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Kelly Brown center to open in Palmetto (audio)


Stairs were stacked into neat rows inside 1701 Third Ave E.

There was a dry erase board and TV, too.

The large room that takes up much of the handsomely refurbished building was empty, but dividers are expected soon.

“Do we look worried?” said Manatee School Board Member Barbara Harvey, nodding at Doretha and B.C. Pratt as they surveyed the interior. “We aren’t worried. We know this community will come through.”

Starting at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

That’s when a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at the new Kelly-Brown Career Development Center.

About 150 are expected to attend.

What was once a nursery opposite Lincoln Middle School has been gradually converted into what Harvey called a “lighthouse” when a small army of volunteers gutted and cleaned the building during last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“It will draw people and make a difference in those lives and address the needs of the community,” she said then. “When it comes to work, jobs, self-esteem, after-school tutorial for older students, this is going to be a positive for the community.”

A year later, those expectations have not changed.

“This is going to be a blessing,” Harvey said Monday.

It opens for business March 2 with a forum featuring Fabian Washington, NFL defensive back and Bayshore High graduate.

At 2,200 square feet, the center, an offshoot of the Anna Gayle Resource Center, will serve approximately 70 middle school and high school students for tutoring and guidance, as well high school graduates or those needing a GED to reach their goals.

Besides adaptable classroom space, it will also hold offices, storage room and a kitchen.

“This was once a place for little children, but we also want to raise the bar so adults in this community can be self-sustaining,” said Doretha Pratt, a retired teacher like Harvey and colleague in Education Consultants Consortium, Inc.

The center is named for Mary Kelly, the former nursery owner, and Gwen Brown, the former Manatee County Commissioner who was integral in the process to acquire the property for this purpose.

A $100,000 government grant and $80,000 in other funding paid for the renovation.

“The purpose is to help kids with their careers, get them to think about beyond high school with tutoring going on, too, trying to expose them to different things” Brown said. “Not everybody is college bound, so it’s important to get them training for skills they can use.”

The center will have a working relationship with Manatee Technical Institute and Workforce, Inc., for career-seeking adults, Harvey said.

“So some who have already graduated from high school or still need a GED will be able to come here,” she said. “This will be a segue for them getting into a program and become self-sustaining.

“We know it will improve this community.”