Building youth and community through sport and play

28.5

IMG_7130Many people don’t think about the contributions of middle schoolers—they see them as a deficit rather than an asset. But we think this intermediate age is important in developing community stakeholders. We named it 28.5 after the basketball size used at intermediate levels—something else people often do not consider. 28.5 brings together the elements of sport, art, and community service to create a sense of personal and social responsibility in middle schoolers. Program participants learn our core values and begin each session by discussing one of those values, and how they can be demonstrated in our neighborhood. Youth are given after school opportunities to refine not only their basketball skills, but also their commuication skills, through drills and games. They also complete art projects that explore the intersection of sport and art—specifically movement—and give youth an appreciation for beauty and creativity. The activities generally involve the repurposing of materials, modeling the importance of caring for our environment, and get youth creatively thinking about ways to engage their community. But these after school sessions are not the end of the 28.5 program. Those involved become leaders in our community through ongoing service learning projects. Each year, Beyond the Ball sponsors an event called “Our Little Village” in conjunction with Global Youth Service Day as a way to jumpstart our neighborhood’s cleanup efforts. That is one day, but our youth lead it as an ongoing campaign. Members of 28.5 care for the Gary/Ortiz Campus on a regular basis by gardening, painting, cleaning trash, and landscaping. They model community ownership of public space as an effort to help community residents do the same. 28.5 youth also demonstrate service learning by facilitating games and activities for Little Village residents in the summerat Project Play. They also serve “youth coaches” for kids on our K-2 grade Bitty Ball program, helping teach basketball skills and demonstrating core values during after school activities.

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