New teen center opens in Sherman Park nearly one year after violence

A new teen center has opened in Sherman Park, nearly one year after violence broke out in the neighborhood.

The teen center inside the Mary Ryan Boys and Girls Club is now double the size and has more amenities for youth in that community.

Carey Morris says the club is his second home, and he's been going to that location since he was 7-years-old. 

"It's like second nature to always come back," he said. 

Morris is a junior at Milwaukee Lutheran High School. He says most of his close friends also go to the club, but he always encourages other teens he meets to try it out. 

Now he and his friends are enjoying the new teen center that opened in June. 

"It made me feel like very grateful and thankful that people did this and thought about us and you know were able to create this beautiful atmosphere for everybody," said Morris. 

The new teen center includes a computer lab with six new computers, a theater performance area, a games area, a quiet study spot, lockers and all new carpeting, lighting and ceiling tiles. 

"I think the fact that there’s paint and new flooring and ceiling tiles and new digital equipment, I think it's all meaningful," said Vincent Lyles, the president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee. 

He says the entire Mary Ryan club underwent renovations almost immediately after the unrest in Sherman Park last year.

"If the community that you live in continues to decay and there's no new paint, no new investment, you’re not making much effort either," he said. "So I think the fact that we stayed and we doubled down and made our investment here, the fact that the gas station across the street [is] coming back, the fact that BMO Harris bank [is] coming back, the fact that others in the community are coming back and trying to support, I think it's meaningful to the kids."

Donte Daughtry is the teen program coordinator at the Mary Ryan club. He grew up in Sherman Park and came to the same club as a kid. 

"I think it's a chance for a new start," said Daughtry. "Last year with all of those things going on, the unrest, I think that was a black eye for our community, black eye for our neighborhood but I don’t think it's something we can’t overcome." 

Step outside the Boys and Girls Club and another youth initiative is growing. Program the Parks began last June as a way to address some of the fighting and crime taking place in the park. 

"The main focus is to make sure they’re engaged and don’t have idle time to sit around and argue and fight," said Vaun Mayes, the founder of Program the Parks. 

After the unrest, a 6 p.m. curfew in Sherman Park hurt Mayes' program, but a year later he's still providing free karate lessons, food and friendship to kids in the neighborhood.

"We still have a large support base from the community, people are still coming up here, helping us do what we do," said Mayes. "We have people willing to employ them, we’ve been doing that we're making the change slowly but surely." 

Mayes says they run completely off community donations, sometimes borrowing from their own pockets to fund field trips and cookouts. 

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