Presented by Kia Motors
By John Denton, OrlandoMagic.com
ORLANDO – The roar started in the hallway of the Rosemont Community Center, spilled into the Orlando Magic Reading and Learning Center and nearly took the freshly coated paint off the walls with all of the children screaming with excitement.
When more than 100 Orlando school children poured into the renovated rooms on Tuesday, there were plenty of wide eyes, toothy grins and screams of sheer joy. Not far away from the rush of students pouring into the facility, Magic CEO Alex Martins soaked in the enthusiasm and unleashed a wide smile of his own.
“The best part is when the kids see these places for the first time,” Martins said. “They saw it the way it was before when it really needed a lot of work and didn’t have the type of computers that they have now. With our partners we were also able to put in a library of books that they didn’t have before. The kids get excited about it because they see a brand-new place and they’ll be here after school and hopefully it will help their community to grow.’’
Since March, the Magic – with help from community partners Kia Motors and Turner Construction and City of Orlando District 3 Commissioner Robert Stuart – have been renovating the Reading and Learning Center at Rosemont Community Center. It’s the 11th Reading and Learning Center, presented by Kia, that the Magic have helped to remodel in the Central Florida area.
The Magic have previously renovated reading and learning labs/rooms at Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center; Downtown Recreation Center; Northwest Community Center; Jackson Community Center computer lab presented by Hunt; Colonialtown Neighborhood Center; Hi-Tech Tutoring Reading and Learning Center; Pine Hills Community Center; Nap Ford Community School; John H. Bridges Community Center Apopka Boys and Girls Club; and the New Image Youth Center in Parramore all presented by Kia Motors.
“We say that we want to be world champions not just on the court, but off the court as well and this is a big part of it,” Martins said. “The kids are incredibly important to us and always have been for 25 years now.
“These types of reading and learning centers are incredibly important to make an impact on kids to prepare the them for productive lives when they grow up,” Martins continued. “This gives them a better opportunity to experience a better secondary and higher education. And most importantly, statistics have shown that these types of reading and learning centers give kids a place to go after school, get them off the street and keep them out of trouble. So not only are they learning in this environment, but they are being productive and it is giving them an alternative to being on the street and getting into trouble.”
Rosemont’s new Reading and Learning Center, which was painted blue, black and white and adorned with posters of Magic Head Coach Jacque Vaughn, center Kyle O’Quinn and STUFF, should make a major impact. Approximately 10,000 youths between the ages of 5-18 use the facility each year and some 150 children ages 6-18 visit the center on a daily basis.
Before-and-after pictures on display Tuesday as tiny children ran past to play on computers, sit in fluffy reading chairs and to play pool or interactive video games showed a major transformation. Before, the rooms were painted gray, the seats were a dark brown and the computer monitors were bulky and blurry.
Tuesday’s unveiling revealed new floors and paint, new furniture, a new reading corner, new computer monitors, re-felted pool table, video game accessories and a 47-inch flat screen TV. There was also plenty of Orlando Magic décor throughout with plenty of books and educational games. Turner Construction contributed to the renovations with floors and paint. Commissioner Stuart made significant contributions to the renovations funding the computer monitors and the installation of a projector screen for educational instruction.
“Prior to the Magic coming in and renovating, everything was old and obsolete,” said Rosemont Community Center Manager Brenda Scott. “So for the kids to walk in here today and have all-new stuff, it just sets my heart on fire because they are so happy.”
Scott said that Rosemont mandates tutoring programs during the school year and in the summer. They have 30-to-45 minutes of homework assistance every day. She added that the new drop-down screen and projector will allow even more kids to take part in the reading tasks at one time. And Scott said that special software added to the computers by the Magic will help students better prepare for school and F-CAT tests.
Already a die-hard Magic fan, Scott said on Tuesday that she’s never been more proud of her hometown team. She said the Magic are committed to bettering their community and they always back up that commitment with strong actions.
“The Magic are just unbelievable,” Scott said. “Before all of this, we’ve had people like (former Magic guard) J.J. Redick come in and feed 250 people Thanksgiving dinner. And anytime the Magic can help out, they’ve done it with tickets for our families and (Community Ambassador) Bo Outlaw has done basketball camps. So, to me, the Magic are unbelievable.”