Growing up in Baltimore, Antoine Lewis always had access to playgrounds.
Some were beautiful and complete, while others were just a swing set or a broken-down basketball hoop.
“We would put up a crate and just shoot hoops,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we still had a place to go.”
As the principal of the KIPP AMP elementary and middle schools for the past two years –– collectively overseeing more than 700 students –– Lewis has noticed that kids in the neighborhood don’t have enough spaces for them to “just be kids.”
That’s why the opening of a new multi-use playground on the charter schools’ campus was welcome news for Lewis last week.
The playground not only has basketball courts, tennis courts, turf and a running track, but also a gazebo and outdoor classroom.
“It gives us huge pride,” he said. “I look forward to seeing it be here for a long time.”
The space can also be used by the surrounding neighborhood after school and on weekends, which Lewis said will be great for the community.
“You have houses right across the street that have seen this vacant lot for years,” he said. “It’s just a broken-down lot, nothing is happening, to now having this beautiful space where kids get to learn and grow.”
Lewis added that this could be a place in the community where kids who don’t go to the same school, but live in the same neighborhood, will meet and play.
“I believe this playground will be able to bring the community together so we can have those awesome dialogues we need to have so we can continue to better our communities as a whole,” he said. “This could actually be that hub.”