Return of Athens Teen Program Looks Like a ‘Grand Slam’

It’s baseball season, but Athens is hitting a different kind of grand slam.

Longtime Athens residents will remember the Grand Slam program. Athens Recreation and Parks (now Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services), cooperating with Athens Police and other organizations, started the program in 1990 to help curb teen crime.

Teens gathered at Bishop Park on Friday nights during the summer for Grand Slam.  The program allowed attendees to play games, learn skills, hear guest speakers and socialize. Hundreds came out week after week, and the county saw a drastic decrease in teen crime.

Despite the proven success of the program, the county cut the program in 2010. But, after almost a decade, the county is bringing back Grand Slam.

A Grand Slam program from 1995.

“There has been a strong push amongst citizens that actually grew up in the program and now have teenagers of their own,” said Kent Kilpatrick, Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Director. “They want to give their kids this alternative; that’s what Grand Slam is all about.”

Community members and program alumni like Kirrena Gallagher made sure their voices were heard at Athens-Clarke County Commission meetings last fall.

Grand Slam helped me build positive relationships with people my age,” Gallagher said. “I now have two teenage boys and the chances that they get in trouble increase when the opportunities are there. With programs (like Grand Slam), we are the solution to the problems in our community.”

Cedar Shoals High School will be the new home for Grand Slam going forward. With the athletic facilities available, the program will include athletic events like three-on-three basketball tournaments.

Additionally, attendees can expect to hear life stories from featured guest speakers, including various UGA athletes. There will also be a chance to learn skills such as coding.

“If we can have the right influences come into their lives, you just don’t know who you are going to reach,” said Kilpatrick. “(You don’t know) who you are going to prevent from making the wrong decision.”

This year’s Grand Slam starts in June. Registration for the program will open in April.

Wyatt Nail is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in sports management.

 

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