By Carlton Koonce
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
Durham Parks and Recreation wants people in Northeast Central Durham who find afternoons and weekends boring to get out and play more with their athletic or cultural activities.
Its “Play More” motto encourages city youth to participate in one or more of the many activities it provides at various community centers including the Holton Center, located in the heart of NECD.
“A lot of kids feel alone and we make them feel special,” said Rosalie Bocelli-Hernandez, community relations coordinator for Durham Parks and Recreation. “When you get to the centers we are like a family. Everyone works well together and you can see it with the kids.”
Bocelli-Hernandez said that DPR maintains a good relationship with the community and tries to keep programs diversified. There are many classes that promote culture as well as physical activity.
“It’s a commitment,” she said. “DPR is trying to merge cultures by keeping a lot of cultural things involved. There are dance classes that teach Latin and Cuban-African dances and Caribbean music.”
Bocelli-Hernandez also said that DPR leans toward more education for youth and they have after school programs to keep them academically prepared.
“We try to prevent kids from getting into gangs,” she said. “We have Friday nights out where we view movies and have games. Most kids go to gangs because they have no one at home and they feel lonely.”
“The community centers try to reach out,” she said.
DPR’s “Play More” consists of a host of activities including basketball, racquetball, computer classes, self-defense, hiking, life-guard classes and many others. The activities are tailored for all ages from the very young to senior citizens.
“The basketball games are very popular,” said Bocelli-Hernandez. “The aquatics classes are also really popular. They are provided by the Red Cross and are divided by ages from 0-3 years to adults.”
Bocelli-Hernandez said that there are also swimming lessons for autistic children and those diagnosed with Down syndrome and other special needs. She said special needs programs are also designed to develop teamwork and trust in participants.
Bocelli-Hernandez also said the department accommodates people with special needs and has a host of volunteers to help out with everything from parking to serving meals for all events.
Denique Prout is a graduate of N. C. Central University and has been working for DPR as a facility attendant and reservation specialist at the Lyon Park Community Center. She gives tours to people interested in reserving a center’s space.
She said most of the centers try to offer the same activities but some centers can provide activities that others cannot.
“Some of them have pools and tennis courts so they can offer different programs,” Prout said. “You can shop around and each center can give you info about another. We work as a team.”
Prout said young people could enroll in Project Teen in which they will have the opportunity to go on field trips and participate in self-esteem programs. She also said they make their own music CDs.
“We have open gym Friday nights between 6 and 11 for whomever,” she said. “In NECD the Holton Center has everything from computer and barber classes to game rooms and GED classes.
Bocelli-Hernandez said DPR sends out surveys to see what sort of initiatives the community would like to be introduced.
“We ask them what they do and what they want to do on the surveys,” she said. “The unpopular ones [programs] are closed and we move on.”
“Basketball was one request and we have cooking classes starting in April as another one,” she said. “There will be a variety of meals and chefs from various area restaurants that will teach those classes. If the public engages, we will continue to offer them.”
DPR publishes a magazine four times a year that is inserted in the Durham Herald Sun. The magazines contain the locations of centers and the programs offered by DPR. Whatever the season or program, it can be found in the magazine. Contact and rental information is also included.
Bocelli- Hernandez said that DPR is trying to lower prices to accommodate people in the current economy. She said by purchasing a Play More card from a center, people can save money.
Prout said vouchers are available for people who fit the requirements but she said people just don’t take advantage of it.
“Come to a center and play if you don’t have anything to do,” Prout said. “Our motto is play more and kids grow up so fast they don’t get to enjoy childhood anymore.”
Bocelli-Hernandez said there are sometimes carpools that can help people get to certain activities at the centers. Otherwise DPR only provides transportation for after school programs and summer camp.
Both Bocelli- Hernandez and Prout would like to see the public learn more about DPR and Play More activities.
Durham is a unique place,” said Bocelli. “The people are so special. We want younger people to feel like kings and queens.”
Prout said there is no excuse for young people anywhere in Durham to be bored.
“These facilities are created for you,” she said. “Don’t be home pouting and saying there’s nothing to do. We’re here. Play more.”