UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
When Afiya Carter, programming coordinator at Holton Career and Resource Center, got in a cab to go to work this week, she wasn’t expecting to find a new patron.
“Turns out my cab driver had gone to Holton for middle school,” she said. “This is how we’re getting our word out a lot-people went to Holton or had a relative that went there.”
The renovation of the old Holton Middle School on Driver Street into a career and community resource center is a partnership between Durham Public Schools and Durham Parks and Recreation. Yet according to Carter, more important than the career services are the unprecedented after-school programs now available at the center.
“After-school programs were something the community said they really wanted, and we’re encouraging parents to take us up on these opportunities,” she said. “Positive things are happening. There are a lot of positive people that will be here for their children.”
Although numbers were initially small, Carter said people are starting to come in to look around and realizing the opportunities in place for local youths.
One of the most popular after-school programs at Holton is the Disciplined Roles in Entertainment Arts and Media (DREAM) program.
“DREAM is an interdisciplinary arts program that takes place every night beginning at 6 p.m.,” she said. “The different disciplines range from fashion design and modeling to hip-hop dance and video and music production.”
Another program that has taken residence at Holton is the Hayti Youth for Progress and Enrichment (HYPE) program for at-risk young men in the Durham community.
“As a mentor, you learn that sometimes you are the first person to smile or say something nice all day to a child,” said Douglass Coleman, a former elementary school teacher who now acts as HYPE’s coordinator. “Home is not always a happy, supportive place.”
Young men, ranging from ages 9 to 16, meet every Friday at the Holton Center. The 12 to 20 participants then spend a few hours enjoying physical activities, like martial arts, basketball and volleyball, and various activities engaging their minds and spirits, Coleman said.
“We’re trying to educate their world view,” he said. “Here they develop skills and character traits necessary to be successful leaders in their community and at school.”
Guest speakers also come and talk to the young men about life choices and anger management. Recently, a member of a local street gang talked to the participants about his feelings of being trapped in gang life and how he would take back his decision to join if he could. Gang membership is a particular problem with young men in the area, according to Coleman.
Carter agrees with Coleman, saying the times when most teenagers get into trouble are the hours directly after school before their parents get home. Carter wants to ensure programs are in place during these time periods.
“It is critical that opportunities are there and that these opportunities are positive,” she said.
Carter, a Durham native and current Northeast Central Durham resident, has watched the neighborhood change over the past few years and says she is excited about the potential of the area.
“The changes were necessary, I remember a time when resources were not available [for young adults],” she said. “It’s great what’s happening. It’s needed and it’s beautiful.”