BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy took a tour of the Smilow-Burroughs Clubhouse Friday, even trying his hand at a round of ping pong against 13-year-old Alyssa Thomas.
He drew the line at jumping into the spirited game of basketball going on in the gym next door.
“I play, I play. But not in these shoes,” he said, looking down at his dress shoes.
Murphy spent about an hour at the branch of Wakeman Boys & Girls Club in the city’s Black Rock section, saying he wanted to hear firsthand about the facility’s leadership, career development and anti-violence programs for about 600 children and teens from across Bridgeport.
Jason Macchia, unit director for the site, guided the senator and a phalanx of local politicians, including state Sens. Ed Gomes and Tony Hwang and state Reps. Steve Stafstrom and Brenda Kupchick, as well as Mayor Joe Ganim and Police Chief AJ Perez.
Now operating camps for youngsters, the 5-year-old Clubhouse offers after school programs and more in a 23,000-square-foot facility that’s platinum level LEED certified for its many environmentally friendly features. Macchia pointed out solar panel monitors at the door and a window showing children the building’s insulation, which is made from recycled denim.
“Wow,” said Gomes, chuckling. “That’s someone’s jeans?”
Upstairs, Murphy met with several children in a room dedicated to college and career readiness. The Clubhouse runs tours to colleges as far away as South Carolina for high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors.
“If they do all three years, they’ll probably see 25 options for college,” Macchia said.
Murphy asked 12-year-old Iyahna Stinson what she planned to study in school.
“Calligraphy,” she said. “I like art, so…”
Murphy advised her to consider the design field, mentioning marketing and design experts are always in demand.
“There are a lot of jobs in that right now,” he said.
After playing a little ping long,Murphy asked Thomas why she liked The Clubhouse.
“It’s a good place to sit back and chill with your friend,” she said.
Saying he learned to play basketball at the New Britain Boys & Girls Club when he was young, Murphy encouraged children to write to their local and national leaders and come visit him if they were ever in Washington, D.C.
“You’re never too young to reach out,” he said.