ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – There have been a number of stories involving teens and violence in the past year. So how do you keep kids off the streets and engaged in something positive? One woman put her idea into action.
Friday night, the Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation Department premiered its first ‘Teen 3 on 3 Basketball’ event, geared to keep kids out of trouble, and having fun. As an added bonus, teens get to learn some valuable life skills too.
Most kids like to let loose and have a good time on the weekends. But several teens in Albuquerque don’t have many safe places to do that.
When asked what high-schoolers usually do on weekends, Jamarkus Williams, 17, told KRQE News 13 there’s usually a party going on somewhere.
Reality though, can sometimes be scary. People like Laura Kennedy, Community Fitness Section Manager for Bernalillo County Parks and Rec, are tired of seeing kids get into trouble.
“There was a lot of crime going on, and there still continues to be in the metro area,” Kennedy told News 13.
Last summer, six people were wounded and a 17-year-old was killed at the Los Altos Skatepark shooting. Then, bartender Steven Gerecke was shot and killed in his own driveway, after he confronted a group of teens breaking into cars.
“What are these kids doing on a Friday night? What are they doing on the weekends? Kennedy asked. “Isn’t there anything constructive for them?”
It’s a question several people in the community have asked lately.
That’s where the new program comes in. Kennedy put her idea into action, and started ‘Teen 3 on 3’ basketball Friday nights at the Westside Community Center.
“It gives us something to do because whenever you’re bored that just like creates problems,” said 17-year-old Williams.
Williams said he came for the basketball, to hang out with friends, plus Saggios provided $500 worth of free food for the night.
After a successful pilot program, this was the first night to kickoff the eight week spring session.
“There’s a lot of people here, I was kinda surprised,” said Steve Cordova. Cordova brought his three grandkids to checkout the event.
“Keep them active, keep them doing something positive, I think it’s a great idea,” said Cordova.
There are referees to keep track of each game, plus a live DJ. “We want to do a dance component or a hip hop component to it,” said Kennedy. “So at like half-time or when we’re taking a break, we can get kids involved in dancing.”
Mixed in with the fun, each night there’s a guest speaker to talk about life skills for 30 minutes. Friday night’s topic was health and wellness.
As an added incentive, if kids participate in the eight week program, their name will go in a drawing for prizes like a new pair of basketball shoes, iPods, UNM gear and more.
Keeping kids out of trouble, off the streets, and having fun is the ultimate goal.
“Our hope is that this program grows and grows and grows,” said Kennedy.
The Teen 3 on 3 events will be every Friday night from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. It is free to any kids ages 12 to 19.
Organizers hope to spread this program to every community center in Albuquerque. Bernalillo County has kicked in some funds, but they still need help with donations, guest speakers, and food and drink donations.
Anyone interested in donating can call the Bernalillo County Sports Office at 505-314-0415.