By Daniel Katzive
Saturday Night Live is on extended hiatus due to the writers’ strike, but a different SNL goes live this weekend at the Frederick Douglass Community Center. That’s when Saturday Night Lights, a youth sports program, kicks off its drop-in basketball program.
“It’s an opportunity for the young people to have an outlet on a Saturday night when maybe there’s not a whole lot going on for them,” said Vito Interante, youth division deputy director for the Children’s Aid Society, which manages the Frederick Douglass center at 885 Columbus Avenue. The goal is to help them “stay off the streets, stay out of trouble and do something positive for themselves.”
The program, funded by the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development in partnership with the NYPD and the city’s District Attorney’s office, is open to boys and girls ages 11 to 18. Sessions for children 11-14 will run from 5 pm to 7 pm, while 15- to 18-year-olds will be on the floor from 7 pm to 9 pm. There is no fee to participate, and while the program will focus on basketball, there will also be table games on offer. Volleyball may be introduced in the future, depending on interests of the participants.
Pizza and other refreshments will be available to those who come this Saturday, and Interante told WSR that some local elected officials are scheduled to attend the kickoff. So are officers from the NYPD’s PSA6 command, which patrols the development. “It’s great to set up that kind of relationship,” said Interante. “Having that positive relationship and that energy together is just so crucial.”
Interante said the Children’s Aid Society – which has run the Frederick Douglass center since the 1950s — had a Saturday basketball program in the past, but funding for it ran out.
Basketball programs at the center are remembered fondly by Keith Harris, who grew up playing and coaching summer camps there and has been keen to see basketball return to the facility. He now runs afterschool sports programs at nearby schools and the Ai2 Aviators basketball program, which the WSR profiled in February. Harris told WSR that the Frederick Douglass Community Center has a “strong legacy” of basketball programs, and a number of high-level players began their careers here.