Skills Ville Gym develops skills and community connections

There’s a lot happening behind the unassuming façade at 17609 Livernois. You’d never know
from the outside that there is a 24-year-old operation that trains and services up to 150
youth at a time.
Skills Ville offers a “Busy Bunny” gymnastics program specifically for toddlers ages 2-4, recreational gymnastics for children 5 & up, a travel team that competes nationally., martial arts, cheerleading camps, in-door baseball training and adult kickboxing.
And Skills Ville connects with the broader community through regular participation in the ARISE
Detroit! Neighborhoods Day. It has participated since the inception 12 years ago. The concept struck a chord with Skills Ville founder Rohn Baker and his business partner and wife, Yvonne.
They wanted to clean up a vacant lot behind the Skills Ville that attracted illicit activity and dumping. Coincidentally, the annual Skills Ville Open House was planned for the same day.
“It was a natural marriage for us,” Rohn Baker said.
They joined forces with the church nearby, New Bright Star Baptist, to clean the lot and make the space safer and more attractive. Eventually, the church bought the lot.
Skills Ville has been participating ever since, coordinating its Open House with ARISE
Detroit!’s Neighborhood’s Day. The church also continues to be involved.
A major benefit of partnering with ARISE Detroit! is connecting with other organizations
and staying informed on what’s going on throughout the city, Rohn Baker said.
“Luther’s efforts of bringing everybody together, coordinating all the different organizations around the city at one specific time, it was just a match for us,” he said referring to Neighborhood’s Day founder Luther Keith.
Baker came up with the idea for Skills Ville while coaching football at St. Martin De Porres
High School.
He watched as neighborhood kids at football games did flips and somersaulted off the bleachers. He wondered, “If they had the proper environment to train in, how far could they take
it.”
He and his wife, Yvonne, who both eventually left their jobs at Ameritech, opened Skills
Ville in July of 1995—a place where children could learn athletic and gymnastics
skills early that could expand long-term opportunities for metro Detroit’s youth.
They make it a point to include nutrition education in their programming, believing that good
nutrition helps build strong bodies and minds.
“Malnutrition is not just not getting enough to eat; it’s eating the wrong things,” Rohn
Baker said.
The benefits go beyond physical skill training. Yvonne Baker says that parents tell her their children are better able to follow directions and act more appropriately in social situations. There’s another benefit for the community. Employment. All of the program’s trainers and coaches are former Skills Ville students.
“All of them have grown up in our program,” Yvonne Baker said.
This month marks Skills Ville’s 24th year in business and they’re proud to be active participants
in the community.
“Our commitment is here in Detroit. We knew that there was an audience here that would benefit,” Rohn Baker said. “Our children and families would benefit from this kind of
multi-purpose environment and we take pride in the type of programs we have and the instructors we have.”

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