The kids lined up side by side Tuesday night. Some looked like miniature marines. A drill sergeant shouted at them — and they loved it.
“I’ve learned discipline, integrity, and never give up,” said 16-year-old Luis Ramirez.
The teenager is part of the Harlem Youth Marines; a group founded by Col. Gregory Collins in 1983. Collins is in the New York Guard and he has helped mentor hundreds of children over the years through military style drills.
“We are a gang-prevention program and whether the city knows it or not, they needs this program very much,” said Collins.
But according to Collins his group will lose their home in October when the Harlem Armory closes for renovations.
“These kids are going to be right back out on the street,” said Collins.
When 12-year-old Amir Batts heard the news, he was upset.
“I was shocked because I really like this place,” said Batts.
The armory was built in the 1920’s and 1930’s for the 369th regiment, known as the Harlem Hell Fighters. The armory is filled with historic architecture and artifacts and its renovation will take several years.
Collins doesn’t have the funding to pay for rent somewhere else.
“We are authorized and recognized by the United States Marine Corp, but it’s not funded by the Marines Corp and that’s where the problem comes in.”
To learn more about the Harlem Youth Marines long onto: http://www.harlemyouthmarines.org