By Tina Ray/ParaglideAugust 27, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - For Marcial Reyes, 11, the time he spends at Tolson Youth Activities Center on Thursday evenings helps shape his life away from the center.
Reyes and other youth participate in Sports Authority, a Child, Youth and School Services fitness club that builds character as well as muscles. Sports Authority meets every Thursday, at 4:30 p.m., at Tolson.
According to Anthony Bennett, a program assistant at Tolson YAC, the aim is to make youth well-rounded, responsible citizens.
"We talk more than just sports," Bennett said. "We talk school and grades. I want them to be successful ... to take a straight narrow path to success."
Reyes, a sixth grader at Irwin Intermediate School, said he made all As and Bs last year, much of which he credits to Bennett.
"He taught us respect and have responsibility of yourself," said Reyes.
Being a part of Sports Authority seems to have made a difference in the life of 13-year-old Tiyas Hall as well. The Albritton Junior High School seventh grader said he has made better grades since recently moving to Fort Bragg from Indiana.
"I do better up here than I did the last place I was," said Hall, adding that he made As, Bs and only one C last year at school.
Christian Kuhn, 12, said making good grades will give him the opportunity to try out for team sports at Albritton.
"He (Bennett) teaches you a lot about responsibility and stuff like that; how to act in school and make good grades," Kuhn said.
Donnell Chapman, also a program assistant at Tolson, has seen positive changes in the youth whom Bennett mentors.
"I think he (Bennett) does an exceptional job with the young kids," Chapman said. "He's always encouraging them to try different things as a role model and positive influence."
Bennett's mentorship convinced one child who had been thinking about joining a gang to take an alternate route, Chapman said. The young man is now an A-B honor roll student.
"He no longer skips school or gets into trouble or fights," added Chapman.
The youth all seem to appreciate Bennett's attention to their lives.
Reyes, Hall, Kuhn and Bennett played a game of pick-up basketball in Tolson's gym on a recent Thursday evening. Bennett consistently encouraged the trio to take baskets, challenging their sense of confidence from deep in the arch.
"Bring it," he said. "Show me what you got."
Though the trio did not keep score, Bennett routinely keeps track of the youth.
"I try to show them the importance of hard work," Bennett said. "The things I instill in them, I want them to carry out, not only in front of me, but away from me."