Local pastor opens Brainerd facility for youth activities at former 21st Century Academy

Local pastor opens Brainerd facility for youth activities at former 21st Century Academy

May 28th, 2014 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Lurone Jennings II stands in a hallway at the Highland Enrichment Learning Program building, the former location of 21st Century Preparatory School and, before that, Brainerd Junior High School. An open house is scheduled for May 31, and summer programs will begin June 2.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.


Girls for Christ and Sports University summer camps start Monday. Camps are scheduled 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Cost is $75 a week.

Go to www.help-youth.org to register.

A local youth pastor and a retired school superintendent want to offer affordable summer enrichment experiences and bring back to life a shuttered Brainerd school building.

Lurone Jennings II, youth pastor of New Covenant Church, is executive director of the Highland Enrichment Learning Program at the former 21st Century Academy on Tuxedo Circle.

He envisions a one-stop shop to help youth and will provide life skills classes, creative arts and athletic training. He will start summer camps on Monday and host a Family Fun Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

"What you can't get in public school, we want to give it to you here," said Jennings about the HELP youth center at the former Brainerd Junior High School building.

The festival will include a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, football toss, soccer goal and bounce house.

Two summer camps will start on Monday. Sports University targets youths ages 5 to 18. The camp is for boys and girls who want to learn about fundamental athletic techniques. Girls for Christ is a summer camp that focuses on girls ages 5 to 18 and will offer Bible classes, home economics, creative arts/crafts, academics and recreational activities.

The camps operate until July 25. Jennings will also offer after-school enrichment classes this fall.

William Bud Helton, retired superintendent of Alcoa City Schools, purchased the building two years ago and is donating it for the summer camp. He said he hopes that within two years the youth center and camps may at least pay for the utilities on the building, but right now "it's just something that we're doing because it is worthwhile," he said.

Jennings has previously offered most of the camps and services at HELP youth center, but this time he has his own facility, said Helton.

Janis Hashe, president of the 21st Century Neighborhood Association, said community members are "thrilled" that the building is being used. It hasn't been regularly occupied since 21st Century Academy closed in 2009.

Having it vacant for so long hasn't been good for many reasons. It was a magnet for crime and was frequently vandalized, she said.

Having a youth center is also good for the community because of the increasing number of youths moving into the community with the opening of Park Terrace Apartments and young families moving into the 21st Century area.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.