the next Rattlers basketball season, Antonio said he plays at the recreational center just to hang out friends.

“I’m not going to play basketball for THS, I just play here to stay out of drugs,” Antonio said.

Getting in shape is why Alex enjoys going to the recreational center. After high school Alex plans to enter either the U.S. Army or Navy, but until then he said his focus is on conditioning for this year’s basketball season.

Emilio isn’t too sure at this point what he wants to do after high school other than attend college, however, he said what he does know is he will continue to meet his friends each day at the recreation center as long as it’s open to the public.

Knowing an adult is always present while youth are at the rec. center is why Scott Simpson, center director. said parents should feel confident their children are good hands.

“If kids come to the rec. center and we know they’ve been doing drugs or smell alcohol we ask them to leave for a while,” Simpson said. “I think a lot of the kids do come here to stay away from the influences that would make them do (drugs or alcohol).”

The majority of children who visit the recreational center come from single parent homes, which Simpson said gives those parents a sense of relief knowing adult supervision will be provided for their children during the after school hours.

“We don’t allow children under the age of eight without a parent,” Simpson said. “But if your children are over eight and don’t have anything else to do send them over here.”