ARLINGTON — With the help of some retired professional football players, a group of Arlington boys and girls Saturday literally kicked off the first of 30 consecutive events designed to celebrate the opening of a new youth center downtown.Former Cowboys player Charles Haley and other members of the retired NFL Players Association gathered at the North Texas Youth Education Town to kick off a series of events leading up to the center’s official opening Oct. 14“The Youth Education Town will reach more than the under-served population. We are going to serve the community as a whole,” Kevin Dean, operations director at the center, said in an earlier interview.The YET center at 712 W. Abram St. at the Salvation Army in Arlington was partially funded by the National Football League as a Super Bowl XLV legacy project.It will provide educational and recreational opportunities after school and on weekends for the region’s disadvantaged youth as well as enrichment programs for adults and high school students preparing for college.Organizers have planned a series of events, including cooking demonstrations, dance lessons, celebrity reading sessions and even a career fair for junior high and high school students, leading up to the grand opening to help the community learn about the center’s planned programs and activities.“The events are small snapshots to bring people into the center. We know the Youth Education Town is a new concept in North Texas,” Fuller said. “We needed a way to get people to come in and see the building.”Besides meeting at the YET center, the kids were scheduled to test their football skills during an NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Off competition at the nearby University of Texas at Arlington. The center has posted a list of upcoming activities, many of which are open to the public, on its website.The Youth Education Town, which will feature an art room, computer lab, dance studio, game room, music room, gymnasium, outdoor all-purpose field, playground and six community rooms, expects to serve about 200 students each day.Membership will cost $30 a month for individuals, and families will receive a discounted membership rate. Financial assistance is available, Fuller said.The organization is working with the Arlington school district to identify junior high and high school students who are struggling academically and connect them with activities and resources, such as tutors, designed to improve their chances of graduating. Reading programs for elementary age students and specialty camps, such as college readiness and college tours, for high school students will also be held. Adults can participate in activities including financial education, counseling, professional development and automotive training.Funding for the 8,000-square-foot renovation inside the Salvation Army building includes a $1 million grant by the NFL, a $1 million grant by the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Charities and support from the Super Bowl XLV Host Committee. Super Bowl XLV was held at Cowboys Stadium, now AT&T Stadium, on Feb. 6, 2011.Fuller said the center is looking for volunteers to assist with organizing recreational events, crafts and other activities for children, being reading buddies and even preparing rooms between programs. This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock