Franchaze Waters smiled as she led visitors through a new state-of-the-art facility in the Annapolis Gardens community Tuesday afternoon, showing off the kitchen, Smart Board, computer lab and teen room.
An Annapolis native who recently returned after graduating from college in North Carolina, Waters was there to celebrate the grand opening of the newest branch of the Boys and Girls Club of Annapolis & Anne Arundel County (BGCAA). She was also there to start a new chapter in her life—Waters begins a full-time job as an assistant program director at the new branch.
Waters, a former Boys and Girls Club member who lived in the Annapolis Gardens community until she was about 10 years old, said she’s seen the efforts and outreach of the organization come “full-circle.”
“You know, I think it’s closer to the heart...because I’m from the area and now we’re bringing the club back," she said. "I’m a former club member, so it definitely has a warm place in my heart.”
Waters is not alone. Leading the new club is Kenyatta Rowell or “coach” as many of the kids attending the event called him.
Rowell, who said he became a member of the Bywater branch in Annapolis when he was about 8 years old, will serve as the club’s director.
Rowell has worked at the BGCAA Admiral Oaks location for the past two years as the outreach and community director. In addition, he currently coaches the basketball team there, and before that, he worked as a teen director for the Bates location.
He said opening a new club is a great feeling because it provides an opportunity to reach even more people.
“This is gonna be a very instrumental club,” he said.
As Reggie Broddie, chief professional officer for the BGCAA, spoke to the crowd gathered at Tuesday’s ceremony, he recognized Waters and Rowell, saying he was extremely proud of the staff.
Broddie said selecting the staff was a key point in ensuring that the young club members would go on to be successful. With mentors like Waters and Rowell, the children can learn by example and go on to achieve great things, he said.
“When you think about it in context, the young people that we will be serving are young people who are destined for greatness,” Broddie said.
It’s this greatness that recent club members are already looking ahead to.
Charles Butler, 17 and a junior staff member at the club’s Bates location, was greeting guests as they came to the ceremony. Butler said he’s looking ahead toward college and a career in either sports management or computer science.
Butler said he’s been a member of the club since he was 6-years-old, adding that it has had a big impact on his life.
An impact the staff hopes will continue with future members, like 8-year-old Xzayvier Stevens, who smiled and laughed as he played with one of the two new foosball tables in the new facility.
Xzayvier said he hopes to be a member of the new club.
"It's fun. It's really, really fun," he said.