Heights Youth Club encompasses scholarship, fun and responsibility

Members of Heights Youth Club visit University Circle. Photo courtesy Heights Youth Club.

The Heights Youth Club (HYC) offers Heights students in grades one through 12 a smorgasbord of after-school activities, five days a week, 3–7:30 p.m. The club’s young people aspire to excel in school, and bring their book bags to the club with plans to do their homework—with the help of volunteer tutors, if need be—during the club’s Power Hour.

Roscoe Morgan, executive director of HYC, stated proudly that 50 percent of those students who come to the club with serious intentions about school make the honor or merit rolls. Morgan, who leads with a firm hand and wearing a broad smile, said, “I have the honor of coming to work for the students. A privilege. I learn and grow every day.”

Mr. Morgan—and make no mistake, it is Mr. Morgan to the kids—is the adult who stands at the front door to greet HYC members when the club opens, and again when it closes.

On the first day of school, an avalanche of activities is already in full swing, including the Keystone Club (teen leadership), Torch Club (teen leadership), Sparks Room (math and reading enhancement for ages six through ten), game room activities (pingpong, pool, foosball), science club, Smart Girls and Smart Moves (a girls’ awareness club), gym activities, arts and crafts, nutrition and Power Hour (homework). Then comes a hot, nutritious supper of perhaps cheese tortellini, carrots and fruit cup; or meatloaf and gravy, broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potatoes, provided by the Cleveland Food Bank for about 70 hungry girls and boys.

It’s easy to register a Cleveland Heights or University Heights student as an HYC member: The appropriate adult (parent, grandparent, legal guardian or foster parent) should fill out the HYC application form, and then pay the $10 registration fee for a one-year membership for the child.

Members—even if they’ve aged out of HYC—come back for more. They willingly reach out to the community, broadening their horizons while helping those in need. Cameron Steele, now a junior staff member, joined the club when it opened in 2007. Steele said, “I drifted from basketball to pingpong, then to being a serious student.” Once a wild little kid who decided to turn his life around, Steele came every day and now plans to attend Youngstown State University to study criminal justice.

Nia Rollins, 12, said, “I get to see my friends.” She paused and grinned, adding, “I do like to have fun, but still I know when to be serious and mature.” Rollins enjoys helping the younger children with their homework, and also finds pleasure in working to coordinate activities. At one time this perky pre-teen misbehaved and talked back to staff. When asked if she comes to HYC every day, she answered, “Sure do! I feel good and appreciated here.”

Being a better communicator to help prevent teen suicide is a major focus of 15-year-old Aaron Hemphill’s life. This serious Heights High junior has been a solid HYC member since he was six. A member of the Keystone Club, Hemphill talks intensely about an HYC fair, Saving Us, that provided teens with advice about what to look for in troubled friends and classmates—depression, being withdrawn and letting schoolwork slide. He attended a conference in California, where Boys and Girls’ Club alumni spoke about staying with positive people and in positive places. “Coming to HYC has turned me into a leader,” said Hemphill.

Shania English’s older brother influenced her to attend HYC. High on her list is its art program. “Fun Friday,” she said, “is when you can do anything—paint with watercolors or use chalk.” She dreams of becoming a fashion designer.

Kyren Carroll, nine, relishes playing pool with his brother, Meurice, and said, “It’s good to get my homework done here, because you can get help and do it fast!”

Mary Krogness

Mary Krogness, a former Cleveland Heights resident, is the author of two books and a television series for PBS.


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Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 9:22 AM, 08.29.2014