Football program founder teaches kids more than just a game
By Jacob Born and Lauren Papucci
Charles Brown is sitting at his desk when a child knocks on his door. The child exchanges a book report for a participation trophy from the previous football season. Brown thanks the student for his assignment, for he knows the kid learned something more than football.
“I want to make sure our kids understand how important education is,” Brown said. “Education is going to take you out of poverty. We want to have a positive impact.”
Brown, 60, is the director of youth activities at Journey House in the Clarke Square neighborhood of Milwaukee. Journey House is a community center that strives to improve the education of the children involved, as well as reducing crime and unemployment in the area. Brown fulfills this mission through the Journey House football and cheerleading program, which is designed for children from the ages of six to fourteen.
While training camp opens in June, families of players attend informational meetings in April and orientation in May. The program focuses more than just the game of football. Brown and his coaching staff want to instill life skills that will carry their players through the rest of their life. These nine skills are commitment, leadership, teamwork, sportsmanship, smart moves, goal setting, responsibility, perseverance and no excuses.
“We’re beyond just playing football games on Saturday or scoring a touchdown and winning,” Brown said. “This is really about development of our kids and community. That’s what this is really about.”
Wanda Rodriguez’s son, Dominic Carter, went through the football program. He started when he was seven and played until he graduated from the program. Rodriguez saw the change the football program made in the freshman.
“I see the difference we’re making in children’s lives,” Rodriguez said. “Kids that conform to the structure show the biggest difference.”
Brown is originally from Baltimore and served in the Air Force for 26 years. He was recruiting in Milwaukee for about 12 years. He knew that he always wanted to be teacher of some sort and when he was offered a job at Journey House in 2003, he took it.
“I have a military background and I approach a lot of things from a military mindset,” Brown said. “I don’t give out thank yous for doing your job.”
Rodriguez said even though Brown may come off as intense, he truly does care for the work he does and wants to make a difference.
“He’s such a great person and steps up to the plate when you need him,” Rodriguez said. “He’s tough in the most gentle way.”
Joel Nelson, Brown’s assistant, handles the day-to-day operations of the league. He said he believes the kids respect and trust Brown.
“He knows the ins and outs of the neighborhood,” Nelson said. “He is like a father figure to the kids and they can go and ask him for advice. He has a lot of knowledge and background from the military.”
Brown made a difference in the community by bringing the Green Bay Packers’ practice field to Mitchell Park in Clarke Square. The field will be used by any of the eight teams in the Journey House football league. The field’s grand opening is in June and in addition to very team playing there, Marquette University High School will play their home games on the field in the fall.
“I’m personally going to do handwritten notes to every person that was involved in getting the field,” Brown said. “Any part of the field, from the Packers side to the guys who installed it. I want to give my sincere thanks.”
It’s Brown’s goal to make a difference not only in his community but also around the country. He sees programs not focusing on helping its kids later in life like he is. He wants his program to be a model for others to use.
“I will do this job until I can’t do it anymore,” Brown said. “I want to teach kids and be hands on. I want to change the community and change the culture.”