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We Are Warren hopes to build on small summer recreation program

By Ed Runyan

Friday, December 20, 2013

By Ed Runyan


Paul Trina, Warren schools athletic director, is among a group of people who wanted to bring back something they remember from their childhoods in Warren: an organized recreation program for all children.

In the 1970s, Warren had 12 elementary schools — and each one competed against the others in sports, and did arts and crafts.

The program, at one time run by Warren schools art teacher and administrator James Friend, was co-funded by the school system and the city. In addition to providing sports and arts for kids, the program also provided leagues for young adults 18 to 24, Trina said.

But around 1988, it came to an end because of budget cuts.

“We lost all this,” Trina said. “One of the things we need in today’s society is, kids don’t play on their own.”

Sports programs teach kids leadership, such as when captains pick the teams. It teaches conflict resolution, such as when there’s an argument about the rules.

Trina said he believes kids in suburban areas are getting opportunities to learn these life lessons, and it’s starting to show itself in the skill level of the athletes. It surprises him that kids have to be taught sometimes at the high-school level the basics of sports such as basketball because they didn’t learn them on their own, Trina said.

Two years ago, he and several others created an even-week summer program for 160 kids — 40 from each of the city’s four K-8 buildings. It used grant money provided by the Warren Community Development Department.

On Thursday, at a news conference at the Raymond John Wean Foundation offices downtown, officials unveiled a community-wide youth initiative called We Are Warren, funded by $30,000 from the foundation to explore ways to expand the summer-recreation idea Trina and the others created.

The initiative will lean on Deryk Toles, founder and executive director of Inspiring Minds, and will involve a survey available at on the internet to accept input from individuals, families, businesses and organizations on how to increase recreational, educational and leadership opportunities in the city.

“Creating positive impact on young lives is the goal of this group and should be the goal we all set for ourselves,” Mayor Doug Franklin said at the conference.

“We currently have some great opportunities for our students, from robotics to athletics within the Warren City Schools, but it’s evident we need more,” said Superintendent Michael Notar of Warren schools.

“Collectively, our city has the capacity to offer so much more to our youth — more activity, more opportunity, more equality, more support and ultimately more hope for the future,” Toles said.

Armed with information from the surveys and community meetings, changes will be implemented in the spring.