The Berston Success Center: Building Toward Greater Community Literacy


Berston Field House has enjoyed a recent surge in attention, coinciding with the rise of WBC star, Claressa Shields. Known as the place where the boxer got her start and returns to train for upcoming fights, Berston is returning the warm embrace of attention, by offering even more to the community it has served for over 90 years. The latest project is The Berston Success Center – what Executive Director, Bryant Nolden says, “will be a resource to counteract the high rate of illiteracy.”

Flint’s Master Plan states that 36 percent of Flint’s working-age adult residents are functionally illiterate. Nolden explains, “When I was on the Flint City Council, we started to have conversations about how to best address illiteracy, and we knew that a lot of people might not have the resources to get over to the library or some of the other areas that offer programming, so this would be an ideal place for a literacy center.” According to Nolden, “It will be a place for community members of all ages to receive support and work on their skills with mentors and other helpers.”

In order to begin the build, Berston brought in THA Architects Engineers for a general assessment of the project and to set an initial cost. Nolden says, “from that, we came up with about a $44,000 budget.” Friends of Berston then reached out to the Hagerman Foundation. “Jocelyn Hagerman and Becky Forester of the Hagerman Foundation came in and talked through the plans with us, and later accepted our application,” he says. Nolden and the Friends of Berston were grateful and excited to begin the build, except, the 94-year-old building wasn’t quite as prepared for the renovation as they had hoped. “Once we got the plans and had contractors come in, the age of the building made it necessary to update things like the electrical service – and the price increased dramatically. It went from a $44k project to a $65-70k project, and we weren’t prepared for that.”

Photography by  ERIC DUTRO