Inner-city youths face constant pressures in their lives, such as drugsand teen pregnancy, and the hopelessness that such problems present.
The National Youth Sports Program is an annual summer program that seeksto mentor these youths and help them stand up and succeed despite theirless than favorable situation.
The NYSP gives youths from low-income families who can’t afford summercamp a chance to go and participate for free. According to NYSP’s annualreport for 2000, nearly 70,000 youths received the mentoring that thisprogram has to offer.
Beginning Friday, USF will play host to NYSP. This marks 32 years thatthe program has taken place on USF’s campus. The program, which runsuntil July 20, is geared towards inner-city youths between the ages of10 and 16.
Hildreth Fleming, director of NYSP?s USF chapter, said that theimportance of NYSP is to instill self-esteem in children who live intough situations and to help them reach their goals.
“We try to take them out and let them know that they can be whateverthey want,” Fleming said. “We try to deal with self-esteem and whatsuccess is.”
NYSP also aims to show children what life is like on a college campus,instilling a desire and motivation directed at achieving their goals.
“This program gives inner-city kids who dream of going to college achance to see what takes place on a college campus,” Fleming said in apress release.
Joe Reid, assistant principal at King High School in Tampa, has beenworking on the program for 12 years and teaches tennis. He said thatyouth in bad situations need someone in their lives to whom they canturn. The goal is to create a fun and competitive environment for kidswhile keeping them in a nurturing situation, he said.
“It is very important to give a positive impact,” he said. “We keep itin a positive and healthy atmosphere.”
Reid says that the counselors get great joy out of motivating kids tobetter themselves. He said it’s a good feeling when the children comeback year after year and bring their siblings and friends along withthem.
“The rewards are the excitement and enjoyment in a kid?s face,” he said.
The NYSP program runs daily from 8:15 a.m. until 2 p.m. The childrenwill receive instruction in swimming, basketball, track, tennis, soccer,golf, personal fitness and dance.
NYSP also seeks to educate about drugs, a problem that faces many ofthese children on a daily basis. According to Reid, accomplishing thisgoal involves many resources from the community. During the program,police officers and drug awareness educators visit and talk to thechildren, he said. Reid said the goal is to teach children that drugsare not the answer.
“We want to educate them to the whys and why nots of drugs,” he said.Fleming said that another important aspect of NYSP is the free medicalexamination offered to every child in the program. Fleming said that heis very thankful to the School of Nursing for providing graduatestudents to administer evaluations to the kids.
“A lot of these kids don?t have the medical care they need,” he said.”The School of Nursing and its role in the program has really turned usaround.”
Reid said the medical screening has a two-fold benefit. The kids get thebasic care they need and the program finds out if a child has anyunknown problems, he said.
He also pointed out that some illnesses that can be serious later inlife may be detected early on.
“(Some) illnesses can be corrected if they’re properly screened,” hesaid.
The growth of the NYSP program over the last 33 years has been amazing,Fleming said. During NYSP’s first year of operation, one year before theUSF chapter opened, there were only two programs nationwide, he said.
According to NYSP’s annual report, last year there were 188 institutionsnationwide that participated. The program was held in 45 states and theDistrict of Columbia. There are also thousands of counselors nationwidevolunteering to make a difference in the lives of children.
Most of the counselors involved in NYSP are educators who deal with theproblems of inner-city youths on a daily basis, Fleming said.
“This is the way they give back,” he said.
With all of these benefits, the overall goal of the NYSP remains tosteer children away from the problems of inner-city life and educatethem about the benefits of seeking higher education. Fleming said that alot of the problems for inner-city youth is the feeling that they’retrapped.
“Aside from the drugs, it?s that hopelessness,” he said. “It’s a viciouscycle.”
Which is why, Fleming said, they bring the children to an environment ofa college campus and instill in them lessons for life.
“Success is within the individual,” he said. “You measure success by howyou feel about reaching your goals.”