by Jim Gehman
“I was not ready for that level of humidity. That was almost criminal,” the offensive lineman said with a laugh. “I was just so ill prepared for it.”
He got used to it. And except for in 2010, when he spent his ninth and final season in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, he’s been in Houston ever since.
“I would say that I never thought that this would be home, but it sure has turned into home. I still go back to California to visit my mom, but I have what they call a lot of social capital built up in the great city of Houston, Texas and I’d be a fool to give that up.”
During his eight seasons [2002-09] with the Texans, Pitts and his wife, LaToya, were active with several charities. They took that a step farther in 2008 by starting the Chester Pitts Charitable Foundation.
“What we were focused on back then was trying to shore up the gap between the budget crunches in the public schools and the fact that I believe that the arts were a huge piece of the curriculum that kids should be exposed to,” Pitts said. “But I noticed it was really more so happening in the inner-city schools than it was happening in the areas where parents were a little bit more well-to-do.
“So we would take groups of kids to the symphony, to the ballet, different art programs throughout the city. Fine arts and culture was important to us and we wanted the kids just to have that kind of exposure and those types of experiences.
“Fast forward to basically 10 years later, I just happened to be watching a program on the foster care system and how the pipeline to prison was kept alive because they could do a calculation based on third grade scores and the number of kids in foster care to determine how many prisons they needed to build.
“In that documentary and in some of the data I looked up, I saw numbers between 70 and 80 percent of the prison population came through the foster care system. And the more research that I did, I just knew some how, some way, we had to get involved in the foster care world and make an impact.”
That impact came to fruition in May when Pitts opened Carson Parke, a residential treatment center for children who have difficulty dealing with emotional and behavioral issues.
“I believe that these kids have a tough time controlling their emotions whenever they get upset. They haven’t learned that skill yet. They’re in environments where the ratios, especially in schools, are 25 and 30 to 1. They can’t get the care that’s needed and necessary,” Pitts said
“So, basically what I’m trying to do at Carson Parke, I want to model my residential program after a boarding school. I think that boarding schools have the concept down – controlling the environment. And because you have the control of the environment, it’s a lot easier to get a child to focus.
“When you’re doing your best to teach them coping skills and everything that goes down the list with what they need in order to be successful and productive citizens in the world, the smaller the setting can be and the more focus that they can have, the better your results are going to be.”
“I want to be all-residential with a school on campus, where they stay in the gates that I know can protect them as opposed to having to go outside of them. Now it’s not for every kid. Kids that do well, that can manage that part of their behavior so they can be in a public school setting, those kids can go to public school all day long. This is not for them.
“This is for the kid that everyday at 10:00 or 10:30, they’ve been gone for two, three hours, and when they get upset, the school is just going to say come pick them up because little Johnny is having a bad day. Well, if that happens enough, they’re not going to get everything they need in school. It just makes more sense for the kids that don’t have that ability yet, to go to school on campus.
“And that’s ultimately what Carson Parke is modeling after. I’m going to prove that in a residential setting, that this is a better way to do things.”