Youth in the National Youth Sports Program participate in a cheer contest July 25 on south campus.
National Youth Sports Program wraps up 15th summer at St. Thomas
Nearly 350 youngsters, most of them students of color and most from inner-city neighborhoods, participated in the National Youth Sports Program that wrapped up its 15th summer of fun and learning at the University of St. Thomas.
The NYSP program was initiated by Dr. Robert Brown, who recently retired from the School of Education. He turned over the reins of the program to staff member Mark Ahrens, who has directed the program for most of its 15 years here.
Naushiana Shipp takes a look around after receiving the NSYP All-Star award and being nominated for the St. Thomas program's ambassador position during the National Youth Sports Program awards ceremony July 25 in the Binz Refectory.
The five-week, full-day program was free to the 341 students, who ranged in age from 9 to 16. Their days on campus blended sports – soccer, golf, football, swimming, volleyball – and academics – math, science, creative writing, health and nutrition, theater, education and career planning, and alcohol and drug prevention.
As in recent years, St. Thomas offered the program in collaboration and support from the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Bloomington school districts, the Best Buy Children’s Foundation, the Minnesota Lynx, the Minnesota Twins, Mall of America, National Youth Soccer Association and the Tony Sanneh Foundation. Sanneh is a World Cup-level soccer player who grew up in St. Paul and now plays on the U.S. national team.
St. Paul Public Schools has asked NYSP at St. Thomas to host a “mini-NYSP,” called the Cultural, Academic and Athletic Program (CAAP). CAAP begins today and runs through Aug. 12, and will bring 85 students to campus from St. Paul Public Schools and suburban districts.
St. Thomas’ summer NYSP staff of 65 includes volunteers, staff and faculty from the three school districts.
LaShaya Stewart smiles after receiving the position of NYSP Ambassador for the St. Thomas program during the National Youth Sports Program awards ceremony July 25 in the Binz Refectory.
The NYSP program this year also worked with three groups – Get Ready Program, Destination 2010 and the Wilder Foundation – that help youngsters get started on the path to higher education. The Get Ready Program helps students set educational goals so they are ready for college when the time comes. Destination 2010 is a program that guarantees college scholarships for a group of students who have currently finished seventh grade. The Wilder program is designed to help students with promising academic skills but who have emotional difficulties.
The NYSP’s Senior Program, for students 13 to 16, this summer included entrepreneurship classes, Latin dance classes, and a community service project in which the students cleaned the banks of the Mississippi River.
The older students also had fun participating in activities such as making soap or testing their lung capacities, which were hosted by the St. Thomas’ chemistry, biology and engineering departments.
A significant part of the program’s annual budget comes from a $75,000 grant from the federal government. That grant has been matched over the past three years by the Best Buy Children’s Foundation.
Ahrens noted that for the first time in NYSP’s 37-year history, federal funding for the program was not included in the budget bill passed in the House and proposed in the Senate.
“Federal funding for NYSP for next year in is grave danger,” he said. An effort is underway to contact Minnesota’s U.S. senators to encourage their support of continued funding of the NYSP program nationally and at St. Thomas. For more information, contact Ahrens, (651) 962- 6499, or write to him at NYSP@stthomas.edu.
Participants in the National Youth Sports Program participate in a cheer contest July 25 on the south campus.