MIAMI (WSVN) - A new youth center has opened its doors in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, giving kids a safe place to enrich their lives.
“Now we have somewhere to stop. Now we have somewhere to give thanks. Now we have somewhere to escape the perils of what’s been hurting the inner-city community,” said City of Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon.
Community leaders came together, Friday, to unveil the new youth center in the heart of Liberty City. Inside, there’s a basketball court, classrooms, a computer room and a space for exercising — all meant to give children here a chance to thrive and excel.
“If we don’t do this, if we don’t take care of these kids, gentleman and ladies, we will continue to bury our kids, and that’s what this is all about: stop burying our kids,” said community activist Luther Campbell.
The 22,000-square-foot building and outdoor spaces are named after a man who dedicated his life to making Liberty City a better place starting with the youth: Samuel Johnson. Johnson, known as Coach Sam, was a co-founder of the Liberty City Optimist Club. A mentor to many here, Samuel died in 2011, but now his legacy lives on.
“Let this building reflect all that Samuel K. Johnson gave to all of us: hope, determination, love,” Hardemon said.
“Sam loved and believed in youth, the youth of this community,” said Therasa Johnson, a relative of Samuel. “He stood up for you, he protected you. Behind closed doors, he fought the fight that threatened your success.”
Members of the community are calling the new youth center a place where success can now be passed on to the leaders of tomorrow, who get their start right here in Liberty City.
“Thank you so much for giving me a chance to show you that this generation of young people want to do good for your community,” Hardemon said.
Samuel Johnson founded the Liberty City Optimist Club, a youth sports league, with Luther Campbell back in 1990. The new facility costs more than $6 million, with funds coming from bonds and local organizations.
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