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The First Step


St. Lucie County Leaders Take ‘The First Step’ with Local Youth

By: Zach Dean
Oct 6, 2015

FORT PIERCE — Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson, County Commissioner Kim Johnson and Sheriff Ken Mascara were among many local leaders who participated in a touch football game Tuesday in Fort Pierce.

“The First Step” is a project put together by Scott Van Duzer, Johnson, and State Representative Larry Lee Jr., and is intended to bring community leaders together with nearly 30 local children of all ages, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., every Tuesday for football (or any other activity), pizza, and, most importantly, the chance to get to know each other.

“I just want them to know that this whole city cares about them; that they’re not lost up here or forgotten,” Hudson said. “Maybe someone in their life has told them that nobody on that side of town cares about them, but, in my experience, people very much care about them.

“I want this to be one Fort Pierce, and it’s going to take things like this to make that happen.”

This was the first of a weekly event that will take place at the park, at 33rd street and Avenue G in Fort Pierce, Van Duzer said. The plan is to play for 20 minutes, talk for 20 minutes, and then spend the final 20 minutes eating.

“When kids see leaders, a lot of the time they don’t know who we are,” Commissioner Johnson said. “We just want them to understand that it’s not about us being adults, or telling them what to do, or us knowing more than them. It’s about us connecting with them on a personal level so they can know, and understand, how we became who we are on a professional level.”

St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara was among the leaders who played, and spoke, with the children. And like Johnson, Mascara believes that positive interaction with children is critical.

“In my opinion, any time law enforcement in general can get a chance to interact with youth in a positive matter, it’s a great outcome,” he said. “A lot of people in this community care about them, and we want them to be successful. These people here will do anything to facilitate their success.”

According to Van Duzer, the Indian River State College baseball team is scheduled to come out next Tuesday to play Wiffle ball with the kids. The following week, Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas will come to the park and speak.

“I thought it was a great idea,” said Shametra Wright, whose son participated in the event. “I’m coming again, and I’ll be bringing more kids next week.”

While the inaugural The First Step project was a success, Van Duzer said the only way real change will happen is if others follow course.

“We wanted to be a force and show kids that there are people out there that care about them,” Van Duzer said, “and we want to inspire other people to do the same thing.

“That’s the where the first step came from. There are people out there that want to do things and we want them to come take the first step and do something, too.”

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