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Bryant Center: anchor of stability

“The Bryant Center teaches me about the real world and keeps me off the streets,” said 15-year-old JaKayla, who lives with her grandmother, Angela Franklin, because her father is incarcerated and her mother is not active in her life. 
 
JaKayla is one of about 35 to 45 youths age 6 to 18 who register each year for programs organized at the center by members of St. Benedict the Moor Parish. Another 40 to 50 youth might simply show up and ask to participate.
They don’t have to be parishioners, and no one is turned away. And it’s one way the parish has a major impact on its northeast Omaha neighborhood. 
 
“I see a big difference in JaKayla,” Franklin said of her granddaughter’s involvement in the chess club, tennis, golf and educational programs. “It’s taught her self-management skills and how to communicate better and work well with others, especially adults.”
 
Participating in Bryant Center activities also has helped her granddaughter find a good group of friends and avoid peer pressure to smoke, drink, take drugs or get involved with other harmful activities, Franklin said. JaKayla said she plans to stay in school, go to college, and pursue a career in physical therapy.
 
Founded in 1966 by then-pastor  Jesuit Father John Killoren, the Bryant Center Association built six outdoor basketball courts and a concession stand. 
 
The center helps mold youth like JaKayla through its summer and after-school activities including basketball, golf at Miller Park and tennis at Dewey Park, chess, a drum corps and educational field trips, said Arlene Dacus, a member of St. Benedict the Moor and secretary of the Bryant Center’s board, which works with about 25 to 30 other parishioners to coordinate and supervise activities.
 
Two young parishioners who participated from an early age and continue to help at the center – Dominique Glass and Eryan Davis – are now college students. Glass is a general studies student at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, while Davis is studying sociology and African-American studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
 
Both credit the center with helping them develop life skills and form close bonds with others.
 
“The Bryant Center helped me get out of my comfort zone, learn to connect with people and develop communication and team-building skills that I’ve been able to use at work and school,” said Glass, who has participated in golf, basketball, drill team and attended such programs as job hunting, technology and computers.
 
Davis said her experiences with drill team and educational activities helped keep her busy and out of trouble. “I had a lot of opportunities I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she said.

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