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The Rhode Island Spotlight Weekly Feature

A Different Path

Six nights a week hundreds of teenagers, who otherwise might be hanging out on the streets of Providence, head to recreation centers across the city for a program called Project Night Vision. This month, Jim Hummel introduces us to the founder and force behind a program that reaches 500 teenagers a week and is shaping lives - all with very limited resources.


Wednesday night just after dark.

And while the Madeline Rogers Rec Center off Chalkstone Avenue looks quiet from the outside.

It is anything but on the inside, as hundreds of teens gather to play pickup basketball....or air hockey....or foosball.... or pool - all part of a program called Project Night Vision, launched several years ago for at-risk teens.

Right in the middle of it all - the program's founder, Kobi Dennis, who volunteers his time six nights a week in three different locations across the city.

Dennis: ``The first thing out of a young person's mouth is: (from these impoverished neighborhoods)` You don't know what I go through. You don't know what it's like.' Time and time again I tell them, `But I do.'

That's because Dennis, now married and a father of three, grew up in South Providence in a single-parent household. The program's name was inspired by a stint Dennis did in the United States Navy before coming back to Rhode Island.

Dennis: ``We would look out for mines in the Persian gulf. I would stand out at the tip of the ship with night vision goggles and I would see everything.''
He says steep reductions in state and city funding have left kids ages 12 to 18 without some of the services that used to be available. His goal is to get them off the streets and channel their energy in a positive direction.

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