SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The heart and soul of a special youth program on the city's east side has been honored by the Eleven Who Care program. He is a volunteer who has gone above and beyond in his devotion to the youth of Saint Paul.
Carlos Stewart, 30, runs "Regime Basketball", a program for young people out of the Dayton's Bluff Community Center. His full-time paying job is at Battle Creek Middle School, working with youth struggling with behavior difficulties. He spends 20-25 hours a week with his Regime Basketball kids.
"These are 13 and 14 year old kids. There is a lot of development mentally and physically going on that they are not understanding," explained Stewart. "So, sometimes I kind of step back and I will let them make that choice where you want to go in life. I will be honest. You cannot save all the kids, but you just hope something you say reaches them, something clicks."
Stewart, who lost his father at a young age, knows that many of his young charges have difficult home lives. He wants them to be able to "be a child." That means he wants them to play hard and have fun, but also learn what being a young man means.
"These are human beings who are going to go on and be productive members of society. I feel it is my job to make sure these kids are put in a position that you are able to go on and do better things in your life," said Stewart. "You do not have to be what books say or what society says or what television says or what the media has said about you. You can control your own destiny. You can control you life and I push them. I am hard on them. I am extremely hard on these kids."
The boys on his basketball court seem to appreciate what Stewart is doing. "He wants us to be successful. He does not want us to be running the streets," said Derrick Siedschlag, whose two older brothers once played on Stewart's Regime team.
"Carlos, he is a great man," said Eric Elliott without hesitation. "Because he takes care of us, all the boys. Carlos actually like shows me we can be successful as kids who come from a low poverty home."
"I cannot say he's a father figure, 'cause he is not that old," said Steve Randall, Rec Center Administrator. "I would say he is the big brother that really cares and listens and looks out for them and gets after them when they are not doing what they are supposed to do."
Randall, who has been a coach himself, said Stewart has the right idea. "Volunteers are everywhere and thank God for volunteers, but there is just some that have that special something and Carlos has that special something."
Randall said that Stewart's "soul" is obvious when one looks at the makeup of his team. "There are kids from all different backgrounds on his teams. That, to me, is the most awesome part is that they all do not look like him." Stewart is African-American with long dredlocks off the back of his head. Some of his players are white, some Hispanic, etc.
"They have to trust you. They have to trust you and sometimes, I lose sleep and I sacrifice a lot in order for them, because I truly want these kids to succeed in life," said Stewart.
Regime Basketball runs completely independently. Stewart receives no salary or support from outside organizations. His kids rake leaves and shovel snow to raise money for their activities. The only other source of funds is Stewart himself and small donations from individuals.