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Flint, MI—North Flint’s Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village and Berston Field House have received $650,000 in federal funding for youth mentorship and the creation of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education program.
“These two organizations came together to submit to me something that’s new in the Congress,” Congressman Dan Kildee, who secured the funding for the community centers, said on May 3. “And that is the ability for members of Congress to go directly to the Appropriations Committee and seek specific community projects for funding.”
SBEV and Berston received their program funding as one of 10 projects Kildee submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.
The projects collectively total over $9.5 million in federal funding, with other Flint beneficiaries including the Flint Registry, the Greater Flint Health Coalition, and the North Flint Reinvestment Corporation.
“We know especially in Flint—and frankly, especially in this part of our community—it’s really important that we provide these kids every opportunity we can to be the best, most creative person they can possibly be,” Kildee said of the coming programming from SBEV and Berston.
Officials from both organizations were on hand at the announcement to speak about their specific program goals and what the federal dollars will mean to the young people they serve.
“I’m a product of Flint, the investment in the Flint youth,” said Linnell Jones-McKenney, Community Outreach Director for SBEV. “And I’ve traveled all over the world because of the fact that there was an investment in the young people.”
Jones-McKenney, now 63, is Flint’s first female basketball player to compete at the professional level. She qualified for the 1980 Olympics, played professionally both in the United States and overseas, and said she’s now grateful to see her career come “full circle.”
“I played at Berston from sun-up to sun-down,” she said. “And now, … coming back and saying ‘we must continue that investment’—here at the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village and Berston Field House—that’s a product of what we know is necessary to stop the gun violence, to stop the youth violence, to stop high school dropout (rates), but also to give our children an opportunity to dream through the STEM program.”
Representatives also spoke about the Leading Ladies program—a mentoring and leadership program for Flint’s young women from eight to 18 years old—and the Lamplighter Club out of Berston Field House.
“We serve youth males aged nine through 17 in the Genesee County area,” said Lieutenant Colonel Derek Britton, program director for the Omega Psi Phi Omicron Rho Chapter of the Lamplighters. “Our mission is to empower secondary age youth with academic and social skills, community connections, and progressive opportunities necessary to ensure their roles as active, educated, and responsible citizens.”
Kildee closed the announcement by honoring those who had come together to provide Flint’s youth with mentorship and STEM programming through the two centers.
“As a Flint kid, I’m always proud to see that there are so many of my fellow Flintstones … who are constantly looking for ways to give back and to give kids in this town the same kind of opportunity that the adults before us gave us,” he said. “We were made better by the fact that we had incredible opportunities in this community, and that needs to continue.”