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Speakers say city needs more youth activities in summer

SALISBURY — School is almost out for the summer, and several speakers at Tuesday’s City Council meeting expressed concern about how kids will stay occupied until the fall.
Tola Rose, who owns Iron Dragon Tae Kwon Do Academy in the West End Plaza (former Salisbury Mall) and operates the business with John McKinney, asked City Council to partner with the martial arts studio to expand their boxing program.
“So we can bring kids off the street with nothing to do in the summers,” Rose said.
Rose and McKinney said with the city’s support, they could buy a regulation boxing ring and equipment like gloves and headgear, as well as offer scholarships to underprivileged youth. The men asked City Council to consider giving the academy $9,500.
The 12-year-old studio, which is open five days a week, has 40 students including three national champions, seven state champions and one world champion, Rose said.
McKinney, who is the boxing coach, said boxing builds self-esteem and confidence and helps keep kids off the streets.
“I have seen it work with my own eyes,” said McKinney, who said boxing taught him tremendous discipline when he was young.
The academy has several other instructors ready to help teach new students, McKinney and Rose said.
Separately, the Rev. Olen Bruner, a substitute teacher for Rowan-Salisbury Schools and pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church at 300 S. Caldwell St. in the city’s West End, said the city needs to do more for youth in the summer.
The city’s parks and recreation summer guide is “lacking,” he said, and all but a few programs charge a fee.
With as many as 28 percent of Salisbury residents living in poverty, the city needs to offer more free programs and a cut-rate bus pass for children to get to them, Bruner said.
Children also need the cheaper bus pass to get to free lunch programs in the summer, he said. He encouraged the city to extend evening hours at recreation facilities so kids can play ball at night and suggested the school resource officers assigned to middle and high schools during the school year could work in parks and rec during the summer.
If the city does not provide free, productive activities for youth in the summer, police will end up arresting “children who don’t have anything to do,” Bruner said.
City Manager Doug Paris said he would ask Assistant City Manager Zach Kyle to follow up on the requests and suggestions.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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