Shaquille O’Neal Foundation Announces Plans for New Youth Center in Las Vegas
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Shaquille O’Neal Foundation Announces Plans for New Youth Center in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Several community organizations are joining forces to bring a new youth center to life on the east side of Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada and Communities In Schools of Southern Nevada announced plans to build a new 17,000-square-foot facility that will be located near N. Lamb Boulevard and Kell Lane.

It is also a unique location in the valley because it is located near three public elementary schools: Ruben P. Diaz Elementary School, Lomie G. Heard Elementary School and Manuel Cortez Elementary School.

The new center will be built on a five-acre site donated by the Clark County School District.

“I’ve been looking at this piece of land for years because the school district wasn’t going to develop it. What kind of project can we really do on this land,” said Andy Bischel, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada. “(CCSD) was willing to donate it, the school board and the superintendent were willing to give us the land, we had to give it to the county. The county took the responsibility, gave it to the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, and that put (the project) on the right track.”

According to Bischel, the facility will serve the community by providing services to people of all ages.

“There’s an early childhood development center. It’s a licensed child care facility. It’s from infancy to five years old. Boys & Girls Club, from six to 18 years old. Communities In Schools, from 18 to 24 years old,” Bischel said. “They take care of kids from infancy to 24 years old. All of those things come together and make it a great project for anyone.”

Perry Rogers, chairman of the board of the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, said the project would be the first of its kind.

“This is the first Communities In Schools in America alumni center. This is the first time Communities In Schools in America and the Boys & Girls Club have built a facility together in the country,” Rogers explained. “We hope to do this many, many, many more times.”

Education has played a big role in O’Neal’s life. You may not know, but the NBA Hall of Famer also has a doctorate in education from Barry University in Miami. The organizations involved in the project also hold a special place in O’Neal’s heart.

“Growing up in the suburbs of northern New Jersey, my parents couldn’t afford a babysitter. Luckily, my aunt worked at the Boys & Girls Club right across the street. My instructions were, excuse my French, go there after school, and you better not be on the street when we come to pick you up,” O’Neal said. “My aunt was very smart. She could see things that I couldn’t see. Every time I came over, I had to show her a progress report. If I wasn’t doing well on my homework, she would make me do my academic work. She always told me that whatever you want to dream about, just dream about it.”

Shaquille O'Neal Foundation Youth Facility Announcement

KTNV

O’Neal also serves on the national board of Communities In Schools. He is active in the Las Vegas community, organizing charity events such as The Event at the MGM Grand, which raises money for his foundation, and using that money to give back through events such as the annual Shaq-a-Claus and Shaq-To-School programs.

For example, after Wednesday’s news conference, O’Neal handed out backpacks full of school supplies to Las Vegas students.

“Sometimes you’re working one or two jobs. You’ve got to pay for food. You’ve got to pay for cable. You’ve got to pay for the phone bill. You don’t have time to buy your kids the stuff they want,” O’Neal said. “I’ve got a lot of them, and at the end of the day, it’s about doing what’s right.”

Shaquille O'Neal Foundation Youth Facility Announcement

KTNV

Shaquille O'Neal Foundation Youth Facility Announcement

KTNV

He added that he actually loves children and just wants to find ways to help them.

“I’ve had great success, I’ve done a lot of great things, but what I like most now is making my mother proud,” O’Neal said. “I’ve been coming to Las Vegas for 30 years. Whenever I join the community, I try to do the right thing. For me, it’s not about the fame. It’s not about the likes. It’s about what I was taught. It makes my mother proud. It makes my family proud. It’s the right thing to do.”

For everyone involved in the project, it is this attitude that drives the project forward.

“He wants to make sure people feel supported, loved, and the kids who are the most vulnerable are the ones who are looking for that the most, and he wanted to be there for them,” Rogers said. “I can’t tell you how much that inspired everyone here.”