Shakespeare famously once wrote “All the world is a stage,” and for many of the children of Midtown’s Boys & Girls Club, the stage is their world.
The names and photographs of famous people who have visited the Royal Theater hang in the hallways. The memorabilia includes images of entertainment legends such as Duke Ellington and Judy Garland. The children are greeted by these pictures everyday when walking into their rooms. The first room is for group one of this semester, the children who are 5 to 8 years old. The room next door is for the children ages 9 to 12 years old. “Currently, we have 57 children registered with an ADA of about 40 kids. ADA is average daily attendance,” Kayren Lovett said. Lovett is the club director.
The Boys & Girls Clubs not only provides a myriad of programs for the children, but also the space to learn, create and flourish. The Royal Theater is large enough to afford these kids access to a stage, a dance studio, a computer lab and a recording studio. The new director formed a partnership with St. Petersburg College and they are giving us the opportunity to give the children a recording studio said Angela Brown, a Youth Development Specialist for the Boys & Girls Clubs. The Boys & Girls Clubs teaches are drama, poetry, dance, journalism, music instruction, singing and choral, graphic art and web design and recording arts.
Brown keeps a scrapbook of Royal Theater history. It includes an archive of news stories about the theater and pictures of the children they have worked with at numerous events. The history is very important to a lot of people and I don’t want to get anything wrong Brown said. The information from the book said the Royal theater was opened in 1948. The Royal Theater was one of two theaters that provided its services to African Americans during segregation. Both theaters, the Harlem Theatre and the Royal Theater, closed around 1967. The Royal Theater, however, soon after its closing, became one of the many homes for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast. The Harlem Theatre was demolished.
Brown is in charge of the 9 to 12 year old group of kids during the current semester. The specialists teach core values such as leadership and healthy habits Brown said. They have a large curriculum that is provided to them to teach the children. Brown graduated from Springfield College with a bachelor’s degree in human services. Brown, a grandmother of a 3-year-old, is a near-perfect depiction of a kind, well-mannered, and gentle woman. Her favorite part of her job is being able to make a positive impact on the kids’ lives.
“I love my job,” said Brown.
“No one is turned away because they can’t afford it,” said Lovett, “And it is important that people know that we help with youth development and character building.”
The cost per semester is $500 Lovett said. The club provides pick-up services, scholarship opportunities, guidance, and the resources for each child to succeed.
For over a year, the club offered food to the families and children in need. This went along with the healthy habits program that Brown runs. Tony Brown, the store manager of the Sweetbay on 22nd Street South that recently closed, was helping out with giving the club fresh produce. Angela Brown would pick it up daily. After the closure, they were no longer able to get this assistance and the families are missing it tremendously said Angela Brown.
The Royal Theater is located on 22nd Street South near 11th Avenue South in Midtown.
“This club is a safe place for the children that we serve,” Brown said.
The kids are usually at the club for about four hours a day.
“They are always really happy and don’t want to leave,” Brown said.