As our Black History Coverage comes to a close, we take a look at a facility that has been a fixture in the Fort Myers community for nearly thirty years providing educational and recreational programs for the underserved community of Fort Myers.
Abdul’Haq Muhammed founded the Quality Life Center of Southwest Florida, known as the "Q," in 1990 with the help of community members who were driven to give underprivileged children options.
“We saw young people being arrested, particularly African American and Latino children," Muhammed said. "A few of us got together and discussed what can we do about the challenges that we see in the community?”
Muhammed said the Q began as a afterschool martial arts program. He said the purpose of the program wasn't to teach kids how to kick and punch. The founders saw martials arts as a way to connect with children's minds and spirits to help them excel in their personal life and also academically.
What started with just eight students has blossomed into an early learning facility and provides programming year-round for hundreds of kids.
“Through academic enrichment, performing arts, the STEM program, we’re creating new possibilities," Muhammed said. "And, it's like the village coming together to create a wonderful future for the children and the families.”
Children up to 18 years of age come to the Q after school. They complete their homework and work on art and science projects while also learning about self-awareness and self-sufficiency.
The majority of the children at the Q are minorities, and Muhammed said it is important for the children to know about the contributions people of color have made to society.
“Often the contributions made by people of color is not readily known," Muhammed said. "Its important that we inform children that people who look like them can be scientists, that’s they can have great impact, and that’s the importance of African American history month. Here at the Q, it's year round.”
The Q is a nonprofit organization and relies heavily on donations for funding, but the number of applicants far exceeds their capacity.
While about 350 kids are currently being served by programs at the Q, last year, they received 200 applicants more than they could handle.
Muhammed said plans are underway for fundraising to help an expansion.