Standing in the middle of the children was a police officer in uniform, taking extra long steps in an attempt to be the first to reach to the end of the court. He was laughing as hard as they were.
Monday was the first of day of Spring Fling, a coordinated effort of the Anniston Parks and Recreation Department, REAL Men of Anniston, Operation Human Rights, the Anniston Police Department and Goodwill Lodge No. 59. The program will offer a week’s worth of activities for Anniston students during their spring break, including a trip to Tuskeegee today for 40 students in grades eight through 12.
The Carver Community Center has spring break activities almost every year -– either two or three days –- and they usually involve a trip, said Frazier Burroughs, the center’s director. Two years ago, the students enrolled in the program went to Huntsville. Last year, they went to Memphis to see the city’s the civil rights district. But this is the first year the center was able to provide activities for the whole week, and it was made possible through the collaboration with the other groups, Burroughs said.
“The big push this year was coming from other people in the community. That was the big motivating issue,” Burroughs said. “The funding is coming from Parks and Recreation, donations and things of that nature.”
Carlos Jones is one of 22 members of Goodwill Lodge No. 59 volunteering at Spring Fling this week. The Masonic lodge is just down the street from the Carver Center.
Jones said the group is trying to help out the young people in the area and get things organized in the community.
Billy Rogers, a member of REAL Men, a newly formed community group, said his organization will be mentoring, not supervising, the students this week.
“The kids have been supervised all year in school,” Rogers said. “We just want them to have fun.”
The point is to give the students a positive outlet for their energy, Rogers added.
Police Sgt. Jay Whisenant said at least three officers would be working with the students all week. Over the course of the week about 10 officers will help out with the program. On Wednesday, they will help build child-identification packets for the students' parents. But for most of the week they will just be interacting with the students, Whisenant said.
“We’re just here to show our support,” Whisenant said. “Hopefully the kids know that police can be your friend, too. We’re not always here just to arrest somebody.”
Delia Simmons brought her two children, two nieces and a nephew ranging in age from 8 to 14 to Carver for the program. She appreciates the fact that the center is providing something for the students.
“It’s something for them to do during spring break,” Simmons said.
And the students were running off their energy Monday. With the help of the adults on site, during the week they will see a movie, have a picnic at Zinn Park, learn about different careers, play sports and have a talent show. The program starts at 11 a.m. everyday and ends around 3 p.m.
But the trip was a big draw for many of the students.
Simmons’ nephew, Justice Hardy, is one of the students signed up for the trip to Tuskegee. He said he wants to learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen at the museum there.
Dashea Sterling, 17, signed up for the program on her own to “experience new things.” She was especially excited about the trip because she is trying to decide whether she would like to attend Tuskegee University or Auburn University.
She was leaning toward Auburn, but her mom, who lives in Tuskegee, has been pushing for the school there. This will give Sterling the chance to visit the college in person.
Johnny Byrd, director of Calhoun County Boys and Girls Club, signed 10 students up for the trip. He called it the opportunity of a lifetime for the students.
“They’ll be exposed to one of the most historical black universities in the nation,” Byrd said.
Some students were there to experience other things. Justin Grier, a senior at Saks High School, will be heading to Morehead State University in Kentucky this fall on a football scholarship. He’s working as a volunteer at the program on his spring break.
Grier said he likes working with kids and has volunteered in the past, reading to students at Saks Elementary. He admits his dad helped him decide this was the best way to spend his spring break, but it was his decision. It’s one way he can help younger students in the community, he said.
“I came from here,” said Grier, who played football through Anniston’s recreation department.
Even if the students missed the sign up day Monday, they are welcome to come for the rest of the week’s events, Burroughs said.
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.