Community center faces impending closure

“I first noticed the grass, and noticed that the building looked as though it had not received any type of maintenance for a while,” said A’sia Horne-Smith, 21, a center volunteer. “I walked in to only find one child and made a joke about the tall grass. But, when I was told of the severity of the problem I was shocked.”

The Apalachee Ridge Technology Learning Center has less than one month to raise funds in order for the center to stay open. The City of Tallahassee’s promise to cover utility expenses ends Sept. 28, and now the center is looking for immediate additional financial support.

The center’s operating cost are paid by the Community Neighborhood Renaissance Partnership, which includes members such as the City of Tallahassee, local colleges and universities, area banks and other businesses.

Terrence McNeil, the center’s director for two years, said the center is really on the hook to raise $60,000 to $75,000 a year.

“We know what it takes to operate the center for a whole year, we don’t want to run it (center) on a month-to-month basis,” McNeil said. “It is very necessary for the community to help us stay open.”

As a FAMU student-volunteer, Horne-Smith knows the impact the center has not only on the kids, but on the community as a whole.

“When I came back from my break, I was excited to be back to help the kids but with the situation the center is now faced with, I’m worried about the students,” said Horne-Smith, a journalism student from DeLand.

“The tutoring services the center provides is something many students need when they don’t initially understand the material while in school.”

Because the center is in what is known as one of Tallahassee’s emerging gang violence places, McNeil said that the center has become a safe haven for the students it serves. McNeil worries that the students may not find a replacement to intrigue their young and newly idle minds if the center closes.

“The closing of the center has the possibility for some serious implications,” McNeil said. “Not only is the center in jeopardy of closing down, but also some other after-school programs are in danger of closing. We don’t assure the worst of the kids but the center is a place that provides good community-based services for students.”

As the digital divide becomes a reality for some children, Horne-Smith believes that if the center closes, it will have a negative effect on the kids.

“A lot of the children don’t have computers at home, the center affords the kids an opportunity to use the internet for homework and research purposes,” Horne-Smith said.

With Florida A&M University students having a rich history in community involvement, Ketia Felix, 21, a senior pre-physical therapy student, has joined the cause of keeping the center open.

“It’s important for the students of FAMU to support the Apalachee Ridge Technology Learning Center,” said Felix, an Orlando native.

“The center is doing more good than bad for members of the community and it should be known.”

As time draws closer to deadlines, Horne-Smith has high hopes for the outcome of the center’s situation.

“I pray the Apalache Ridge Learning Technology Center gets the money,” Horne-Smith said. “But considering the time constraint, it is a strong possibility they may not.”

The center has a campaign in order to recruit additional volunteers.

“We also have something called, ‘1,000 at 100 campaign,’ an initiative specifically set for community members to donate to the center,” McNeil said. “We are asking 1,000 community members to donate $100.”

For more information on the Apalachee Technology Learning Center, visit, http//, or contact Terrance McNeil at (850) 877-2709.