Ray Robinson Center Teaches ‘Slam Dunk’ Life

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By Randilyn Farrell –

At the Ray Robinson Oak Park Community Center (ROC) in Sacramento, Calif., staff, interns, and students are committed to creating a risk-free environment in which the children can express their self-confidence. They put education first, says Director Derrell Roberts.

After a day of classes, students hit the ROC Center doors full of energy, and often a little hungry. The center’s new nutrition program is ready to meet their needs. Keeping in step with that goal, children receive fruit, granola snacks, and juice each afternoon.

Then it’s back to the books. Students from 19 area schools are separated into small groups and assigned either to a college or high-achieving high school student intern. Interns help them finish regularly assigned academic school work. Roberts takes any opportunity to brag on “his” kids and their success.

“We are proud of the growth and success of this program. Where we once had 20 kids on a casual basis, we now have more than 100 young people attending the center’s program every day. We have become a beacon of light within the Oak Park community and surrounding neighborhoods.”

Parent involvement also makes this program work. According to Lisa Durham, an education consultant for the program, “The Salvation Army ROC Center is committed to families. Parent participation is what makes the success of this program.”

Each year parents attend several planning meetings where they have an opportunity to discuss needs they have for children and ideas on how the program can help.

The students are really the ones who make it all worthwhile. Although the ROC Center has all the state-of-the-art athletic equipment and the fame of the NBA Kings, the young people have made a commitment to education. But that’s not to say they don’t know how to have fun.

In March, students solicited sponsors for their annual Hoops-4-Fun fund-raiser. The young people hit the basketball courts, battled it out with a game of chess, and slammed the foos-balls all night long. At this year’s event the students raised almost $4,000 for the After-School Tutoring Program.

The ROC also offers a community Youth Choir. Each Thursday the Creative Ministries Director, Nathan Farrell, gathers up children from the ROC Center and the corps for some soulful music making. The choir loves to perform and has rocked the Sacramento String Band Chantez and added a little spunk to some Sunday morning worship services, as well as other community events.

Working together, the Sacramento Citadel (Lts. Clement and Evangeline Leslie) and the ROC Center strive to show that each child is special.

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