Ribbon cutter exemplifies Boys & Girls Club goals

photo by: Contributed photo

Avion Nelson

With snow falling outside and only an outdoor basketball hoop to play on, Avion Nelson decided what any child desperate to get some shots up would do.

He shoveled the snow.

“Once it got finished, everyone wanted to come outside and play,” he said.

But Nelson no longer needs to put in work to have fun on the basketball court, because the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club recently moved into a new 50,000-square-foot teen center facility for its organization, which includes a basketball gym with several hoops to shoot on.

The new facility, located at 2910 Haskell Ave., is very different from the previous 6,000 square-foot building, located at 1520 Haskell Ave., Nelson said.

“It is big,” he said with a laugh. “What I like about the new gym is that it’s indoors.”

Nelson, who has attended Boys & Girls Club programs for 10 years, is serving as the honored guest to cut the ribbon for the facility’s grand opening on Thursday, Sept. 6. Amy Hill, director of teen services, said Nelson was a perfect choice to cut the ribbon because he exemplifies what the organization aims to do for children in the Lawrence area.

“He is a leader, he is positive, he loves helping the younger members and I can’t wait to see where he goes with all of the things he is learning and doing here,” she said. “He comes every day with a smile on his face.”

Although a lot of his free time has been taken up by his participation in sports, he still makes time for the Boys & Girls Club. Hill said he’s a huge basketball player, and made sure he was the first to shoot on the new hoops in the gym.

Nelson, who is a freshman at Lawrence High School, first began attending Boys & Girls Club when he was in kindergarten. At the time he hated it, he said.

“Until I started moving up grades, I learned how much fun and how important it was,” he said. “When I was little I had a lot of (school) assignments I didn’t want to do and I just wanted to have fun. The Boys & Girls Club helped me get all of that done.”

Nelson learned to love the program and eventually became a leader among the other children and a champion for the organization’s mission.

“Other kids were the same way as me when I was little and just need a little help to get through,” he said.

Avion Nelson, center, stands in the new Boys and Girls Club teen center with his mother Lisa Hatter and his younger brother Andrew Nelson. Avion cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the teen center, which opened Aug. 17, 2018, on Sept. 6, 2018.

Lisa Hatter, Avion’s mother, said she’s proud her son will cut the ribbon. Avion’s younger brother Andrew Nelson, 11, attends programs as well.

She said the program has helped Avion’s grades – he’s aiming to improve to a 3.5 GPA – but also his moral character.

“He is an awesome sportsman; even when the opposing team is not so nice, he still is,” she said.

Hatter said she decided to send her boys to the program because their older sisters Emily Torres, who is now 29, and Markisha West, who is 24, both attended the program when they were younger.

When the girls were about 15 and 16 years old, they were placed in junior staff positions to serve as mentors in the program. Hatter said she’s noticed Avion now wants to mentor and volunteer when he can.

“He’s just growing up to be a great man,” she said.

Hill agreed. During the summer programs, Avion would help the younger children who were having a tough time, she said.

Avion started mentoring other children at the Boys & Girls Club because he saw Emily doing the same.

“I wanted to follow in her footsteps and do the same thing,” he said.

Hatter said today’s youth are in a “tight space” and the new teen center is a great facility to help them navigate the world around them. She specifically likes the program because she wanted a positive male role model for her boys and a place to keep them out of trouble.

“The staff is just wonderful,” she said. “This is something that is deeply needed in town.”

More coverage: New Boys & Girls Club teen center

New Boys & Girls Club teen center offers many spaces, activities for local students

Ribbon cutter exemplifies Boys & Girls Club goals

School district, Boys & Girls Club partnership influenced new teen center’s location, design


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