Flint’s kids learn from retired teacher grandmother at century-old community center



FLINT, MI – The community of Flint wants to provide all possible resources for their children, despite the pandemic, said retired grandmother and teacher Darilene McClendon.

And the people of Flint will do everything in their power to provide the children with what they need while keeping them safe, she said.

McClendon, 66, has come out of retirement to help teach her grandchildren, as well as other Flint children as they begin the school year primarily in a virtual setting.

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Grandchildren Amara McClendon, 8, and Maya Britt, 9, worked with McClendon at Berston Field House on Tuesday, September 1.

The girls were shy during an interview with Sheila Graham, director of Creative Expressions Dance Studio for Berston. Graham helps run and run the program to help children connect to online classwork from the center. She started the day by getting to know the children.

Seeing that they were feeling shy, Darlinene McClendon leaned over and whispered to the girls, “Remember your assertions: you are strong. You are powerful.

McClendon later said their family started the morning by listening to a video highlighting 33 positive statements.

Soon, 9-year-old Laelle Jackson also joined the group.

After a career spanning more than 30 years in education, including 27 years teaching at Flint Community Schools, McClendon retired in 2018. However, seeing the challenges students will face during a pandemic, she said she was doing whatever it took to help the children in the community succeed and get through these tough times.

She can help up to nine children at a time in the field space while wearing masks and maintaining an appropriate distance.

“It’s really tragic to go through this,” said McClendon. “I never thought I would see it in my lifetime, but I’m grateful that I can do it for them.”

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The key to helping children get through the pandemic is accessing all the resources possible to get what they need, McClendon said. And there are resources in Flint, she added, you just need to find them.

“I consider myself to be a very resourceful person, so I’m going to do it no matter what,” McClendon said.

There is enough space for the small group to use the dance studio on the top floor of the building to exercise and there is also room to go out.

“Physical activity is also very important. We were already making sure to go out every day. Sometimes we would sit and do lessons. The sun is also important – vitamin D. It is very important for health and well-being.

Flint’s Berston Field House opened in 1923 and was Flint’s first community center accessible to African Americans. He still serves as a pillar in the community. Generations of Flint residents have learned to swim and play sports, used the library, made art, attended meetings and many elite athletes honed their skills at Berston, according to the organization.

“It means a lot. It’s a great resource to have access to,” McClendon said. “I will definitely spread the word so other parents can use the resource.”

Sheila Graham teaches dance at Berston and has spent more time helping families with children who need access to the internet and other resources to plan safe times to use the facility with distancing protocols and appropriate health care. She helped McClendon and his students get through a “brain break” Tuesday by teaching them a 15-minute dance routine.

It has been a “whirlwind” since the pandemic hit, Graham said.

“Whatever the needs of the children, we want to help them,” Graham said.

In addition to the programming it already offers, the center is looking to provide other resources, including help with college applications and filling out the Free Federal Student Aid Application (FAFSA) as a deadline to apply. at University.

Michael Behm, Regent of the University of Michigan, is working with the center to facilitate the program to help students enter college. He said that no matter where they apply to go to school, it’s important to help students complete applications and receive help.

“So many opportunities,” Behm said. “If you give students an opportunity, that’s how they succeed. “

Connecting with students is key to understanding their needs during the pandemic and any other challenges they face, Behm said.

“People often say ‘Get up by your boots’,” he said. “But what if you don’t even have boots?” “

After opening in 1923, the facility closed in 2002 until a group of volunteers, led by Bryant Nolden, executive director of Friends of Berston Field House, began work to revive the historic center. In 2014, Friends of Berston was granted association status and signed its first lease with the town of Flint that same year to operate the community center.

Berston offers a wide variety of activities including bike clubs, fitness classes, art classes, boxing club, senior line dancing, chess club and softball tournaments.

For those seeking services, Berston Field House can be contacted at 810-787-6531 or via its website.

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