Every day Ray Rinaldi and the staff at the North Area Athletic Club in Syracuse give dozens of north side kids a chance to get tutoring help, work on computers or train with coaches in a boxing program.
"We get the kids in a place like this - self esteem. Confidence," said Rinaldi.
They're trying to keep kids out of trouble but on Tuesday night trouble came to them. According to Syracuse Police, two officers noticed a window was open and the screen that belonged on the window was damaged and laying on the ground. While the officers were in the process of setting up a perimeter around the building, a male suspect exited the building and fled on foot. Police say they pursued the suspect and took the 14-year-old into custody on the 1100 block of North Salina Street.
When staff member Barb Karas came down to help police - she saw a familiar face. Karas said the teen police arrested has attended after-school programs there for the past four years. She says it appears he climbed to a side window up on recycling bins - he broke into the computer room he used every day.
"To think that one of the kids I watch everyday grow...to turn around and treat me, to treat this center to treat Ray like this - it's hard," said Karas.Karas believes the boy was bullied and the break in was his way of trying to look tougher to other kids.
Rinaldi and Karas said they hope to keep working with the teen and to give him the structure he needs in his life.
"I'll tell you what - if he stays, he'd be one smart kid. He'll learn the real life," said Rinaldi.
"That's what we do here. We take these things and turn them into learning experiences and they grow from them into amazing adults," said Karas.
The juvenile was charged with the felony of burglary in the third degree, and the misdemeanor of criminal mischief in the fourth degree.
If the teen comes back, Rinaldi said he would encourage him to join the center's boxing program. Rinaldi says he can earn real respect there instead of trying to find it on the street.