Members of the DeVos family present New Image Youth Center with a $90,000 gift as part of the 30 Grants for 30 Years initiative. From left to right: Griffin Renker, Blake Shue, Hannah Shue, Micaela Richtsmeier and Jordan Richtsmeier.

New Image Youth Center in Parramore Latest Nonprofit to Receive Boost From DeVos Family

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO - It’s an early December Friday at around 3:30 p.m. School is out for the weekend, but for a few dozen Parramore kids, the learning hasn’t stopped.

They are spending time at the New Image Youth Center (NIYC), which provides a safe place for them to learn, play, and develop critical skills.

A whole lot went on during those next couple hours. Outside on the sidewalk, an obstacle course was set up in which students were divided into teams and competed in a relay race. The activity was great for their physical fitness. It also taught them about the importance of teamwork.

Meanwhile, inside the facility, some of the younger children were preparing holiday treats. A staff member was at the head of the dining table explaining the recipe. Culinary arts programs enhance fine motor skills, increase language development, and encourage family bonding.

Collaboration was a particularly critical theme of all the activities. Research shows collaborative learning improves knowledge retention, builds leadership and self-management skills, promotes active listening, and encourages positive social interaction.

The founder of the NIYC is Dr. Shanta’ Barton-Stubbs, a mental health counselor and non-profit director who seeks to empower youth in the Parramore community. On Wednesday during the Orlando Magic’s game against the Atlanta Hawks at Amway Center, she and her NIYC team are going to be awarded $90,000 from the DeVos family as part of their 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative.

“We have a lot going on here in Parramore. A lot of good. But there are a lot of tough times as well,” Barton-Stubbs said. “Hearing from the Orlando Magic, knowing that the DeVos Family Foundation has decided to choose New Image Youth Center for this grant, the emotions, the feelings, and everything was all there. It’s Christmas, so it feels like a Christmas miracle.”

It was a game of Monopoly, believe it or not, that helped launch the program.

In 2004, then just 21 years old and a sophomore in college, Barton-Stubbs noticed a group of kids being rambunctious in the street. They were messing around with a grocery cart, which could have led to an accident. Instead of expressing anger, she invited them into her dad’s church, which was right nearby. She played Monopoly with them for the next couple hours.

The very next day, her dad reached out to her and said the kids were back and wanted to play more games. She quickly realized this was about way more than a board game. It was about providing a haven for children. This got the ball rolling into what is now today one of Orlando’s most successful youth programs.

“In the beginning it was very bare bones, just trying to provide the kids an after-school experience where they were not alone,” she said. “I started finding out very early on it was important for them to also have structure and to create a family-like unit. I didn’t have much experience with working with children, but the one thing I knew was how my parents raised me, so I thought that was very important for exposures outside of their neighborhoods.”

On a backwall of one of the NIYC spaces is a collection of portraits of program alumni wearing their high school graduation cap and gown. For the current program members, this collage serves as a source of inspiration. It’s a reminder that they too can achieve their dreams.

“We’ve been really blessed because the new youth that we serve are youth who are fairly new within the last five or six years, they actually know the alumni because our alumni come back to give back,” Barton-Stubbs said. “They are part of the process. Every year, we come together for Thanksgiving. We come together for Christmas. When they are in town, they are stopping by to be a part of what we are doing. So, our youth getting the opportunity to see those who once were served. Not only that, but we currently have youth who we served who now serve the children. They work here as they are going through colleges, as they are creating their own businesses. So, our kids get an opportunity to learn from those who also learned from us. It’s a cycle that continues to grow bigger and bigger. But in such a positive way that our new youth are always seeing firsthand what the program has done.”

This isn’t the first time the NIYC will be getting a boost from the Magic or the DeVos family.

One such instance came in 2014 after thieves broke into the NIYC and stole approximately $6,000 worth of equipment, including computers, televisions, and video games. The Magic and then team guard Victor Oladipo surprised members of the youth center with all new equipment they purchased.

“Those kids are now grown, but they still talk about it, and they say they actually felt like they mattered because the Orlando Magic were able to come and fulfill such a great need for us,” Barton-Stubbs said.

A total of $3 million will be donated to 30 area nonprofit organizations over the next 18 months as part of the DeVos family’s 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative, which aims to invest in people and projects impacting youth, essential needs for families, and community enrichment across Central Florida.

“We can’t image better partners than Magic fans and the Central Florida community,” Magic Chairman Dan DeVos said. “We’re eager to come alongside nonprofits doing impactful work, providing financial support as well as an opportunity to shine a light on the great things these nonprofits do on a daily basis. It’s all to honor the great community we’re thankful to be in.”