Washington Education and Sports gets new building for youth program

James B. Washington Education and Sports Inc. is moving across town and to a larger location in an effort to reach more at-risk children in need of referral.

The program began just over three years ago, first in rotating locations around the community, then at 2020 N. Palafox St., a 1,100 square foot building with just two small rooms and a lobby . Thanks to a generous private donor, the program will increase its space tenfold in its new 11,000 square foot building at 3920 W. Navy Blvd.

James B. Washington Education and Sports Inc. was founded by benny washington, who was a basketball teacher and coach for 35 years. Washington’s vision for the program was to emphasize the importance of a good education, citizenship, and staying out of trouble.

“Our vision is to increase graduation rates among at-risk youth and eliminate gang and criminal activity among disadvantaged youth in inner-city neighborhoods,” Washington said.

The program started with tutoring, but the organizers soon realized they needed a hook to get the kids to the door, land on basketball as bait as bait. The program immediately grew from one or two children to 40 participants from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. When children join, the first step is to show their report cards, so the volunteers can determine what areas they would benefit from tutoring.

Those first few months passed without a building at all, and volunteers moved their tutoring location around the community, such as Theophalis May Community Center or the study rooms of the Tryon Branch Library.

In 2018, Washington introduced more programs to engage with the community, such as the Father & Son Forum, which is a monthly gathering where motivational and community speakers come in to provide support and resources to men. on topics such as financial freedom, insurance and avoiding incarceration.

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“A lot of times single moms will come in and get involved,” Washington said. “A lot of them were taking care of their kids and their sons and their husbands, or their boyfriends were either unemployed or underemployed or incarcerated or coming out of incarceration, and they’re just trying to find resources to help them along the way.”

Washington finally secured a building at 2020 N. Palafox St. in December 2018, and the building officially opened in March 2019.

Lisa Bosarge got involved with the program in 2019 when she was looking for a basketball coach for her son. When she heard about Washington and its programs, she knew she wanted to get involved as a volunteer.

Bosarge has been a self-taught, hands-on artist for 15 years and was looking for a way to help underprivileged children.

“It’s about volunteering and giving them new opportunities and new experiences, which they may not be able to afford or may not be exposed to,” Bosarge said. “It’s the place where kids can come after school, do something positive and learn something new.”

David Clark, Benny Washington and Lisa Bosarge talk about the future of the James B. Washington Education and Sports Inc. program on Thursday during a tour of the organization's new building,

She hosted a reception at First art center in the city called “Coming Together Show” in August which gave students the opportunity to show off their artistic skills. It included self-portraits and masks made by the children during the summer enrichment program which takes place in July. The summer program helps kids learn subjects like math, English, science, and social studies, followed by time for arts and crafts.

“It’s almost like it’s therapy for children,” Washington said. “Some of the kids who aren’t the best students seem to be some of the best performers.”

Bosarge hopes to bring in more artists from the community to volunteer on a weekly basis rather than under tight deadlines.

Although it will take up to a year for the new building to be in shape and ready to host programs, having more space to do more art projects, store art supplies, and no carpeting will be beneficial.

Other volunteers such as David Clark, who has been in Washington since 2019 as he sought a more competitive basketball league for his son, see Washington’s vision. Clark found out about the Washington nonprofit and began helping by creating a website for the basketball team, finding places to buy basketball uniforms, and creating a Facebook page for tutoring.

Clark views the kids he helps train as his own and wants to help them succeed as much as he can.

“As I learned more about the mission and everything the coach is trying to do, I’m doing everything I can to help him,” Clark said. “That’s pretty much why I spend so much of my time on all of this.”

While much of the nonprofit’s programming will be about their new building, field trips to learn about resources, such as the library, and further afield at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee and the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Alabama are also part of the curriculum.

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They later plan to go to places like the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, expand their arts program and have weekly classes, and be able to accommodate more children and have more space. to organize events for parents.

Washington hopes to secure more funding from organizations such as the Escambia Children’s Trust to expand the initiatives and upgrade the new building with computers, art and classroom supplies and provide internet to allow more children to access to all that nonprofit organizations have to offer.

“Not all of our children, but the majority are from single parents or grandparents raising children, so someone has to be an advocate for those children,” Washington said. “Whether it’s an academic tutorial, building self-esteem, creating really positive programs to keep kids off the streets.”

To enroll a child, visit their current location at 2020 N. Palafox St. To donate or get more information about James B. Washington Education and Sports Inc., visit their website at jbweducationandsports.org.

Jennifer C. Burleigh