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HARBOR CITY : Youth Club to Follow Members to New Home

Like a sunflower attracting bees, the Boys and Girls Club of Harbor City/Harbor Gateway draws about 50 youths daily from the Normont Terrace public housing development. But beginning this month, the club will begin to lose some of the youths as families are moved from the housing project, which is scheduled to be demolished.

So, Executive Director Ryan Friedmann says, the club will go where the children are. By summer, it will move to two large modular classrooms at its satellite location at Normont Elementary School.

Despite the upcoming move, Friedmann said, the club’s commitment to the community will not be diminished. The club’s after-school program, open to youths ages 6 to 18, has been running strong for four years.

In fact, Friedmann said, there are plans to establish a program at a public housing development in Harbor Hills and in Gardena and Torrance.

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Camilla Kocol, president of the board of directors of the Harbor City/Harbor Gateway club, said the Boys and Girls Clubs traditionally have had huge facilities in the middle of a community. Now they are embracing a different philosophy.

“Communities are pretty spread out today,” Kocol said. “We’re setting up a different kind of arrangement. We go to the kids.”

Most of the club’s activities are geared toward elementary school students, but time is also set aside for teen-agers. Activities range from a computer club, tutoring, arts and crafts, sports and a discussion group led by Program Director Kathie Palada Dixon.

Discussions center on topics such as ethnic cultures or the concern of the day, whether it is AIDS or a gang shooting.

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During the winter, the younger children leave the club at 5 p.m. and for the next hour the teen-agers take over, tapping to the beat of the latest music, playing games or just hanging out and talking.

Jose Ramirez, 16, is a club regular. He says the club provides a place for him to go instead of the street corner. “You can come here to kick back and play pool,” he said. “It keeps us out of trouble.”

Even youths who are involved in gangs are welcome.

“The door is open,” Friedmann said. “It’s like a sanctuary here. We don’t want to be selective.” He said gang members know they can go to the club but must abide by the rules. Gang colors, Raiders caps, hair nets and profanity are prohibited.

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He said the club at Normont Elementary School will open in July and will offer the same program.


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