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Don Bosco Center needs to relocate from Manassas’ Georgetown South

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At 25, Daniel Muniz can still rattle off a list of the friends he made during his middle school years at the Don Bosco Center in the Georgetown South neighborhood of Manassas. 

“That guy, he became a Marine,” Muniz said, pointing to a photo on his cell phone on a recent Friday afternoon at the center. “That’s Ramon. Kenya is somewhere in the back behind me. My brother, he’s all the way in the back. He graduated from Virginia Tech. They both got full rides.” 

“I still talk to them all of them,” said Muniz, as loud cheers and laughter rang out from a group of people playing UNO at a table behind him. 

Muniz, who now works at the Don Bosco Center three afternoons a week, is one of the thousands of students who have participated in the after-school program run by the Youth Apostles for at-risk and other youths. The program has been based for the last 14 years out of the Georgetown South Community Center, but needs to move to a new location at the end of the school year.

“The office here said that they wanted to take the concept of an after-school program in a different direction,” said Youth Apostles Father Ramon Dominguez, director. “Fundamentally it means the kids are going to come here and do quiet work, or arts and crafts, or learn piano or something like that … Which is fine. Our vision of the work that we do here is more outreach, and we’re looking to reach the kids who have no one, or their parents are working, or they’re out on the street doing stuff. We are a place for them to come and not get into any trouble.”

Father Dominguez is looking actively for a new location with specific criteria: an indoor space at least as big as the current center, adjacent to a field for outdoor activities and within walking distance to a neighborhood in need of services. The center’s summer programs could be hosted at an interim space before the start of the school year.

“It could even be a warehouse,” he said. “You could play soccer inside a warehouse.”

The impact of moving is unknown. Eighty percent of 263 registered participants and 685 visitors in 2017 were from the Georgetown South neighborhood. Ninety-six percent were from the City of Manassas. 

“While it is sad that we would probably disconnect from a number of these kids especially the younger ones who don’t have the ability to get in a car and drive over or don’t have a parent who can drop them off hopefully they’ll have something they can connect with,” Father Dominguez said. “For every door that closes, we’re hoping another will open.”

Some, such as Kevin Lizama, a seventh-grader at Metz Middle School in Manassas, hope to continue coming to the center for the soccer and homework help. 

“I can try to get a ride sometimes,” he said.

Muniz, who lives in Georgetown South, will miss working in his own neighborhood but hopes to pass on the values he learned at the center wherever it relocates. 

“I want them to fall in love with God as I did in high school and when I started volunteering here,” he said.  

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018