Leadership Through Athletics computer room

Andre Beatty stands outside one of the computer rooms at the Leadership Through Athletics facility on Hammonds Ferry Road. The Lansdowne resident said a similar facility that stressed academic, as well as athletic, success helped him when he was growing up in West Baltimore. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / May 7, 2014)

Officials with the Leadership Through Athletics program on Hammonds Ferry Road don't need to go far to find examples of how well the program has worked.

Brothers Josh and Trevor Rice are both on the staff at the facility on Hammonds Ferry Road.

The two, who grew up in Lansdowne, were both part of an after-school program offered five days a week to children of all ages.

There they learned from adults like Andre Beatty, 35, of Lansdowne, the fundamentals of basketball. They also received encouragement and support to help with their homework after school.

The children bring their homework and when they've completed their work, they're rewarded with the opportunity to play basketball, soccer, baseball or volleyball, said Beatty, a basketball coach at the facility.

"Facilities like this are the reason why kids stay out of trouble," said Beatty, who works with kids between the ages of 11 and 14. "I feel like I'm doing my part."

The three-floor facility has two basketball courts and an education center on the main floor, a small gym upstairs and an indoor baseball training area in the basement. There is enough space to offer sports lessons, facility rentals and programs for seniors.

A computer room next to the gym offers kids a quiet space to concentrate and do homework, Beatty said.

In 2002, Leadership Through Athletics was created to develop young athletes and teach them leadership skills, according to a release from the organization.

The organization opened its 16,000 square-foot athletic facility and community center in December 2004 on Hammonds Ferry Road.

F. Michael Grace, an attorney who lives in Catonsville, said he started the program with his siblings Denise Franz, who died in 2005, George Thomas Grace and Patrick Grace.

Growing up in Lansdowne, Michael Grace said there were very few recreation facilities available in the area and his family wanted to offer one to children in the community.

The program was created to help kids like the Rice brothers become successful in their adult life.

"There are so many at-risk youth in the community," Grace said.

Josh Rice, 22, who was raised in a low-income, single-parent household, joined the program at age 13. After the first day, he was "hooked."

"It was an opportunity to play basketball, a sport that I had never played before, and learn from people in the area who were very successful businessmen, and took time out of their day to help us," Josh Rice said.

"It was a place for my friends to go, where they didn't have to deal with the outside influences from the Baltimore area with the drugs and sex. It was definitely a deterrent for a lot of the guys I went there with," he said.

Now in his senior year at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studies kinesiology, Rice said he learned the importance of a healthy lifestyle that includes academics and athletics. He plans to attend graduate school and hopes to coach professional basketball someday.

His brother is a teacher's aide at nearby Riverview Elementary School.

Beatty, who was raised in West Baltimore, said he also participated in a similar program growing up that helped him stay focused and out of trouble.