By Ellen Zoe Golden Photo by: Ashley Look
A couple of years ago in 10th grade, as a requirement for eventual graduation, La Paz student Henry Ríos was tasked in his Creative Activity Service (CAS) class with developing a project that would help the community.
Ríos, a Brasilito resident, was able to attend the school as a result of sponsorship from Kentucky native Mike Hartman, whose own life philosophy was one of giving back to the world.
When Ríos learned English, and began to dialog with Hartman, the youngster also embraced the idea of giving to those in need. That was perfect for his CAS project, too.
His first step was creating a business and cash flow plan for Terraza Youth Center, which he presented to Hartman, and then to Richard Waitman, co-owner of Sharkys Bar, and creator of the international non-profit PUR International, which does mission work in Africa, among other things.
Originally, the idea was to build a place that would offer activities for the young people of the area. “I wanted to build a facility where teenagers could go and hang out and not have to go to Subway at 10 at night or to the skate park with who knows what kind of guys are there,” explained Rios, now 18 and in his last year of high school. “We had to find donated land and money. We even asked the Municipality for space.” The problem became an issue of money. Ríos said the idea shifted when Carolyn and Kevin Herman, the owners of RPM interceded.
They convinced the owner of the old Bar One space on the third floor of Plaza Tamarindo (often referred to as the ABC Real Estate building) to rent it out in order that Ríos’ vision could become a reality. Donated pool and ping pong tables were brought in, and an assortment of furniture set up throughout.
On an upper level, kids can now play with a Wi and PlayStation 4. Ashley Look, who supervises Youth Ministry at Tamarindo Church and is a girls’ basketball coach at La Paz, was hired as to manage and oversee the center, with her salary—and the room’s rent—subsidized by Sharky’s and PUR International.
Currently, Terraza is open 3-7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and every other Saturday.
“We got a lot of support of parents who want to get teens away from trouble and bad decisions,” Ríos said. At the moment, Look and Ríos are working on creating a Board of Directors, and complete all the legal processes necessary to legitimize the center. Rios is president of the board, but is open to whatever help he can get with the details of the operation.
“I think I can do everything, but I’m learning to delegate. I first had the idea two years ago, and thought I’d be happy when it was done and happening. But right now, while I feel happy and blessed, this is not done. We need to keep trying really hard. I want the community in here, not just kids.”
Look added that she sees Terraza as a spot where classes like CPR and English can take place. “It’s super cool to see people asking, ‘what can they do?’” she concluded.