With a smile on his face, the boy crept up and innocuously bounced the basketball off the other boy’s back, huddled under the hoop. The victim spun around, grinning too, before he found the offender, dribbling around him in circles. He got down into a defensive stance, knees bent and arms outstretched, and thus began the first basketball game of the night at Greensboro’s Summer Night Lights.
Summer Night Lights is a city-run program that aims to engage the city’s teens with a variety of events and programs. This event, the program’s largest, a Friday night spectacle at the Greensboro Sportsplex, featured sports ranging from pickup basketball to football to knockerball, music, pizza and dancing.
Britt Huggins, director of the program, explained it all.
“We expect around 400-800 teens out here tonight. We’ve been averaging about 400 this summer… This is really a free-flowing event. For a lot of teens, this is just an opportunity for them to hang out and see their peers during the summer.”
As the DJ began blasting Cardi B, the excitement in the air began to grow. Near the entrance, FreshEmpire, a tobacco awareness group greeted the teens as they began streaming in through the security line complete with bag checks and metal detectors. As they strolled in, they were greeted by a small platoon of Greensboro’s finest.
Officer Hoy, who has worked every Summer Night Lights event at the Sportsplex since the program’s inception, commented on the Greensboro Police Department’s relationship with the initiative.
“From a police aspect, we like the program because it keeps kids active and out of trouble and involved in their community. We love that they’re having fun.”
The ubiquity of the GPD presence at first seemed to clash with the carefree attitude of the hundreds of teens in attendance, but that quickly melted away. The officers there did not relegate themselves to the sidelines; they interacted with the teens, even throwing around a Nerf football with some of them. It was a stellar job of community engagement and positive police work from the organization.
They have something for everyone at Summer Night Lights. There was basketball, of course, played on the Sportsplex’s eight basketball courts, touch football, indoor soccer and the aforementioned knockerball; a version of soccer played in giant, inflatable plastic bubbles. Doors opened at 7 and closed at 9; after that, no teens were let in and out until the end of the event at 11.
Still, if sports isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of other events that the program offers throughout the summer.
“Summer Night Lights is the largest teen initiative that the City of Greensboro offers,” Huggins said. “We just don’t have this event here at the Sportsplex. We have over 140 programs that are at recreation centers, at libraries; we really try to highlight our lakes and regional parks for teens to go be active at.”
In his first summer as program director of Summer Night Lights, Huggins has already taken the program to new heights with a new mobile app and a slew of new corporate sponsors, including Chick-Fil-A.
“Really, I think [this program] is just a good outlet for teens to come and be a part of something over the summer with their friends,” Huggins said. “This is a positive environment that we’re trying to provide. There are things that happen sometimes that may be out of our control, but at the same time, this is something good that they can be a part of and learn about other programs that are going on throughout the summer around the city of Greensboro. Like I said, this is just a good environment for them to come and hang out in, see their friends, get some exercise and play some sports.”
If you’re a teen with summer winding down, why not give the largest teen initiative in the city a try? You can find a full list of programs online or on the Summer Night Lights app, which will also remind you of upcoming events.