Andrew Dys

Roosevelt residents help make dreams a reality

CLOVER -- In Clover's Roosevelt neighborhood, which drew its name from the neighborhood high school for blacks that is no more, the houses are small. But the dreams of the kids, the mainly black kids who live in Roosevelt, are not.

Quay Graham is 8 years old, and he gets good grades. He hears from his family that he needs to do his best in school and make good choices in his young life. On Saturday, like he did last year around this same weekend, he will stand with hundreds of other kids just like himself and get some school supplies, a hot dog, a cold drink and some praise from others.

Quay lives right across the street from the park that sits on the spot where the school used to be. That park is the center of the neighborhood, where the black kids used to learn math. Now, other dreams soar.

"They tell me to do my best," Quay said of what he heard last summer and will again Saturday.

The people organizing this back-to-school bash make up the Roosevelt Community Watch. It is those people who have lived here in Roosevelt for five years or 55 years. These people put up signs on Mobley Street, Pinckney Street and others that tell bad guys that good guys are watching. These are people who with pens and paper and ideas are determined to show the next generation it can succeed.

People such as Dianne Watson, treasurer of the community watch. Raised in Roosevelt, Watson still lives there.

This year, besides the school supplies, the program in its 13th year will have information on iliteracy, diabetes, AIDS and teen pregnancy. Those issues are not unique to Roosevelt or to the black community, but the percentage of cases for those problems are higher among blacks, Watson said.

"If we teach our young people how to avoid these things, hopefully, we can make a difference," Watson said.

Roosevelt has had its rough times over the years: A part of it called "The Block" has a reputation for trouble at times.

That's why the community watch and groups such as Clover Chapel church and men from Brothers United for Change help every year. The Clover Police Department has collected school supplies, and other groups have donated.

Watson and Willie Phillips, the watch president who has lived most of his life in Roosevelt, do more than talk about helping kids: They hold this event and have a summer lunch program at the church.

"We all have to get involved in these kids' lives, make them feel like they are a part of something positive," Phillips said.

On a porch on Mobley Street, a 53-year-old lady named Kay Johnson sat Monday with her mother. Other than one year, she has lived in Roosevelt all her life.

"People around here always stuck together, looked after one another," Johnson said.

Many still do. Saturday, they will again.