City Desk

The Stadium’s Biggest Losers

While writing my story this week on the influence of Nationals Park on the surrounding neighborhood, I focused a lot of time on a non-profit called Positive Nature. The non-profit runs an after-school program that includes tutoring, sports, art and movement therapy, and a lot of one-on-one stuff for at-risk kids. I spent several days there just hanging out. This included playing a serious game of whiffle ball, sitting in on group discussions, and watching some of the more courageous kids lip sync and dance in a Motown revue.

My reason for being there: Positive Nature was/is contemplating shutting down because it can't afford the property taxes on its building. Its taxes have increased 755 percent in the last two years.

But I think I shortchanged the non-profit in what I wrote up. I described the kids–as I do in the above graph–as "at risk." This is journalistic shorthand, a cliche to be used when you just don't have enough space for actually writing who these kids really are. Here are some of Positive Nature's kids that I met or at least heard about:

*A set of twins who lost their parents when they were little. The majority of their relatives have also died. They spent a lot of years worrying if they were going to be split up into two different foster families. For a time, I think they were split up.

*A teenager who recently graduated the sixth grade. When he first came to Positive Nature, it was unclear whether he was homeless or not.

*A little girl who already has gone through about 10 foster families.

*A teenager who claimed that if she wasn't at Positive Nature she'd be out drinking.

*A 17-year-old who is one of 11 kids in his family. There were issues of neglect. One of his brothers was murdered. When he came to Positive Nature, he was a kid who could curse in whole paragraphs. Now he has a job cleaning the building. When he's not sweeping the floors, he can often been seen counseling kids.

I wonder what's going to happen to all these kids if Positive Nature can't keep its building.

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