By LESLIE COLLINS
August 29, 2012
Club KC swelled to numbers the city didn’t expect, and the program’s success has city officials talking about plans for next year.
“We knew it was going to be popular, but we were surprised by how quickly it went from 500 to almost 1,000 (youth) within one week,” said Roosevelt Lyons, special assistant for community affairs in the mayor’s office. “Overall, it was a success and I think most people are on board and want to see it continue.”
One of the catalysts for launching Club KC was the shooting of three youth on the Country Club Plaza last summer. City officials implemented a city-wide curfew, but also realized the youth needed access to positive activities in a safe environment.
Kansas City Area Research Consortium released a report earlier this year for the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, which evaluated why youth resort to violence and also listed activities youth would like to have.
“The main takeaway was they want to have a place where they can just be kids, can go and hang out, have fun and just be themselves,” Lyons said.
Following the report, the city utilized area organizations like the YMCA, Don Bosco Centers, Boy Scouts and others to talk to youth and gain their feedback about activities they’d like to see.
One of the best things the city did was listen to the youth about what they wanted, Lyons said.
Launched this summer, Club KC ran for eight weeks, providing activities for high schoolers and middle
schoolers on Friday and Saturday nights at the city’s community centers. Activities ranged from dance contests to video game tournaments to access to computer labs. The city also used a dance choreographer to teach new moves, used area DJs and each night a speaker would briefly talk about different topics, like proper etiquette and becoming involved in one’s neighborhood.
Marvon and Marqon Kirkwood, both 15, said their favorite activities were dancing and listening to the local DJs.
Without Club KC, Marvon would have sat at home bored, he said.
“I think it was good,” Marqon said of Club KC. “It’s a great environment. You can stay out of trouble by going.”
Marqon added he most likely would have succumbed to negative activities if it weren’t for Club KC.
During the summer, Club KC averaged 900 youth each night and no major incidents were reported, Lyons said.
“People always have the perception, especially with our urban youth, that they’re violent and they just want to cause problems. I don’t think that’s the case,” Lyons said. “We were having weekends with 400, 500 kids (at one center) without any major incidents, without any gunfire or weapons being drawn.
“There’s an appetite for this (Club KC), and kids want a place to go and have fun. They’re not looking to cause trouble.”